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The year 1945, unlike 1918, brought total defeat and occupation zones, permanent loss of territory and resources, floods of refugees, and a burden of historical guilt that still shapes German society today. The French, British, and Russian allies governed the country in increasingly uneasy cooperation until 1949, when two German states emerged, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the Western zones and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the Eastern, Soviet zone. With the building of the infamous Berlin Wall in 1961 and the sealing of the internal border, two Germanies were locked in stasis and integrated into their respective power blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In November 1989 the East German state finally collapsed and was rapidly absorbed into the Federal Republic.

Filmmaking carried on amid the ruins, not least because the occupying powers wanted it to, although they were themselves distracted by dismantling and profiting from the remains of Ufa. As early as May 1946, the Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA, the German Film Company Limited) received a license from the Soviets for the Babelsberg studios. DEFA became the East German state's film company and thus the monopoly producer. Its first film, Die Morder sind unter uns (Murderers Among Us, 1946) by Wolfgang Staudte (1906-1984) premiered as the first postwar German film. Dealing with the heritage of Nazism, it came to be known as a TrUmmerfilm (rubble film), after its setting in ruined Berlin. Shot in film noir style with Hildegard Knef (1925-2002), one of the postwar cinema's major stars, it established antifascist filmmaking at DEFA. At the same time, private companies were appearing in the Western zones, such as Central Cinema Company-Film (CCC) and Berolina-Film in West Berlin, Filmaufbau in the provincial university town of Gottingen, and RealFilm in Hamburg. In Munich the Bavaria studios remained in public ownership until 1956.

Distribution companies in West Germany also acquired licenses from the Western allies and could import large quantities of foreign material that was new to Germany. This meant, above all, B pictures from Hollywood, thus reestablishing the abiding presence of the American industry. Audiences' preference for dubbing into German dates from this time. Some filmmakers, like Staudte, were able to work in both Germanies for a while, and until the Wall went up, West Berliners could work in Babelsberg. However, there was little cooperation between the two industries. The deterioration of relations between the former allies soon turned into the Cold War and meant that the Federal Republic at first banned all DEFA films, shifting to a more selective approach in the 1960s. Filmmaking came to reflect the Wirtschaftswunder, the rapid economic recovery of West German manufacturing and trade. Scarcely any films dealt with the division of Germany, and most tackled the problem of Nazism under the broad attitude of a liberal humanism, presenting ordinary Germans as victims of anonymous historical forces. This stance also enabled condemnation of Communism as a nonpolitical evil rather than acknowledging East Germany as any sort of comparator. Ufa style merged with that of Hollywood genres to offer ''great men'' films, Heimatfilme, popular depictions of idyllic local cultures, nostalgic historical costume dramas depicting ''the good old days,'' and melodramas focusing on questions of personal identity and relations within families. These latter might ostensibly deal with social, even political, problems of the day but tended to deflect them into questions of emotional attachments and moralizing. Something of an exception were films dealing with young people, as they referred to the significant impact of US culture on the Wirtschaftswunder society, such as Georg Tressler's Die Halbstarken (The Hooligans, 1956), a depiction of young criminals notable for its realist style and for introducing new actors like Horst Buchholz (1933-2003), who went on to achieve stardom. Popular music featured in Schlagerfilme (pop films) catered to a youth audience alongside the remakes of musicals, revues, and operettas for more conservative tastes.

West German films from the 1950s did not export well, had few successes at international festivals, and always had to cope with competition from Hollywood. Filmmakers concentrated on what suited the domestic market. The state supported them by introducing the first of the permanent subsidy programs, levying tickets sold and offering production guarantees with the money, thus propping up a declining industry for reasons of cultural politics. As German consumers became increasingly affluent, chief among the new offers was television, with the first channel being established in 1954. By the early 1960s German film attracted less than a third of its home market, and its inadequacy was confirmed when the 1961 Berlinale (the Berlin Film Festival) refused to award the annual German film prize at all.


In the 1960s a young generation of West Germans began to reject the filmmaking of their parents (and even grandparents), as they were beginning to reject many of the premises on which their parents had reestablished their version of Germany. In 1962 a group of young film makers published the Oberhausen Manifesto at the festival in the town of that name. They wanted a radical shift in Filmkultur to recognize cinema as an art equivalent to other arts and thus equally deserving of public support. The Young German Film sought new forms of expression while looking back to prewar cinematic traditions. It embraced American popular culture while criticizing much of American politics, particularly internationally. It turned to German literature for inspiration while rejecting notions of high and low culture and consciously stressing an auteur cinema.

The German state responded by expanding support agencies, subsidies, and training institutions. The Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film (Board for Young German Film) offered, from 1964 on, interest-free loans to screenplays found worthy of support, yet first-time filmmakers still found it difficult to find distribution and exhibition. Established industry circles countered by securing loans from the Filmforderungsanstalt for companies demonstrating box-office success, which led to a flurry of cheap, often sensationalist productions. The new generation's films began to appear in 1966 with Abschied von gestern (Yesterday Girl) by Alexander Kluge (b. 1932), a film-essay challenging genre cinema with a fragmented narrative and a critique of social norms. Volker Schlondorff (b. 1939) began his literary adaptations with his Der junge Torless (Young Torless, 1966) based on the famous novella by Robert Musil (18801942). Social realist, even documentary style went together with experimental and avant-garde developments and a wide-ranging critical stance toward modern mass culture and media. Jean-Marie Straub (b. 1933) and Daniele Huillet (b. 1936) influenced their contemporaries, although they never found a large audience, with films like Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, 1968), which refused narrative authority and examined the relationship of time and space in film.

Parallel to these developments, mainline popular cinema carried on by producing pop music films, low-level porn under the guise of social comment on sexuality, detective stories, and even remakes of the Karl May westerns. However, by the early 1970s, with new filmmakers gaining recognition overseas, cinema rapidly became one of Germany's cultural export flagships under the title New German Cinema, and was then validated by foreign opinion. German public identification with the new wave—some even proudly hailed it as a new ''Golden Age''—was mixed with unease at the filmmakers' potential excesses. The generation of the early 1960s stressed the Autorenflm (author's film) as programmatic, as it privileged individual creativity against commercial and industrial expertise. This meant that filmmakers were not only their own directors but scriptwriters, producers, and editors as well. In 1971 these filmmakers launched a short-lived attempt to secure their own distribution by founding the Filmverlag der Autoren, but it was never able to compete with mainline companies.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1946-1982) was by far the most prolific and controversial filmmaker of this generation, with a formidable productivity from the late 1960s to his early death in 1982. He was also an important figure in radical German theater. His Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, 1974) is still provocative in its depiction of love between a middle-aged German woman and an immigrant worker from North Africa. His Chinesisches Roulette (Chinese Roulette, 1976) offers remarkable shot compositions to support its melodrama, and his Lili Marleen (1981) takes up the theme of Nazism through an examination of the way Nazi media promoted a star cult. Probably his best-known film is Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun, 1979), where his own "star" actress, Hanna Schygulla (b. 1943), portrays the career of a woman during the German "economic miracle,'' displaying the sexual politics that paralleled socioeconomic developments. With Lola (1981) and Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss (Veronika Voss, 1982), The Marriage of Maria Braun forms the "Trilogy of the Federal Republic,'' a tableau of the history, politics, culture, and style of Fassbinder's homeland.

Wim Wenders (b. 1945) is internationally celebrated and engages in the politics of Filmkultur. His Im Laufe der Zeit (Kings of the Road, 1976) set many of his thematic and stylistic trademarks, like his fascination with American culture and the figure of the lone male wanderer as hero, which resurfaced in his Paris, Texas (1984), made in the United States with French financing. After several years in the United States (including a notable but flawed cooperation with Francis Ford Coppola on Hammett, 1982), Wenders returned home and shot his masterpiece, Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) in 1987, combining remarkable images from Berlin just before the Wall collapsed with a mythical love story of an angel and the woman for whom he forsakes immortality. Wenders returned to the United States to shoot The Million Dollar Hotel (2000), a bizarre detective story set in a rundown residential hotel in Los Angeles. Applying his trademarks to an American cast in an American setting, Wenders continues German cinema's tradition of interaction with the United States and its filmmaking. In a Land of Plenty (2004) has its title borrowed from poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen, and results from cooperation with US writers, producers, and cast on a US theme: the continuing legacy of Vietnam. Technologically, Wenders also broke new ground by shooting mainly digitally. Don't Come Knocking (2005) meant working with Sam Shepard again and with a US cast, including Shepard himself, Tim Roth, and Jessica Lange. Its narrative resembles Paris, Texas in tracing the wanderings of a loner-male and his attempt to salvage his disastrous family relations. Wenders has also cooperated with Ry Cooder, on the documentary Buena Vista Social Club (1999), and with Martin Scorsese to contribute The Soul of a Man (2003) to Scorsese's TV series on the blues.

Werner Herzog (b. 1942) is regarded as one of the most eccentric figures of das neue kino. His films feature inspiring landscapes and controversial actors (the flamboyant Klaus Kinski [1926-1991], the strange Bruno S. [b. 1932]) at odds with their world. Herzog is also well known for the making of his films, whether hypnotizing the entire cast in Herz aus Glas (Heart of Glass, 1976), dragging a boat through the Amazon jungle for Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God, 1972), or feuding with actor Kinski. Other significant figures from this generation are Volker Schlondorff, whose Oscar®-winning adaptation of Gunter Grass's novel Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum, 1979) is a remarkable treatment of a powerful exploration of German identity, and Hans-Jurgen Syberberg (b. 1935), whose Ludwig, Requiem für einen jungfräulichen König (Ludwig, Requiem for a Virgin King, 1972) and Hitler—ein Film aus Deutschland (Hitler: A Film from Germany, 1978) present richly textured visions exploring the legacies of German Romanticism and nationalism, controversially depicting a particular German identity through irrational and nihilistic imagery.

Paralleling the New German Cinema, in the 1970s Frauenfilm (women's filmmaking) arose. Directors like Helke Sander (b. 1937), Helma Sanders-Brahms (b. 1940), Margarethe von Trotta (b. 1942), Ulrike Ottinger (b. 1942), and Jutta Bruckner (b. 1941) have sought to redefine the practice and politics of filmmaking while criticizing the oppression and discrimination directed against women in the Federal Republic. The combination of national and family history in Deutschland bleiche Mutter (Germany Pale Mother, 1980), by Sanders-Brahms, sparked controversy. Von Trotta's Die bleierne Zeit (Marianne and Juliane, also known as The German Sisters, 1981) took up the story of the Ensslin sisters for a subtle examination of the effect of terrorism on daily life by combining radical politics with personal history.

The German New Wave petered out in the early 1980s, around the time of Fassbinder's death. The political climate had changed from the idealism of the 1960s to the violence of the "extraparliamentary opposition'' of the 1970s, with countermeasures by the state, together with public opposition to projects like nuclear power and the presence of US nuclear weaponry on West German

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