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Middle-Class Heroes: Anti-Nationalism in the Popular Adventure Films of the Weimar Republic

  • Ofer Ashkenazi
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)

Abstract

Scholars traditionally read Weimar film as a symptomatic manifestation of national traditions, longings, and fears. Siegfried Kracauer’s seminal work of 1947, From Caligari to Hitler, identified postwar German film with the three major paradigms customarily associated with Weimar culture as a whole: ominous anticipation of the rise of Nazism, inability to come to terms with the traumatic experiences of World War I, and dispassionate escapism in the face of contemporary crises.1 While present-day scholars reject Kracauer’s focus on the “German soul” and its psychotic pathology, they often share his perception of the essential role of films in the formation of postwar German nationalism.2

Keywords

Private Sphere Social Reform City Dweller Modern City Program Guide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film (Princeton, 1966, orig. 1947).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For instance, Bernadette Kester, Film Front Weimar: Representation of the First World War in German Films of the Weimar Period (1919–1933) (Amsterdam, 2003)Google Scholar
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  4. Anton Kaes, Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Cinema and the Wounds of War (Princeton, 2009).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    This approach is compatible with recent research on the role of urban modernism and transnational worldviews in Weimar films, e.g., Marc Silberman, “What is German in the German Cinema?,” Film History (1996): 297–315Google Scholar
  6. Thomas Saunders, “History in the Making: Weimar Cinema and National Identity” in Reframing the Past: The Historiography of German Cinema and Television, eds. Bruce Murray and Chris Wickham (Carbondale, IL, 1992), 42–67.Google Scholar
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  10. 6.
    Jörg Schöning, “Rund um den Erdball” in Triviale Tropen: Exotische Reise-und Abenteuerfilme aus Deutschland 1919–1939, ed. Jorg Schoning (München, 1997), 195–206.Google Scholar
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  12. 13.
    Fritz Lang, for instance, hired the famous ethnographer Heinrich Umlauf as a “consultant” for his film The Spiders (Die Spinnen, 1920). The advertisement of the film White Woman Among Cannibals (Eine Weisse unter Kannibalen, 1921) emphasized the fact that the director, Hans Schomburgk, was himself “a scientist, expert for Africa.” Film Kurier (October 31, 1921). The realistic, “scientific” representation of exotic cultures and scenery in adventure films was also perceived as evidence for the uniqueness of the contemporary German film industry and its superior quality in comparison with its American counterparts. Gerhard Koch, Franz Osten’s Indian Silent Films (Delhi, 1983), 16–17.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Irene Stratenwerth, “Joe May: Familiendrama in mehreren Aufzügen” in Pioniere in Celluloid: Juden in der frühen Filmwelt, ed. Irene Stratenwerth and Hermann Simon (Berlin, 2004), 41Google Scholar
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  15. 22.
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    Ulf Hedetoft, Signs of Nations: Studies on The Political Semiotics of the Self and Other in Contemporary European Nationalism (Aldershof, 1995), 26.Google Scholar
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    Alon Confino, “The Nation as Local Metaphor: Heimat National Memory and the German Empire, 1871–1918,” History and Memory (Spring/Summer, 1993): 42–86Google Scholar
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  19. 35.
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  20. John A. Williams, Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism and Conservation, 1900–1940 (Stanford, 2007).Google Scholar
  21. 38.
    For example, the protagonist of Indian Tomb is an architect; the protagonist in Opium is a physician; Maud’s father is a civil servant in Mistress of the World; and the protagonist of The Spiders participates in boat races. On the decline in bourgeois values, see Bernd Weisbrod, “The Crisis of Bourgeois Society in Interwar Germany” in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, ed. Richard Bessel (Cambridge, 1996), 23–39.Google Scholar
  22. 48.
    Ofer Ashkenazi, A Walk Into the Night: Reason and Identity in Weimar Film (Tel Aviv, 2010).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Alexander Williams 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ofer Ashkenazi

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