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

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


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


Private Sphere Social Reform City Dweller Modern City Program Guide 
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  1. 1.
    Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film (Princeton, 1966, orig. 1947).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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    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
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    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
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© John Alexander Williams 2011

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