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The Nazi Past in Contemporary German Film…
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The Nazi Past in Contemporary German Film (Screen Cultures: German Film…

by Axel Bangert

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In The Nazi Past in Contemporary German Film, Axel Bangert examines the change in how the Nazi period is portrayed since reunification. This change seems to be reflected in both a more personal style as well as a shift from a dominant tone of guilt to one of shame. The book covers both television and film productions and both documentary and fictional portrayals.

One aspect which seems to bother some people about such portrayals is that there is less of a distinctive line drawn which makes it more difficult to simply point and proclaim evil. While that may well be understandable for some to find problematic it also presents the period in a more realistic light. To draw a parallel which I acknowledge can only go so far, American Civil War films used to draw simplistic lines of right and wrong (even to the extreme of glorifying the side which had by far the worse human rights record in Griffith's Birth of a Nation) then started portraying the human side. It was the sense of many southerners who had little or nothing to do directly with slavery that their "way of life" was being infringed upon and thus were pulled into a war of which they had almost no political interest. The suffering their families suffered even while supporting the Confederacy allowed the human side of the "evil" foe to give a more holistic view. Certainly the parallel can only go so far, it was a different kind of genocide and carried out at a different pace. But the personalization of the stories being told allowed some degree of healing to begin. In other words, the German cinema does not need to keep beating themselves up just to make the rest of the world feel like Germany is still paying a price, but rather they can find a way to tell the smaller stories, many of which fall into that grey area of evil vs good, in order to help a reunified country heal and move on.

This book is a wonderful addition to either an academic or a popular library where there is an interest in film studies. It is a descriptive book primarily, not prescriptive, so to expect something that presumes to take the past to task for not addressing what is not covered by contemporary German film is not reading the book on its terms. After reading this, one could easily find avenues for further study in any number of areas from film studies to cultural studies and sociological applications as well.

Reviewed from an ARC made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Aug 7, 2015 |
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