Germany, Berlin

Imag(in)ing Germany - German Cinema after the Reunification

when 21 July 2018 - 18 August 2018
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 4 ECTS
fee EUR 1100

How do we understand the great capital cities of the world if we have never seen them? How does this change once we have visited a place? To what extent is our contemporary imagination of national space and power constructed by images? This course offers students an introduction to the cultural politics of cinematic imaginings of Berlin, a dynamic European capital that has become a laboratory for creative urban studies. Students will examine Berlin’s unique 20th and 21st-century history of expansion, destruction, division, unification, and urban marketing in relation to films that pictured the city for various political regimes and cultural objectives. The course will question this film legacy through the lens of political events, urban change, virtual technologies, spatial memory, geographical orientation, and location politics in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.

Inviting students to critically reexamine filmic representations of Berlin, the course will focus on several key time periods in German film production: 1) the Weimar Republic; 2) the Nazi Era and the immediate postwar years; 3) the Cold War; and 4) the postwall era. Not only are these time periods important to German cinema and its representations of Berlin; they also fostered competing cultural political versions of the city that would continue to circulate in the digital age.

One goal of the course is to introduce students to audiovisual analysis through a number of Berlin films spanning German film history. A second goal is for students to acquire knowledge of the sociocultural discourses that inform the production and reception of these films. Students will work on a number of questions in small groups and will then be asked to share their analyses and thoughts with the rest of the class. A third goal of the course is to introduce students to relevant cultural and geographical resources in Berlin through field trips to, for example, the Museum of Film and Television and Studio Babelsberg.

By the end of the course, the students will have gained a better understanding of Berlin’s history, its cinema, and its current film production and urban marketing discourses. They will be able to analyse the ways in which film form, content, geographical orientation, and historical context create meaning. Not only will the students enhance their skills in audiovisual analysis; they will also acquire the ability to interrogate the political circumstances that led to these films’ creation and reception.

This course invites students to critically study filmic representations of Germany after the “Wende” (reunification). The course will focus on five topics: Hollywood vs. National Cinema, Representations of Nostalgia to East Germany, The Red Army Fraction as a Cinematic Obsession, Multiculturalism and Migrant Cinema as well as The Coming to Terms with the Nazi Past especially in contemporary comedies. These themes exemplify how German cinema in the last 25 years has been coping with the past and the present of a reunited Germany. We will discuss how “New Germany’s” culture is affected by American cultural products and how central stations in the German past such as the Nazi regime and the so-called “German Autumn” are being “(re-)written” in order to create (new) German narratives. Discussing Germany’s present with topics such as the filmic images of immigration to the country, the “inner-immigration” of many of the former east-Germans, as well as the (counter) narratives of migrant cinema and the so called “Berlin School”, will allow us to better understand the acute social complexities that Germany faces today.

The first goal of the course is to introduce a number of key ‘post-wall’ German films from the 1990s to the present. The second goal is to enable the students to acquire knowledge of socio-cultural discourses relevant to a deeper understanding of the filmic representations. The students will be requested to work in groups and to present their analyses in class. The third goal is to use the unique opportunity to visit Berlin sites which are related to the course, such as filming locations and the Museum for Film and Television.

By the end of the course the students will gain more knowledge on contemporary Germany, its cinema and its up-to-date public discourses. They will be able to better understand how the filmic style and content work together in order to create political meanings. Furthermore, the students will enhance their skills to critically analysis a visual text and to comprehend the inter-influences between filmic representations and public discourses.

Course leader

Dr. Brigitta Wagner

Target group

This course is open to anyone with an interest in cinema in general and German cinema in particular.No prior knowledge of German, German films, or film and media studies is required. Students must be able to speak and read English at the advanced intermediate level.

Credits info


Attendance and participation: 20%
Chairing one discussion in class: 20%
Field Trip Report: 20%
Term Paper: 40%

Fee info

EUR 1100: Tuition
EUR 250: Program fee