- New German Cinema
New German Cinema Years active 1962 - 1982 Country West Germany Major figures Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Wim Wenders Influences French New Wave
New German cinema (German-Neuer Deutscher Film, or JDF „Junger Deutscher Film“) is a period in German cinema which lasted from the late 1960s into the 1980s. It saw the emergence of a new generation of directors. Working with low budgets, and influenced by the French New Wave, such directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Wim Wenders made names for themselves and produced a number of 'small' motion pictures that caught the attention of art house audiences, and enabled these directors (particularly Wenders and Schlöndorff) into better-financed productions which were backed by the big US studios.
Their success sparked a renaissance in German film and encouraged other German filmmakers to make quality movies.
Origins of New German Cinema
As a reaction to the artistic and economic stagnation of German cinema, a group of young film-makers issued the Oberhausen Manifesto on 28 February 1962. This call to arms, which included Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz, Peter Schamoni and Franz Josef Spieker among its signatories, provocatively declared "Der alte Film ist tot. Wir glauben an den neuen" ("The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema"). Other younger film-makers allied themselves to this Oberhausen group, among them Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Jean-Marie Straub, Wim Wenders, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg and Rainer Werner Fassbinder in their rejection of the existing German film industry and their determination to build a new industry founded on artistic excellence rather than commercial dictates.
Despite the foundation of the Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film (Young German Film Committee) in 1965, set up under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of the Interior to support new German films financially, the directors of this New German Cinema, who rejected co-operation with the existing film industry, were consequently often dependent on money from television. Young film-makers had the opportunity to test their mettle in such programmes as the stand-alone drama and documentary series Das kleine Fernsehspiel (The Little TV Play) or the television films of the crime series Tatort. However, the broadcasters sought TV premieres for the films which they had supported financially, with theatrical showings only occurring later. As a consequence, such films tended to be unsuccessful at the cinema box-office.
This situation changed after 1974 when the Film-Fernseh-Abkommen (Film and Television Accord) was agreed between the Federal Republic's main broadcasters, ARD and ZDF, and the German Federal Film Board (a government body created in 1968 to support film-making in Germany). This accord, which has been repeatedly extended up to the present day, provides for the television companies to make available an annual sum to support the production of films which are suitable for both theatrical distribution and television presentation. (The amount of money provided by the public broadcasters has varied between €4.5 and 12.94 million per year). Under the terms of the accord, films produced using these funds can only be screened on television 24 months after their theatrical release. They may appear on video or DVD no sooner than six months after cinema release. As a result of the funds provided by the Film-Fernseh-Abkommen, German films, particularly those of the New German Cinema, gained a much greater opportunity to enjoy box-office success before they played on television (Blaney 1992:204).
The artistically ambitious and socially critical films of the New German Cinema strove to delineate themselves from what had gone before and the works of auteur film-makers such as Kluge and Fassbinder are examples of this, although Fassbinder in his use of stars from German cinema history also sought a reconciliation between the new cinema and the old. In addition, a distinction is sometimes drawn between the avantgarde "Young German Cinema" of the 1960s and the more accessible "New German Cinema" of the 1970s. For their influences the new generation of film-makers looked to Italian Neorealism, the French Nouvelle Vague and the British New Wave but combined this eclectically with references to the well-established genres of Hollywood cinema. The new movement saw German cinema return to international critical significance for the first time since the end of the Weimar Republic. Films such as Kluge's Abschied von Gestern (Yesterday Girl, 1966), Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul (1974) and The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), and Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984) found international acclaim and critical approval. Often the work of these auteurs was first recognised abroad rather than in Germany itself. The work of post-war Germany's leading novelists Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass provided source material for the adaptations The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975) (by Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta) and The Tin Drum (1979) (by Schlöndorff alone) respectively, the latter becoming the first German film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The New German Cinema also allowed for female directors to come to the fore and for the development of a feminist cinema which encompassed the works of directors such as Von Trotta, Helma Sanders-Brahms and Helke Sander.
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