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Cinema of Germany

Cinema of Germany

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Cinema
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 can be traced back to the late 19th century. German cinema has made major technical and artistic contributions to film.

Unlike any other national cinemas, which developed in the context of relatively continuous and stable political systems, Germany witnesses major changes to its identity during the 20th Century. That changes determined the periodisation of national cinema into a succession of distinct eras and movements.

Before 1918 - Cinema pioneers


The history of cinema in Germany can be traced back to the year of the medium's birth. On November 1, 1895 Max Skladanowsky
Max Skladanowsky
Max Skladanowsky was a German inventor and early filmmaker. Along with his brother Emil, he invented the Bioscop, an early movie projector the Skladanowsky brothers used to display the first moving picture show to a paying audience on November 1, 1895, some two months before the public debut of...

 and his brother Emil demonstrated their self-invented film projector
Movie projector
A movie projector is an opto-mechanical device for displaying moving pictures by projecting them on a projection screen. Most of the optical and mechanical elements, except for the illumination and sound devices, are present in movie cameras.-Physiology:...

 the Bioscop
Bioscop
The Bioscop was a movie projector developed in 1895 by the brothers Emil and Max Skladanowsky in Berlin-Pankow. The Bioscop used two loops of 54-mm films without a side perforation....

 at the Wintergarten
Berlin Wintergarten theatre
The Berlin Wintergarten theatre was a large variety theatre in Berlin that opened in approximately 1887 and was destroyed by bombs in June 1944. The name was eventually taken on by a theatre in Potsdamer Strasse in 1992....

 music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

 in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. This performance pre-dated the first paying public display of the Lumière brothers' Cinematographe
Cinematographe
A cinematograph is a film camera, which also serves as a film projector and developer. It was invented in the 1890s.Note that this was not the first 'moving picture' device. Louis Le Prince had built early devices in 1886. His 1888 film Roundhay Garden Scene still survives.There is much dispute as...

 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 on December 28 of the same year, a performance that Max Skladanowsky attended and at which he was able to ascertain that the Cinematographe was technically superior to his Bioskop. Other German film pioneers included the Berliners Oskar Messter
Oskar Messter
Oskar Messter was a German inventor and film tycoon in the early years of cinema.-Biography:He was born in Berlin, where his father had founded a company selling and manufacturing optical equipment in 1859...

 and Max Gliewe, two of several individuals who independently in 1896 first used a Geneva drive
Geneva drive
The Geneva drive or Maltese cross is a gear mechanism that translates a continuous rotation into an intermittent rotary motion. The rotating drive wheel has a pin that reaches into a slot of the driven wheel advancing it by one step...

 (which allows the film to be advanced intermittently one frame at a time) in a projector, and the cinematographer
Cinematographer
A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera . The title is generally equivalent to director of photography , used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image...

 Guido Seeber
Guido Seeber
Guido Seeber was a German cinematographer and pioneer of early cinema.Seeber's father, Clemens, was a photographer and therefore Seeber had experience with photography from an early age. In the summer of 1896, he saw the first films of the Lumière Brothers and became fascinated by this new...

.

In its earliest days, the cinematograph was perceived as an attraction for upper class
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

 audiences, but the novelty of moving pictures did not last long. Soon, trivial short films were being shown as fairground attractions aimed at the working
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 and lower-middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

. The booths in which these films were shown were known in Germany somewhat disparagingly as Kintopps. Film-makers with an artistic bent attempted to counter this view of cinema with longer movies based on literary models, and the first German "artistic" films began to be produced from around 1910, an example being the Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

 adaptation
Adaptation
An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

 The Student of Prague (1913) which was co-directed by Paul Wegener
Paul Wegener
Paul Wegener was a German actor, writer and film director known for his pioneering role in German expressionist cinema.-Stage and early film career:...

 and Stellan Rye
Stellan Rye
Stellan Rye was a Danish-born film director, active in the early 20th century. Rye was born in Randers.In 1913 he created the silent film Der Student von Prag .At the outbreak of World War I he joined the Reichsheer...

, photographed by Guido Seeber and starring actors from Max Reinhardt
Max Reinhardt
----Max Reinhardt was an Austrian theater and film director and actor.-Biography:...

's company.

Prior to 1914, however, many foreign films were imported. In the era of the silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 there were no language boundaries and Danish
Cinema of Denmark
Denmark has been producing films since 1897 and since the 1980s has maintained a steady stream of product due largely to funding by the state-supported Danish Film Institute. Historically, Danish films have been noted for their realism, religious and moral themes, sexual frankness and technical...

 and Italian films
Cinema of Italy
The history of Italian cinema began just a few months after the Lumière brothers had patented their Cinematographe, when Pope Leo XIII was filmed for a few seconds in the act of blessing the camera.-Early years:...

 were particularly popular in Germany. The public's desire to see more films with particular actors led to the development in Germany, as elsewhere, of the phenomenon of the film star; the actress Henny Porten was one of the earliest German stars. Public desire to see popular film stories being continued encouraged the production of film serials, especially in the genre of mystery film
Mystery film
Mystery film is a sub-genre of the more general category of crime film and at times the thriller genre. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction.The...

s, which is where the director Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang
Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang was an Austrian-American filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor. One of the best known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the British Film Institute...

 began his illustrious career.

The outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the subsequent boycott of, for example, French films
Cinema of France
The Cinema of France comprises the art of film and creative movies made within the nation of France or by French filmmakers abroad.France is the birthplace of cinema and was responsible for many of its early significant contributions. Several important cinematic movements, including the Nouvelle...

 left a noticeable gap in the market. By 1916, there already existed some 2000 fixed venues for movie performances and initially film screenings had to supplemented or even replaced by variety
Variety show
A variety show, also known as variety arts or variety entertainment, is an entertainment made up of a variety of acts, especially musical performances and sketch comedy, and normally introduced by a compère or host. Other types of acts include magic, animal and circus acts, acrobatics, juggling...

 turns. In 1917 a process of concentration and partial nationalisation of the German film industry began with the founding of Universum Film AG
Universum Film AG
Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945...

 (UFA), which was partly a reaction to the very effective use that the Allied Powers
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 had found for the new medium for the purpose of propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

. Under the aegis of the military, so-called Vaterland films were produced, which equalled the Allies' films in the matter of propaganda and disparagement of the enemy. Audiences however did not care to swallow the patriotic medicine without the accompanying sugar of the light-entertainment films which, consequently, Ufa also promoted. The German film industry soon became the largest in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

1918-1933 - Film in the Weimar Republic


In the period immediately following World War I, the film industry boomed, helped by the 1920s German inflation. This enabled film makers to borrow money in Papiermark
German papiermark
The name Papiermark is applied to the German currency from the 4th August 1914 when the link between the Mark and gold was abandoned, due to the outbreak of World War I...

 which would be vastly devalued
Devaluation
Devaluation is a reduction in the value of a currency with respect to those goods, services or other monetary units with which that currency can be exchanged....

 by the time it had to be repaid. Nevertheless film budgets were tight and the need to save money was a contributing factor to the rise of German Expressionism
German Expressionism
German Expressionism refers to a number of related creative movements beginning in Germany before the First World War that reached a peak in Berlin, during the 1920s...

, as was the desire to move forward and embrace the future that swept most of Europe at the time. Expressionist movies relied heavily on symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

ism and artistic image
Image
An image is an artifact, for example a two-dimensional picture, that has a similar appearance to some subject—usually a physical object or a person.-Characteristics:...

ry rather than stark realism
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 to tell their stories. Given the grim mood in post-WWI Germany, it was not surprising that these films focused heavily on crime and horror. The film usually credited with sparking the popularity of expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

 is Robert Wiene
Robert Wiene
Robert Wiene was an important film director of the German silent cinema.Robert Wiene was born in Breslau, as the elder son of the successful theatre actor Carl Wiene. His younger brother Conrad also became an actor, but Robert Wiene at first studied law at the University of Berlin. In 1908 he also...

's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). It painted a picture on the cinema screen with non-realistic sets built with exaggerated geometry
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

, images painted on the floors and walls to represent objects (and often light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 and shadow
Shadow
A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

), and a story involving the dark hallucination
Hallucination
A hallucination, in the broadest sense of the word, is a perception in the absence of a stimulus. In a stricter sense, hallucinations are defined as perceptions in a conscious and awake state in the absence of external stimuli which have qualities of real perception, in that they are vivid,...

s of an insane man. An exaggerated acting style and unnatural costume design are other trademarks of this movement. Other notable works of Expressionism are Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Friedrich Wilhelm "F. W." Murnau was one of the most influential German film directors of the silent era, and a prominent figure in the expressionist movement in German cinema during the 1920s...

's Nosferatu (1922), and Carl Boese
Carl Boese
Carl Boese was a German film director, screenwriter and producer. He directed 158 films between 1917 and 1957.-Selected filmography:* The Golem: How He Came into the World * Paprika...

 and Paul Wegener's The Golem: How He Came Into the World
The Golem: How He Came Into the World
The Golem: How He Came Into the World is a 1920 silent horror film by Paul Wegener. It was directed by Carl Boese and Wegener, written by Wegener and Henrik Galeen, and starred Wegener as the golem. The script was adapted from the 1915 novel The Golem by Gustav Meyrink...

(1920). The Expressionist movement died down during the mid-1920s, but it continued to influence world cinema for years afterward. Its influence is particularly noticeable in American horror films and film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

, and the works of European directors as diverse as Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. His circle of associates, friends and lovers included Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, María...

 and Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish director, writer and producer for film, stage and television. Described by Woody Allen as "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera", he is recognized as one of the most accomplished and...

.

UFA had been privatised in 1921 by a sale of the state's holdings to the Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank AG is a global financial service company with its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. It employs more than 100,000 people in over 70 countries, and has a large presence in Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and the emerging markets...

 and had become the mainstay of an industry that produced up to 600 feature films a year in the 1920s. In addition to UFA, there were some 230 film companies in business in Berlin alone at this time. However, film industry financing was a fragile business in the unstable economy of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

, and this, coupled with the industry's tendency to overreach itself financially (such as in the production of Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang
Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang was an Austrian-American filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor. One of the best known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the British Film Institute...

's Metropolis (1927), perhaps the most famous German film of this period), frequently led to bankruptcies
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

 and financial ruin. UFA itself was forced to go into a disadvantageous partnership called Parufamet
Parufamet
Parufamet was the name of the distribution company founded between the American film studios Paramount Pictures and Metro Goldwyn Mayer who together loaned $4 Million to Universum Film AG in December 1925. Ufa, the German Studio that financed the production of several expensive silent German films...

 with the American studios Paramount
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

 and MGM in 1925 before being taken over by the nationalist industrialist and newspaper owner Alfred Hugenberg
Alfred Hugenberg
Alfred Ernst Christian Alexander Hugenberg was an influential German businessman and politician. Hugenberg, a leading figure within nationalist politics in Germany for the first few decades of the twentieth century, became the country's leading media proprietor within the inter-war period...

 in 1927. The company's financial travails did not prevent it from producing numerous significant films throughout this period, among them, Ernst Lubitsch
Ernst Lubitsch
Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

's Madame Du Barry (1919), Lang's epic production of Die Nibelungen
Die Nibelungen
Die Nibelungen is a series of two silent fantasy films created by Austrian director Fritz Lang in 1924: Die Nibelungen: Siegfried and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge....

, and Murnau's The Last Laugh (1925), and the development of the studios at Babelsberg, originally established in 1912 but later taken over by UFA and expanded massively to accommodate the filming of Metropolis, gave the German film industry a highly-developed infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

.

In addition to developments in the industry itself, the Weimar period saw the birth of film criticism
Film criticism
Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively. In general, this can be divided into journalistic criticism that appears regularly in newspapers, and other popular, mass-media outlets and academic criticism by film scholars that is informed by film theory and...

 as a serious discipline whose practitioners included Rudolf Arnheim in Die Weltbühne
Die Weltbühne
Die Weltbühne was a German weekly magazine focused on politics, art, and business. The Weltbühne was founded in Berlin on 7 September 1905 by Siegfried Jacobsohn and was originally created strictly as a theater magazine under the title Die Schaubühne. It was renamed Die Weltbühne on 4 April 1918...

and in Film als Kunst (1932), Béla Balázs
Béla Balázs
----Béla Balázs , born Herbert Bauer, was a Hungarian-Jewish film critic, aesthete, writer and poet....

 in Der Sichtbare Mensch (1924), Siegfried Kracauer
Siegfried Kracauer
Siegfried Kracauer was a German-Jewish writer, journalist, sociologist, cultural critic, and film theorist...

 in the Frankfurter Zeitung
Frankfurter Zeitung
The Frankfurter Zeitung was a German language newspaper that appeared from 1856 to 1943. It emerged from a market letter that was published in Frankfurt...

, and Lotte H. Eisner
Lotte H. Eisner
Lotte H. Eisner was a French-German film critic, historian, writer and poet.She was born Lotte Henriette Eisner in Berlin as a daughter of a Jewish merchant...

 in the Filmkurier.

After the influence of Expressionism began to wane a variety of other genres and styles developed in the 1920s. Movies influenced by New Objectivity
New Objectivity
The New Objectivity is a term used to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it...

 with socially concerned themes and a return to realism, among them films by Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
-Biography:Pabst was born in Raudnitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary , the son of a railroad employee.Returning from the United States, he was in France when World War I began...

 such as Joyless Street (Die Freudlose Gasse) (1925), Pandora's Box
Pandora's Box (film)
Pandora's Box is a 1929 German silent melodrama film based on Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora . Directed by Austrian filmmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, and Francis Lederer...

(1929), and The Loves of Jeanne Ney became widespread in the later 1920s. The movement is best characterized by tendency to understand reality and characters in terms of inanimate objects and personal possessions. Often associated with "street films." The influence of New Objectivity may also be seen in the trend towards so-called "asphalt" and "morality" films which dealt with "scandalous" subjects like abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

, prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

, homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, oral sex
Oral sex
Oral sex is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a sex partner by the use of the mouth, tongue, teeth or throat. Cunnilingus refers to oral sex performed on females while fellatio refer to oral sex performed on males. Anilingus refers to oral stimulation of a person's anus...

 and addiction
Substance dependence
The section about substance dependence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not use the word addiction at all. It explains:...

. Contrastingly, in the same period the genre of the Bergfilm
Mountain film
A mountain film is a film genre that focuses on mountaineering and especially the battle of man against nature. In addition to mere adventure, the protagonists who return from the mountain come back changed, usually gaining wisdom and enlightenment....

was also developed, mainly by the director Arnold Fanck
Arnold Fanck
Arnold Fanck was a pioneer of the German mountain film....

, in which individuals were shown battling against nature in the mountains. Animator
Animator
An animator is an artist who creates multiple images that give an illusion of movement called animation when displayed in rapid sequence; the images are called frames and key frames. Animators can work in a variety of fields including film, television, video games, and the internet. Usually, an...

s and directors of experimental film
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

 such as Lotte Reiniger
Lotte Reiniger
Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger was a German silhouette animator and film director.- Early life :Lotte Reiniger was born in Berlin-Charlottenburg, German Empire, on June 2, 1899...

, Oskar Fischinger
Oskar Fischinger
Oskar Fischinger was a German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter. He made over 50 short animated films, and painted c. 800 canvases, many of which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide. Among his film works is Motion Painting No. 1 , which is now listed on the...

 and Walter Ruttmann
Walter Ruttmann
Walter Ruttmann was a German film director and along with Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling was an early German practitioner of experimental film....

 were also very active in Germany in the 1920s. Ruttman's experimental documentary Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927) epitomises the energy of 1920s Berlin. The polarised politics of the Weimar period
Weimar culture
Weimar culture was a flourishing of the arts and sciences that happened during the Weimar Republic...

 were also reflected in some its movies. A series of patriotic films on Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n history starring Otto Gebühr
Otto Gebühr
Otto Gebühr was a German theatre and film actor, who appeared in 102 movies released between 1917 and 1962. He is noted for his performance as the Prussian king Frederick the Great in numerous films.-Life:...

 as Frederick the Great were produced throughout the 1920s and were popular with the nationalist right-wing, who strongly criticised the "asphalt" films' "decadence".

Many of the films during that came out of Germany at this time were historical spectacles designed to pull in a large crowd and international release all while adhering to a smaller budget. Ernst Lubitsch
Ernst Lubitsch
Ernst Lubitsch was a German-born film director. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood's most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having "the Lubitsch touch."In 1947 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his...

's Madame DuBarry explored the French revolution through window of the intimate life of King Louis' mistress. Many of his films tended to how the intimate and petty passions of the rich and powerful are ironically responsible for huge historical events in the public realm.

The fourth key artistic movement of German cinema at this time was that of Kammerspiel or "chamber drama." Associated in particular with the screenwriter Carl Meyer and films such as Murnau's Last Laugh, this movement was in many ways a reaction against spectacle and expressionism. These films tended to revolve around ordinary people living in often dreary, ordinary settings. Often called "instinct" films because they emphasized the impulses and intimate psychology of the characters. The number of sets was often kept to a small number as well. This movement also relied heavily on the use of camera movements to explore the rather intimate and simple spaces.

The arrival of sound at the very end of the 1920s produced a final artistic flourish of German film before the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933. Sound production and distribution were quickly taken up by the German film industry and by 1932 Germany had 3,800 cinemas equipped to play sound films. Der blaue Engel
Der blaue Engel
The Blue Angel is a film directed by Josef von Sternberg in 1930, based on Heinrich Mann's novel Professor Unrat. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film and it brought world fame to actress Marlene Dietrich...

(1930) by the Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n director Josef von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg — born Jonas Sternberg — was an Austrian-American film director. He is particularly noted for his distinctive mise en scène, use of lighting and soft lens, and seven-film collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich.-Youth:Von Sternberg was born Jonas Sternberg to a Jewish...

 was Germany's first talkie (shot simultaneously in German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

) and made an international star of Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer.Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically. In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films...

. Other early sound films of note include Berlin Alexanderplatz
Berlin Alexanderplatz
Berlin Alexanderplatz is a novel by Alfred Döblin, published in 1929. The story concerns a small-time criminal, Franz Biberkopf, fresh from prison, who is drawn into the underworld. When his criminal mentor murders the prostitute whom Biberkopf has been relying on as an anchor, he realizes that...

, Pabst's Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

 adaptation The Threepenny Opera
The Threepenny Opera (1931 film)
The Threepenny Opera is a 1931 German musical film directed by G. W. Pabst. It was produced by Seymour Nebenzal's Nero-Film for Tonbild-Syndikat AG , Berlin and Warner Bros. Pictures GmbH, Berlin. The film is loosely based on the 1928 musical theatre success The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht...

and Lang's M
M (1931 film)
M is a 1931 German drama-thriller directed by Fritz Lang and written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou. It was Lang's first sound film, although he had directed more than a dozen films previously....

(all 1931) as well as Hochbaum's Razzia in Sankt Pauli
Razzia in Sankt Pauli
Razzia in St. Pauli is an early German sound film of the end of the Weimar Republic era. It illustrates both the powerlessness of the ordinary worker as well as an intimate portrait of the joys and sorrows of a small group of people in the harbor section of Hamburg.-Synopsis:A social drama plays...

 & produced by Justin Rosenfeld (1932). Brecht was also one of the creators of the explicitly communist film Kuhle Wampe
Kuhle Wampe
Kuhle Wampe is a 1932 German feature film about unemployment and left wing politics in the Weimar Republic. The script was conceived and written by Bertolt Brecht...

(1932), which was banned soon after its release.

Aside from the major movements already addressed, German filmmakers at this time were known as innovators for their creative usage of Mise-en-scene and camera movement.

See also List of German films 1919-1933

1933-1945 - Film in Nazi Germany

See also Nazism and cinema and List of German films 1933-1945


The uncertain economic and political situation in Weimar Germany had already led to a number of film-makers and performers leaving the country, primarily for the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

; Ernst Lubitsch moved to Hollywood as early as 1923, the Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz was an Academy award winning Hungarian-American film director. He had early creditsas Mihály Kertész and Michael Kertész...

 in 1926. Some 1,500 directors, producers, actors and other film professionals emigrated
Emigration
Emigration is the act of leaving one's country or region to settle in another. It is the same as immigration but from the perspective of the country of origin. Human movement before the establishment of political boundaries or within one state is termed migration. There are many reasons why people...

 in the years after the Nazis came to power. Among them were such key figures as the producer
Film producer
A film producer oversees and delivers a film project to all relevant parties while preserving the integrity, voice and vision of the film. They will also often take on some financial risk by using their own money, especially during the pre-production period, before a film is fully financed.The...

 Erich Pommer
Erich Pommer
Erich Pommer was a German-born film producer and executive. He was involved in the German Expressionist film movement during the silent era as the head of production at Decla, Decla-Bioscop and from 1924 to 1926 at Ufa responsible for many of the best known movies of the Weimar Republic such as...

, the studio head of Ufa, stars Marlene Dietrich and Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.He caused an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film M...

, and director Fritz Lang. Lang's exodus to America is legendary; it is said that Metropolis
Metropolis (film)
Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist film in the science-fiction genre directed by Fritz Lang. Produced in Germany during a stable period of the Weimar Republic, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and makes use of this context to explore the social crisis between workers and...

 so greatly impressed Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 that he asked Lang to become the head of his propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 film unit. Lang fled to America instead, where he had a long and prosperous career
Career
Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life ". It is usually considered to pertain to remunerative work ....

. Many up-and-coming German directors also fled to the U.S., having a major influence on American film as a result. A number of the Universal Horror films of the 1930s were directed by German emigrees, including Karl Freund
Karl Freund
Karl W. Freund, A.S.C. was a cinematographer and film director most noted for photographing Metropolis , Dracula , and television's I Love Lucy .-Early life:...

, Joe May
Joe May
Joe May , born Julius Otto Mandl, was a film director and film producer born in Austria and one of the pioneers of German cinema....

 and Robert Siodmak
Robert Siodmak
Robert Siodmak was a German born American film director. He is best remembered as a thriller specialist and for the series of Hollywood film noirs he made in the 1940s.-Early life:...

. Directors Edgar Ulmer and Douglas Sirk
Douglas Sirk
Douglas Sirk was a Danish-German film director best known for his work in Hollywood melodramas in the 1950s.-Life and work:...

 and the Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n-born screenwriter (and later director) Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

 also emigrated from Nazi Germany to Hollywood success. Not all those in the film industry threatened by the Nazi regime were able to escape; the actor and director Kurt Gerron
Kurt Gerron
Kurt Gerron was a German Jewish actor and film director.-Life:Born Kurt Gerson into a well-off merchant family in Berlin, he initially studied medicine but was called up for military service in World War I. Seriously wounded he qualified as a military doctor of the German Army...

, for example, perished in a concentration camp.

Within weeks of the Machtergreifung
Machtergreifung
Machtergreifung is a German word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi takeover of power in the democratic Weimar Republic on 30 January 1933, the day Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, turning it into the Nazi German dictatorship.-Term:The...

, Alfred Hugenberg had effectively turned over Ufa to the ends of the Nazis, excluding Jews from employment in the company in March 1933, several months before the foundation in June of the Reichsfilmkammer
Reichsfilmkammer
The Reichsfilmkammer was a public corporation based in Berlin that regulated the film industry in National Socialist Germany between 1933 and 1945...

(Reich Chamber of Film), the body of the Nazi state charged with control of the film industry, which marked the official exclusion of Jews and foreigners from employment in the German film industry. As part of the process of Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung , meaning "coordination", "making the same", "bringing into line", is a Nazi term for the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control and tight coordination over all aspects of society. The historian Richard J...

all film production in Germany was subordinate to the Reichsfilmkammer, which was directly responsible to Goebbel's Propaganda ministry, and all those employed in the industry had to be members of the Reichsfachschaft Film. "Non-Aryan" film professionals and those whose politics or personal life were unacceptable to the Nazis were excluded from the Reichsfachschaft and thus denied employment in the industry. Some 3,000 individuals were affected by this employment ban. In addition, as journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

s were also organised as a division of the Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels was able to abolish film criticism
Film criticism
Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively. In general, this can be divided into journalistic criticism that appears regularly in newspapers, and other popular, mass-media outlets and academic criticism by film scholars that is informed by film theory and...

 in 1936 and replace it with Filmbeobachtung (film observation); journalists could only report on the content of a film, not offer judgement on its artistic or other worth.

With the German film industry now effectively an arm of the totalitarian state, no films could be made that were not ostensibly in accord with the views of the ruling regime. However, despite the existence of anti-semitic propaganda works such as The Eternal Jew (1940) - which was a box-office flop - and the more sophisticated but equally anti-semitic Jud Süß
Jud Süß (1940 film)
Jud Süß is an antisemitic propaganda film produced in 1940 by Terra Filmkunst at the behest of Joseph Goebbels. The movie was directed by Veit Harlan, who wrote the screenplay with Eberhard Wolfgang Möller and Ludwig Metzger, and starred Ferdinand Marian and Harlan's wife Kristina Söderbaum.The...

(1940), which achieved commercial success at home and elsewhere in Europe, the majority of German films from the National Socialist period were intended principally as works of entertainment. The import of foreign films was legally restricted after 1936 and the German industry, which was effectively nationalised in 1937, had to make up for the missing foreign films (above all American productions). Entertainment also became increasingly important in the later years of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 when the cinema provided a distraction from Allied bombing and a string of German defeats. In both 1943 and 1944 cinema admissions in Germany exceeded a billion, and the biggest box office
Box office
A box office is a place where tickets are sold to the public for admission to an event. Patrons may perform the transaction at a countertop, through an unblocked hole through a wall or window, or at a wicket....

 hits of the war years were Die große Liebe
Die Große Liebe
Die grosse Liebe or Die große Liebe is a German drama film of the National Socialist period, made by Rolf Hansen, starring Zarah Leander and Viktor Staal...

(1942) and Wunschkonzert
Wunschkonzert
Wunschkonzert is a 1940 German drama propaganda film by Eduard von Borsody. After Die grosse Liebe, it was the most popular film of wartime Germany, reaching the second highest gross.-Background:...

(1941), which both combine elements of the musical
Musical film
The musical film is a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The songs usually advance the plot or develop the film's characters, though in some cases they serve merely as breaks in the storyline, often as elaborate...

, wartime romance and patriotic propaganda, Frauen sind doch bessere Diplomaten (1941), a comic musical which was one of the earliest German films in colour, and Wiener Blut (1942), the adaptation of a Johann Strauß comic operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

. The importance of the cinema as a tool of the state, both for its propaganda value and its ability to keep the populace entertained, can be seen in the filming history of Veit Harlan
Veit Harlan
Veit Harlan was a German film director and actor.-Life and career:Harlan was born in Berlin. After studying under Max Reinhardt, he first appeared on the stage in 1915 and, after World War I, worked in the Berlin stage. In 1922 he married Jewish actress and cabaret singer Dora Gerson; the couple...

's Kolberg
Kolberg (film)
Kolberg is a 1945 German propaganda film directed by Veit Harlan and Wolfgang Liebeneiner. It opened on January 30, 1945 simultaneously in Berlin and to the crew of the naval base at La Rochelle. It was also screened in the Reich chancellery after the broadcast of Hitler's last radio address on...

(1945), the most expensive film of the Nazi era, for the shooting of which tens of thousands of soldiers were diverted from their military positions to appear as extras.

Despite the emigration of many film-makers and the political restrictions, the period was not without technical and aesthetic innovations, the introduction of Agfacolor
Agfacolor
thumb|An Agfacolor slide dating from the early 1940s. While the colors themselves hold up well after 60 years, damages visible include dust and [[Newton's rings]].Agfacolor is a series of color photographic products produced by Agfa of Germany...

 film production being a notable example. Technical and aesthetic achievement could also be turned to the specific ends of the Nazi state, most spectacularly in the work of Leni Riefenstahl
Leni Riefenstahl
Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl was a German film director, actress and dancer widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens , a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party...

. Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will
Triumph of the Will
Triumph of the Will is a propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Nazi supporters. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress, including portions of...

(1935), documenting the 1934 Nuremberg Rally
Nuremberg Rally
The Nuremberg Rally was the annual rally of the NSDAP in Germany, held from 1923 to 1938. Especially after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, they were large Nazi propaganda events...

, and Olympia
Olympia (1938 film)
Olympia is a 1938 Nazi propaganda film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. The film was released in two parts: Olympia 1. Teil — Fest der Völker and Olympia 2. Teil — Fest der Schönheit . It was the first documentary feature...

(1938), documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics
1936 Summer Olympics
The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona...

, pioneered techniques of camera movement and editing that have influenced many later films. Both films, particularly Triumph of the Will, remain highly controversial, as their aesthetic merit is inseparable from their propagandising of Nazi ideals.

Post-war reconstruction


The occupation and reconstruction of Germany by the Four Powers in the period immediately after the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 brought a major and long-lasting change to the economic conditions under which the industry in Germany had previously operated. The holdings of Ufa were confiscated by the Allies and, as part of the process of decartelisation, licences to produce films were shared between a range of much smaller companies. In addition, the Occupation Statute
Occupation statute
The Occupation Statute of Germany of April 10, 1949 specified the roles and responsibilities of the newly created German government and the Allied High Commission in West Germany...

 of 1949, which granted partial independence to the newly created Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, specifically forbade the imposition of import quotas to protect German film production from foreign competition, the result of lobbying by the American industry as represented by the MPAA.

Amidst the devastation of the Stunde Null
Stunde Null
Stunde Null is the German language equivalent of "zero hour", a military planning term indicating the beginning of some operation or event. Historically, Stunde Null specifically refers to the capitulation of the Nazi government on May 8, 1945, at midnight, marking the end of World War II in Germany...

year of 1945 cinema attendance was unsurprisingly down to a fraction of its wartime heights, but already by the end of the decade it had reached levels that exceeded the pre-war period. For the first time in many years, German audiences had free access to cinema from around the world and in this period the films of Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

 remained popular, as were melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

s from the United States. Nonetheless, the share of the film market for German films in this period and into the 1950s remained relatively large, taking up some 40 percent of the total market. American films took up around 30 percent of the market despite having around twice as many films in distribution as the German industry in the same time frame (Schneider 1990:35, 42 & 44).

Many of the German films of the immediate post-war period can be characterised as belonging to the genre of the Trümmerfilm (literally "rubble film"). These films show strong affinities with the work of Italian neorealists
Italian neorealism
Italian neorealism is a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors...

, not least Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini was an Italian film director and screenwriter. Rossellini was one of the directors of the Italian neorealist cinema, contributing films such as Roma città aperta to the movement.-Early life:Born in Rome, Roberto Rossellini lived on the Via Ludovisi, where Benito Mussolini had...

's neorealist trilogy which included Germany Year Zero
Germany Year Zero
Germany Year Zero is a 1948 film directed by Roberto Rossellini. It is the final film in Rossellini's war film trilogy . Germany Year Zero takes place in post-war Germany, unlike the others, which take place in German-occupied Rome and post-war Italy, respectively...

(1948), and are concerned primarily with day-to-day life in the devastated Germany and an initial reaction to the events of the Nazi period (the full horror of which was first experienced by many in documentary footage from liberated concentration camps). Such films include Wolfgang Staudte
Wolfgang Staudte
Wolfgang Staudte , born Georg Friedrich Staudte, was a German film director, script writer and actor. He was born in Saarbrücken....

's Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers are among us) (1946), the first film made in post-war Germany, and Wolfgang Liebeneiner
Wolfgang Liebeneiner
Wolfgang Georg Louis Liebeneiner was a German actor, film director and theater director.He was born in Liebau in Prussian Silesia. In 1928, he was taught by Otto Falckenberg, the director of the Munich Kammerspiele, in acting and directing...

's Liebe 47 (Love 47) (1949), an adaptation of Wolfgang Borchert
Wolfgang Borchert
Wolfgang Borchert was a German author and playwright whose work was affected by his experience of dictatorship and his service in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. His work is among the best examples of the Trümmerliteratur movement in post-World War II Germany...

's play Draußen vor der Tür
Draußen vor der Tür
The Man Outside is a play by Wolfgang Borchert, written in a few days in the late autumn of 1946. It made its debut on German radio on 13 February 1947....

.

The 1950s


Despite the advent of a regular television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 service in the Federal Republic in 1952, cinema attendances continued to grow through much of the 1950s, reaching a peak of 817.5 million visits in 1956. The majority of the films of this period set out to do no more than entertain the audience and had few pretensions to artistry or active engagement with social issues. The defining genre of the period was arguably the Heimatfilm
Heimatfilm
Heimatfilm is the name given to a film genre that was popular in Germany, Switzerland and Austria from the late 40s to the early 70s. They were usually shot in the Alps, the Black Forest or the Lüneburg Heath and always involved the outdoors...

("homeland film"), in which morally simplistic tales of love and family were played out in a rural setting, often in the mountains of Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 or Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. In their day Heimatfilms were of little interest to more scholarly film critics, but in recent years they have been the subject of study in relation to what they say about the culture of West Germany in the years of the Wirtschaftswunder
Wirtschaftswunder
The term describes the rapid reconstruction and development of the economies of West Germany and Austria after World War II . The expression was used by The Times in 1950...

. Other film genres typical of this period were adaptations of operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

s, hospital melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

s, comedies and musicals. Many films were remake
Remake
A remake is a piece of media based primarily on an earlier work of the same medium.-Film:The term "remake" is generally used in reference to a movie which uses an earlier movie as the main source material, rather than in reference to a second, later movie based on the same source...

s of earlier Ufa productions shorn of the nationalistic Blut und Boden traits of those Nazi-period films.

Rearmament
Wiederbewaffnung
Wiederbewaffnung refers to the United States of America plan to help build up West Germany after World War II. They could not function outside an alliance framework . These events lead to the establishment of the Bundeswehr, the West German army, in 1955.Heinz Guderian stated that the fight was...

 and the founding of the Bundeswehr
Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr consists of the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities...

in 1955 brought with it a wave of war films which tended to depict the ordinary German soldiers of World War II as brave and apolitical. The Israeli historian Omer Bartov
Omer Bartov
Omer Bartov is the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies at Brown University....

 wrote that German films of the 1950s showed the average German soldier as a heroic victim: noble, tough, brave, honourable, and patriotic while fighting hard in a senseless war for a regime that he did not care for. The 08/15 film trilogy of 1954-55 concerns a sensitive young German soldier who rather be playing the piano who fights on the Eastern Front without understanding why, and no mention is made of genocidal aspects of Germany's war in East. The last of the 08/15 films ends with Germany occupied by a gang of American soldiers portrayed as bubble-gum chewing, slack-jawed morons and uncultured louts, totally inferior in every respect to the heroic German soldiers shown in the 08/15 films. The only exception is the Jewish American officer, who is shown as both hyper-intelligent and very unscrupulous, which Bartov noted seems to imply that the real tragedy of World War II was the Nazis did not get a chance to exterminate all of the Jews, who have now returned with Germany's defeat to once more exploit the German people.

In Der Arzt von Stalingrad (1958) dealing with German POWs in the Soviet Union, Germans are portrayed as more civilized, humane and intelligent than the Soviets, who are showed for the most part as Mongol savages who brutalized the German POWs. One of the German POWs successfully seduces the beautiful and tough Red Army Captain Alexandra Kasalniskaya (Eva Bartok
Eva Bartok
Eva Bartok , born Eva Ivanova Szöke, was an actress born in Budapest, Hungary. She began acting in films in 1950 and her last credited appearance was in 1966...

) who prefers him to the sadistic camp commandant, which as Bartov comments also is meant to show that even in defeat, German men were more sexually virile and potent than their Russian counterparts. In Hunde, wolt ihr ewig leben?
Stalingrad: Dogs, Do You Want to Live Forever?
Dogs, Do You Want to Live Forever is an 1959 West-German film, directed by Frank Wisbar and based on the eponymous novel by Fritz Wöss. The movie revolves around the Battle of Stalingrad...

 (Dogs, do you want to live forever?) of 1959, which deals with the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, the focus is on celebrating the heroism of the German soldier in that battle, who are shown as valiantly holding out against overwhelming odds with no mention at all of what those soldiers were fighting for, namely National Socialist ideology or the Holocaust. This period also saw a number of films that depicted the military resistance to Hitler. In Des Teufels General
Des Teufels General
Des Teufels General is a 1946 play written by German author and playwright Carl Zuckmayer, translated as The Devil's General. The title character of the play, General Harras, is based on the ace Ernst Udet. The play is based upon his struggles during the war, simultaneously working under and...

(The Devil's General) of 1954, a Luftwaffe general named Harras loosely modeled after Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
Colonel General Ernst Udet was the second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I. He was one of the youngest aces and was the highest scoring German ace to survive the war . His 62 victories were second only to Manfred von Richthofen, his commander in the Flying Circus...

, appears at first to be cynical fool, but turns out to an anti-Nazi who is secretly sabotaging the German war effort by designing faulty planes. Bartov commented that in this film, the German officer corps is shown as a group of fundamentally noble and civilized men who happened to be serving an evil regime made up of a small gang of gangsterish misfits totally unrepresentative of German society, which served to exculpate both the officer corps and by extension Germany society. Bartov wrote no German film of the 1950s showed the deep commitment felt by many German soldiers to National Socialism, the utter ruthless way the German Army fought the war and the mindless nihilist brutality of the later Wehrmacht. Bartov wrote that German film-makers liked to show the heroic last stand of the 6th Army at Stalingrad, but none has so far showed the 6th Army's massive co-operation with the Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

in murdering Soviet Jews in 1941.

The international significance of the West German
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 film industry of the 1950s could no longer measure up to that of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, or Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. German films were only rarely distributed internationally as they were perceived as provincial. International co-productions of the kind which were becoming common in France and Italy tended to be rejected by German producers (Schneider 1990:43). However a few German films and film-makers did achieve international recognition at this time, among them Bernhard Wicki's Oscar
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

-nominated Die Brücke
Die Brücke (film)
Die Brücke is a West-German anti-war novel written by Gregor Dorfmeister, under the pseudonym of Manfred Gregor, and published in 1958 by Heyne Bücher....

 (The Bridge)
(1959), and the actresses Hildegard Knef
Hildegard Knef
Hildegard Frieda Albertine Knef was a German actress, singer and writer. She was billed in some English language films as Hildegard Neff or Hildegarde Neff.-Early years:...

 and Romy Schneider
Romy Schneider
Romy Schneider was an Austrian-born German film actress who also held French citizenship.-Early life:Schneider was born Rosemarie Magdalena Albach in Nazi-era Vienna, six months after the Anschluss, into a family of actors that included her paternal grandmother Rosa Albach-Retty, her Austrian...

.

The 1960s: Cinema in crisis


In the late 1950s, the growth in cinema attendance of the preceding decade first stagnated and then went into freefall throughout the 1960s. By 1969 West German cinema attendance at 172.2 million visits per year was less than a quarter of its 1956 post-war peak. As a consequence of this, numerous German production and distribution companies went out of business in the 1950s and 1960s and cinemas across the Federal Republic closed their doors; the number of screens in West Germany almost halved between the beginning and the end of the decade.

Initially, the crisis was perceived as a problem of overproduction. Consequently, the German film industry cut back on production. 123 German movies were produced in 1955, only 65 in 1965. However, the roots of the problem lay deeper in changing economic and social circumstances. Average incomes in the Federal Republic rose sharply and this opened up alternative leisure activities to compete with cinema-going. At this time too, television was developing into a mass medium that could compete with the cinema. In 1953 there were only 1,000,000 sets in West Germany; by 1962 there were 7 million (Connor 1990:49) (Hoffman 1990:69).

The majority of films produced in the Hornsea Town in the 1960s were genre works: westerns
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

, especially the series of movies adapted from Karl May
Karl May
Karl Friedrich May was a popular German writer, noted mainly for adventure novels set in the American Old West, and similar books set in the Orient and Middle East . In addition, he wrote stories set in his native Germany, in China and in South America...

's popular genre novels which starred Pierre Brice
Pierre Brice
Pierre Brice is a French actor, mainly known for his role as fictional Apache-chief Winnetou in German Karl May films.- Life and films :...

 as the Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

 Winnetou
Winnetou
Winnetou is a fictional Native American hero of several novels written by Karl May in German, including the sequels Winnetou I through Winnetou IV....

 and Lex Barker
Lex Barker
Lex Barker was an American actor best known for playing Tarzan of the Apes and leading characters from Karl May's novels.-Early life:...

 as his white blood brother Old Shatterhand
Old Shatterhand
Old Shatterhand is a fictional character in western novels by German writer Karl May . He is the German friend and blood brother of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the Mescalero tribe of the Apache...

; thrillers and crime films, notably a series of Edgar Wallace movies in which Klaus Kinski
Klaus Kinski
Klaus Kinski, born Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski , was a German actor. He appeared in more than 130 films, and is perhaps best-remembered as a leading role actor in Werner Herzog films: Aguirre, the Wrath of God , Nosferatu the Vampyre , Woyzeck , Fitzcarraldo and Cobra Verde .-Early...

, Heinz Drache
Heinz Drache
Heinz Drache was a German film actor. He appeared in 42 films between 1953 and 2002.He was born in Essen, Germany and died in Berlin, Germany.-Selected filmography:* The Rest Is Silence...

, Wolfgang Völz
Wolfgang Völz
Wolfgang Völz is a German actor. He is known for his roles in theatre plays, feature films Wolfgang Völz (* 16 August 1930 in Danzig) is a German actor. He is known for his roles in theatre plays, feature films Wolfgang Völz (* 16 August 1930 in Danzig) is a German actor. He is known for his roles...

, and Joachim Fuchsberger
Joachim Fuchsberger
Joachim Fuchsberger is a German actor, television host, lyricist, businessman, activist, paratrooper and World War II veteran best known to a wide German-speaking audience as one of the recurring actors in various Edgar Wallace movies Joachim Fuchsberger (born 11 March 1927 in Zuffenhausen, today...

 were among the regular players; and softcore
Softcore
Softcore pornography is a form of filmic or photographic pornography or erotica that is less sexually explicit than hardcore pornography. It is intended to tickle and arouse men and women. Softcore pornography depicts nude and semi-nude performers engaging in casual social nudity or non-graphic...

 sex films, both the relatively serious Aufklärungsfilme (sex education
Sex education
Sex education refers to formal programs of instruction on a wide range of issues relating to human sexuality, including human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, contraception, and...

 films) of Oswalt Kolle
Oswalt Kolle
Oswalt Kolle was a German sex educator, who became famous during the late 1960s and early 1970s for his numerous pioneering books and films on human sexuality. His work was translated into all major languages, while his films found an audience of 140 million worldwide. In his 1997 book Open to...

 and such exploitation films as Schulmädchen-Report
Schulmädchen-Report
Schulmädchen-Report: Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten...

 (Schoolgirl Report)
(1970) and its successors. Such movies were commercially successful and often enjoyed international distribution, but won little acclaim from critics.

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
Oberhausen Manifesto
The Oberhausen Manifesto was a declaration by a group of 26 young German filmmakers at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, North Rhine-Westphalia on February 28, 1962. The manifesto was a call to arms to establish a "new German feature film". It was initiated by Haro Senft and among...

 on February 28, 1962. This call to arms, which included Alexander Kluge
Alexander Kluge
Alexander Kluge is an author and film director.-Early life, education and early career:Kluge was born in Halberstadt, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany....

, Edgar Reitz
Edgar Reitz
Edgar Reitz is a German filmmaker and Professor of Film at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe.- Early life and education :...

, Peter Schamoni
Peter Schamoni
Peter Schamoni was a German film director, producer and screenwriter. He directed 35 films between 1957 and 2011. His 1966 film No Shooting Time for Foxes was entered into the 16th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize...

 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 up-and-coming filmmakers allied themselves to this Oberhausen group, among them Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Rainer Werner Maria Fassbinder was a German movie director, screenwriter and actor. He is considered one of the most important representatives of the New German Cinema.He maintained a frenetic pace in film-making...

, Volker Schlöndorff
Volker Schlöndorff
Volker Schlöndorff is a Berlin-based German filmmaker who has worked in Germany, France and the United States...

, Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog Stipetić , known as Werner Herzog, is a German film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and opera director.He is often considered as one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, Werner...

, Jean-Marie Straub
Jean-Marie Straub
Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet were a duo of filmmakers who made two dozen films between 1963 and 2006...

, Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders
Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders is a German film director, playwright, author, photographer and producer.-Early life:Wenders was born in Düsseldorf. He graduated from high school in Oberhausen in the Ruhr area. He then studied medicine and philosophy in Freiburg and Düsseldorf...

, Werner Schroeter
Werner Schroeter
Werner Schroeter was a German film director and screenwriter, who some consider among the most important German writer-directors of the post-war period.-Biography:...

 and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg is a German film director, whose best known film is his lengthy feature, Hitler: A Film from Germany.- Early life :...

 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
New German Cinema
New German cinema 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...

, who rejected co-operation with the existing film industry, were consequently often dependent on money from television. Young filmmakers 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
Tatort
Tatort is a long-running German/Austrian/Swiss , crime television series set in various parts of these countries. The show is broadcast on the channels of ARD in Germany, ORF 2 in Austria and SF1 in Switzerland...

. 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 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
ARD (broadcaster)
ARD is a joint organization of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters...

 and ZDF
ZDF
Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen , ZDF, is a public-service German television broadcaster based in Mainz . It is run as an independent non-profit institution, which was founded by the German federal states . The ZDF is financed by television licence fees called GEZ and advertising revenues...

, 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 euros 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
Video
Video is the technology of electronically capturing, recording, processing, storing, transmitting, and reconstructing a sequence of still images representing scenes in motion.- History :...

 or DVD
DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 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
Auteur theory
In film criticism, auteur theory holds that a director's film reflects the director's personal creative vision, as if they were the primary "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
Italian neorealism
Italian neorealism is a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors...

, the French Nouvelle Vague
French New Wave
The New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of...

and the British New Wave
British New Wave
The British New Wave is the name given to a trend in filmmaking among directors in Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The label is a translation of Nouvelle Vague, the French term first applied to the films of François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard among others.There is considerable overlap...

 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
Yesterday Girl is a 1966 West German film directed by Alexander Kluge. Its original German title is Abschied von gestern , which means "Parting from yesterday". It tells the story of Anita G.,played by Kluge's sister Alexandra, a young East German migrant to West Germany and her struggle to adjust...

(1966), Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a 1972 West German adventure film written and directed by Werner Herzog. Klaus Kinski stars in the title role. The soundtrack was composed and performed by German progressive/Krautrock band Popol Vuh...

(1972), Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul (1974) and The Marriage of Maria Braun
The Marriage of Maria Braun
The Marriage of Maria Braun is a 1979 West German film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The film stars Hanna Schygulla as Maria, whose marriage with the soldier Hermann remained unfulfilled due to World War II and his post-war imprisonment...

(1979), and Wenders' Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas (film)
Paris, Texas is a 1984 drama film directed by Wim Wenders. The screenplay is by L.M. Kit Carson and playwright Sam Shepard, and the distinctive musical score was composed by Ry Cooder. The cinematography is by Robby Müller....

(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
Heinrich Böll
Heinrich Theodor Böll was one of Germany's foremost post-World War II writers. Böll was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.- Biography :...

 and Günter Grass
Günter Grass
Günter Wilhelm Grass is a Nobel Prize-winning German author, poet, playwright, sculptor and artist.He was born in the Free City of Danzig...

 provided source material for the adaptations The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (film)
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is a 1975 film adaptation by Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta of the novel of the same name by Heinrich Böll...

(1975) (by Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta) and The Tin Drum
The Tin Drum (film)
The Tin Drum is a 1979 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Günter Grass. It was directed and co-written by Volker Schlöndorff...

(1979) (by Schlöndorff alone) respectively, the latter becoming the first German film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is one of the Academy Awards of Merit, popularly known as the Oscars, handed out annually by the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...

. 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 Margarethe von Trotta, Helma Sanders-Brahms
Helma Sanders-Brahms
Helma Sanders-Brahms is a German film director, screenwriter, producer and actress.She studied acting then German and English. She first worked in TV and then trained as a film director with Sergio Corbucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini making a large number of films often commissioned by German...

, Helke Sander
Helke Sander
Helke Sander is a German feminist film director and writer.Sander attended a drama school in Hamburg. While married to Finnish writer Markku Lahtela, with whom she had a son, she worked as director at the worker's theatre and for Finnish television...

 and Cristina Perincioli
Cristina Perincioli
Cristina Perincioli is a Swiss film director, writer, multimedia producer and webauthor. She lives in Berlin, Germany since 1968.-Life and career:...

.

The 1980s


Having achieved some of its goals, among them the establishment of state funding for the film industry and renewed international recognition for German films, the New German Cinema had begun to show signs of fatigue by the 1980s, even though many of its proponents continued to enjoy individual success. In addition, the "aesthetic left" nature of New German Cinema (in the words of the critic Enno Patalas
Enno Patalas
Enno Patalas is a German film historian, collector, and expert film preservationist. A former head of the Munich Film Museum, his restorations include silent films such as Metropolis, M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder and Die Nibelungen, all directed by Fritz Lang...

 ) no longer coincided with the spirit of the times.

Among the commercial successes for German films of the 1980s were the Otto film series beginning in 1985 starring comedian Otto Waalkes
Otto Waalkes
Otto Gerhard Waalkes is a Frisian comedian and actor. He became famous in the 1970s and 1980s in Germany with his shows, books and movies. His perhaps most famous trademark are the 'Ottifanten' , elephant-like comic characters of his own design...

, Wolfgang Petersen
Wolfgang Petersen
Wolfgang Petersen is a German film director and screenwriter. His films include The NeverEnding Story, Enemy Mine, Outbreak, In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, The Perfect Storm, Troy, and Poseidon...

's adaptation of The NeverEnding Story (1984), and the internationally successful Das Boot (1981), which still holds the record for most Academy Award
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 nominations for a German film (six). Other notable film-makers who came to prominence in the 1980s include producer Bernd Eichinger
Bernd Eichinger
Bernd Eichinger was a German film producer and director.- Life and career :Eichinger was born in Neuburg an der Donau. He attended the University of Television and Film Munich in the 1970s, and bought a stake in the fledgling studio company Neue Constantin Film in 1979, becoming its executive...

 and directors Doris Dörrie
Doris Dörrie
Doris Dörrie is a German film director, producer and author.-Life and work:Dörrie completed her secondary education at a humanist Gymnasium. In 1973 she began a two-year attendance in film studies, in the drama department of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. She then studied...

, Uli Edel
Uli Edel
Uli Edel is a German film director.-Work:After studying theatre science in Munich, he was accepted into Munich Film School alongside Bernd Eichinger. Uli befriended him and they started working together on their exercise movies, sharing a love for the nouvelle vague and Italian neorealism as well...

, and Loriot
Vicco von Bülow
Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow , more commonly known under the pseudonym Loriot, was a German comedian, humorist, cartoonist, film director, actor and writer.He is most well known for his cartoons, the sketches from his 1976 television series...

.

Away from the mainstream, the splatter film
Splatter film
A splatter film or gore film is a subgenre of horror film that deliberately focuses on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence. These films, through the use of special effects and excessive blood and guts, tend to display an overt interest in the vulnerability of the human body and the...

 director Jörg Buttgereit
Jörg Buttgereit
Jörg Buttgereit is a German writer/director known for his controversial films. He was born in Berlin, Germany and has lived there for his entire life.He is maybe best known for his 1987 film Nekromantik....

, the experimental film
Experimental film
Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema. Experimental film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians...

 director Werner Nekes and the provocative Christoph Schlingensief
Christoph Schlingensief
Christoph Maria Schlingensief was a German film and theatre director, actor, artist, and author. Starting as an independent underground filmmaker, Schlingensief later began staging productions for theatres and festivals, which often were accompanied by public controversies...

 all came to prominence in the 1980s.The development of arthouse cinemas (Programmkinos) from the 1970s onwards provided a venue for the works of less mainstream film-makers.

This rise of underground cinema coincided with Germany's surge drug culture and related rave clubs leading to the development of many subculture movies like September a movie in the vain of Dope (London 1968). The associated rave scene this genre helped to spawn had major ramifications for the art house cinema that was to come out of Germany for the next twenty years.

From the mid-1980s the spread of videocassette recorder
Videocassette recorder
The videocassette recorder , is a type of electro-mechanical device that uses removable videocassettes that contain magnetic tape for recording analog audio and analog video from broadcast television so that the images and sound can be played back at a more convenient time...

s and the arrival of private TV channels such as RTL Television
RTL Television
Rtl.de' redirects here. For other uses, see RTL.RTL Television , or simply RTL, is a German commercial television station distributed via cable and satellite along with DVB-T , in larger population centres...

 provided new competition for theatrical film distribution. Cinema attendance, having rallied slightly in the late 1970s after an all-time low of 115.1 million visits in 1976, dropped sharply again from the mid-1980s to end at just 101.6 million visits in 1989. However, the availability of a back catalogue of films on video also allowed for a different relationship between the viewer and an individual film, while private TV channels brought new money into the film industry and provided a launch pad from which new talent could later move into film.

East German Cinema 1945 - 1989


East German cinema initially profited from the fact that much of the country's film infrastructure, notably the former UFA studios, lay in the Soviet occupation zone which enabled film production to get off the ground more quickly than in the Western sectors. The authorities in the Soviet Zone were keen to re-establish the film industry in their sector and an order was issued to re-open cinemas in Berlin in May 1945 within three weeks of German capitulation. The film production company Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft
Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft
Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft, better known as DEFA, was the public-owned film studio in East Germany throughout that country's history.-History:...

or DEFA was founded on May 17, 1946 and took control of the film production facilities in the Soviet Zone which had been confiscated by order of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany
Soviet Military Administration in Germany
The Soviet Military Administration in Germany was the Soviet military government, headquartered in Berlin-Karlshorst, that directly ruled the Soviet occupation zone of Germany from the German surrender in May 1945 until after the establishment of the German Democratic Republic in October...

 in October 1945. Theoretically a joint-stock company, the majority interest in DEFA was actually held by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 (SED) which became the ruling party of the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 (GDR) after 1949, formally placing DEFA as the state-owned monopoly for film production in East Germany. A sister "company", Progress Filmverleih, had also been established as a similar monopoly for domestic film distribution, its principal "competition" being Sovexportfilm, which handled distribution of Soviet films.

In total DEFA produced some 900 feature films during its existence as well as around 800 animated films and over 3000 documentaries and short films. In its early years, production was limited due to strict controls imposed by the authorities which restricted the subject-matter of films to topics that directly contributed to the Communist project of the state. Excluding newsreels and educational films, only 50 films were produced between 1948 and 1953. However, in later years numerous films were produced on a variety of themes. DEFA had particular strengths in children's film
Children's film
A children's film is a film aimed for children as its audience. As opposed to a family film, no special effort is made to make the film attractive for other audiences. The film may or may not be about children. In Unshrinking the Kids: Children's Cinema and the Family Film which is a chapter in In...

s, notably fairy tale
Fairy tale
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

 adaptations such as Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel
Tri oríšky pro Popelku
Tři oříšky pro Popelku is a Czechoslovak-German fairy-tale film from 1973.It was directed by Václav Vorlíček in co-production between DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme and Barrandov Studios. The story was based on a fairy tale written by Božena Němcová . Main roles were played by Libuše Šafránková and...

 (Three Nuts for Cinderella)
(1973), but it also attempted other genre works: science-fiction, for example Der schweigende Stern (The Silent Star) (1960), an adaptation of a Stanislaw Lem
Stanislaw Lem
Stanisław Lem was a Polish writer of science fiction, philosophy and satire. He was named a Knight of the Order of the White Eagle. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of the 1961 novel Solaris, which has...

 novel, or "red westerns
Ostern
The Ostern or Red Western was the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries' take on the Western.It generally took two forms:...

" such as The Sons of the Great Mother Bear (1966) in which, in contrast to the typical American western, the heroes tended to be Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

. Many of these genre films were co-productions with other Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries.

Notable non-genre films produced by DEFA include Wolfgang Staudte's adaptation of Heinrich Mann
Heinrich Mann
Luiz Heinrich Mann was a German novelist who wrote works with strong social themes. His attacks on the authoritarian and increasingly militaristic nature of pre-World War II German society led to his exile in 1933.-Life and work:Born in Lübeck as the oldest child of Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann...

's Der Untertan
Der Untertan
Der Untertan is the most famous novel by German author Heinrich Mann. It has been translated into English under the titles "Man of Straw," "The Patrioteer," and "The Loyal Subject" . The title poses a problem for the non-German reader since there is no effective translation of the word 'Untertan'...

(1951); Konrad Wolf
Konrad Wolf
Konrad Wolf was an East German film director, son of Friedrich Wolf, brother of Markus Wolf....

's Der geteilte Himmel
Der geteilte Himmel
Divided Heaven is an East German drama film directed by Konrad Wolf. It was released in 1964.-Plot:While recovering from a mental breakdown, the young Rita Seidel recalls the last two years: in which she fell in love with Manfred, a chemist who is ten years older. As Manfred became disillusioned...

 (Divided Heaven)
(1964), an adaptation of Christa Wolf
Christa Wolf
Christa Wolf was a German literary critic, novelist, and essayist. She is one of the best-known writers to have emerged from the former East Germany.-Biography:...

's novel; Frank Beyer
Frank Beyer
Frank Beyer was German film director. In East Germany he was one of the most important film directors, working for the state film monopoly DEFA and directed films that dealt mostly with the Nazi era and contemporary East Germany. His film Traces of Stones was banned for 20 years in 1966 by the...

's adaptation of Jurek Becker
Jurek Becker
Jurek Becker was a Polish-born German writer, film-author and GDR dissident. His most famous novel is Jacob the Liar, which has been made into two films. He lived in Łódź during World War II for about two years and survived the Holocaust.-Childhood:Jurek Becker was born in 1937 and lived in the...

's Jacob the Liar
Jacob the Liar
Jacob the Liar is a novel written by the East German author Jurek Becker published in 1969. The German original title is Jakob der Lügner...

(1973), the only East German film to be nominated for an Oscar; The Legend Of Paul And Paula
The Legend of Paul and Paula
Die Legende von Paul und Paula is a 1973 tragicomic East German film directed by Heiner Carow. It was based on the novel of the same name by Ulrich Plenzdorf....

(1973), directed by Heiner Carow
Heiner Carow
Heiner Carow was a German film director and screenwriter. His 1986 film So Many Dreams was entered into the 37th Berlin International Film Festival. The following year, he was a member of the jury at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival...

 from Ulrich Plenzdorf
Ulrich Plenzdorf
Ulrich Plenzdorf was a German author and dramatist.-Life:Born in Berlin, Plenzdorf studied Philosophy in Leipzig, but graduated with a degree in film...

's novel; and Solo Sunny
Solo Sunny
Solo Sunny is a 1980 East German drama film directed by Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Kohlhaase. It was entered into the 30th Berlin International Film Festival, where Renate Krößner won the Silver Bear for Best Actress.-Cast:* Renate Krößner - Sunny...

(1980), again the work of Konrad Wolf.

However, film-making in the GDR was always constrained and oriented by the political situation in the country at any given time. Ernst Thälmann
Ernst Thälmann
Ernst Thälmann was the leader of the Communist Party of Germany during much of the Weimar Republic. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 and held in solitary confinement for eleven years, before being shot in Buchenwald on Adolf Hitler's orders in 1944...

, the communist leader in the Weimar period, was the subject of several hagiographical
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 films in the 1950s and although East German filmmaking moved away from this overtly Stalinist approach in the 1960s, filmmakers were still subject to the changing political positions, and indeed the whims, of the SED leadership. For example, DEFA's full slate of contemporary films from 1966 were denied distribution, among them Frank Beyer's Traces of Stones
Traces of Stones
Traces of Stones is a 1966 East German film by Frank Beyer. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Erik Neutsch and starred Manfred Krug in the main role. After its premiere in Potsdam the film was shown only for three days, then the film was shelved due to conflicts with the Socialist...

(1966) which was pulled from distribution after three days, not because it was antipathetic to communist principles, but because it showed that such principles, which it fostered, were not put into practice at all times in East Germany. The huge box-office hit The Legend of Paul and Paula was initially threatened with a distribution ban because of its satirical elements and supposedly only allowed a release on the say-so of Party General Secretary Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until 1989, serving as Head of State as well from Willi Stoph's relinquishment of that post in 1976....

.

In the late 1970s numerous film-makers left the GDR for the West as a result of restrictions on their work, among them director Egon Günther and actors Angelica Domröse
Angelica Domröse
Angelica Domröse is a German actress, who became famous in the role of Paula in Heiner Carow's film "The Legend of Paul and Paula". Her Mediterranean appearance is the result of her biological father being a prisoner of war from France.-Life:After training as a shorthand typist Domröse worked in a...

, Eva-Maria Hagen
Eva-Maria Hagen
Eva-Maria Hagen is a German actress and singer. She is the mother of Nina Hagen.-Selected filmography:-External links:...

, Katharina Thalbach
Katharina Thalbach
Katharina Thalbach is a German actress and film director.- Life and work :Katharina Thalbach comes from a particularly artistic-oriented family. Her father Benno Besson was a director, her mother Sabine Thalbach was an actress. Her late husband Thomas Brasch was an author. Her daughter Anna and...

, Hilmar Thate
Hilmar Thate
Hilmar Thate is a German actor. He has appeared in 40 films and television shows since 1955.-Selected filmography:* The Gleiwitz Case * Professor Mamlock * Der geteilte Himmel * Angels of Iron...

, Manfred Krug
Manfred Krug
Manfred Krug is a German actor and singer.-Life and work:After moving to East Germany at the age of 13, Manfred Krug worked at a steel plant before beginning his acting career on the stage and, ultimately, in film...

 and Armin Mueller-Stahl
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Armin Mueller-Stahl is a German film actor, painter, writer and musician.-Early life:Mueller-Stahl was born in Tilsit, East Prussia...

. Many had been signatories of a 1976 petition opposing the expatriation of socially critical singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann
Wolf Biermann
Karl Wolf Biermann is a German singer-songwriter and former East German dissident.-Early life:Biermann's father, who worked on the Hamburg docks, was a German Jew and a member of the German Resistance....

 and had had their ability to work restricted as a result.

In the final years of the GDR, the availability of television and the programming and films on television broadcasts reaching into the GDR via the uncontrollable airwaves, DEFA's productions' importance was reduced, although its continuing role in producing shows for East German television channel remained. Following the Wende, DEFA had ceased production altogether, and its studios and equipment was sold off by the Treuhand
Treuhand
The Treuhandanstalt was the agency that privatized the East German enterprises, Volkseigener Betrieb , owned as public property. Created by the Volkskammer on June 17, 1990, it oversaw the restructuring and selling of about 8,500 firms with initially over 4 million employees...

 in 1992, but its intellectual property rights were handed to the charitable DEFA-Stiftung (DEFA Foundation) which exploits these rights in conjunction with a series of private companies, especially the quickly-privatized Progress Film GmbH which has issued several East German films with English subtitles since the mid-1990s.

German cinema today


Today's biggest producers include Bavaria Film, Constantin Film
Constantin Film
- History :Constantin Film Distribution GmbH was founded by Waldfried Barthel and Preben Philipsen on April 1, 1950 in Frankfurt, Germany. On December 21, 1964, the name of the company was changed to Constantin Film GmbH....

, Studio Hamburg, and UFA
Universum Film AG
Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945...

. Recent film releases such as Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run is a 1998 German crime thriller film written and directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Franka Potente as Lola and Moritz Bleibtreu as Manni. The story follows a woman who needs to obtain 100,000 German marks in 20 minutes to save her boyfriend's life...

by Tom Tykwer
Tom Tykwer
Tom Tykwer is a German film director, screenwriter, and composer. He is best known internationally for directing Run Lola Run , Heaven , Perfume: The Story of a Murderer , and The International ....

, Good Bye Lenin!
Good Bye Lenin!
Good Bye, Lenin! is a 2003 German tragicomedy film, released internationally in 2003. Directed by Wolfgang Becker, the cast includes Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, and Maria Simon...

by Wolfgang Becker
Wolfgang Becker
Wolfgang Becker is a German film director and writer. He is best known to the international audience for his work Good Bye Lenin! .-Biography:...

, Head-On
Head-On
Head-On is a 2004 film written and directed by Fatih Akın.-Synopsis:Cahit Tomruk is a Turkish German in his 40s. He has given up on life after the death of his wife and seeks solace in cocaine and alcohol. One night, he intentionally drives his car head-on into a wall, and barely survives...

by Fatih Akin
Fatih Akin
Fatih Akın is a German film director, screenwriter and producer of Turkish descent.- Personal life :Akın was born in 1973 in Hamburg to parents of Turkish ethnicity...

, and Downfall
Downfall (film)
Downfall is a 2004 German/Italian/Austrian epic war film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler's life in his Berlin bunker and Nazi Germany in 1945....

by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Oliver Hirschbiegel
Oliver Hirschbiegel is a German film director. His works include Das Experiment and the Oscar nominated Der Untergang.- Career :...

 have arguably managed to recapture the provocative and innovative nature of 1970s New German cinema. A number of modern German films such as Downfall
Downfall (film)
Downfall is a 2004 German/Italian/Austrian epic war film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler's life in his Berlin bunker and Nazi Germany in 1945....

, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days
Sophie Scholl – The Final Days
Sophie Scholl – The Final Days is a 2005 German film by director Marc Rothemund and writer Fred Breinersdorfer. It is about the last days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group the White Rose, part of the German Resistance movement...

, The Lives of Others
The Lives of Others
The Lives of Others is a 2006 German drama film, marking the feature film debut of filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The film involves the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi, the GDR's secret police...

and The Counterfeiters
The Counterfeiters (film)
The Counterfeiters is a 2007 Austrian-German film written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. It fictionalizes Operation Bernhard, a secret plan by the Nazis during the Second World War to destabilize Great Britain by flooding its economy with forged Bank of England bank notes.The film centres on a...

address the nature of totalitarianism in 20th Century Germany.

Apart from the international releases, a number of intimate German films have enjoyed critical success in France, where the term Nouvelle Vague Allemande has been applied to smaller productions mostly coming out of Berlin. A circle of directors of penetrating, realistic studies of relationships and characters informally constitute the "Berlin School" of filmmaking. Among those directors are Christian Petzold
Christian Petzold (director)
- Biography :Raised in Haan, after his high-school graduation in 1979 he fulfilled his military civil service in a small cineclub of local YMCA...

, Thomas Arslan, Valeska Grisebach, Christoph Hochhäusler
Christoph Hochhäusler
Christoph Hochhäusler is a German film director and screenwriter. His film Falscher Bekenner was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival...

, Benjamin Heisenberg, Henner Winckler and Angela Schanelec.

Other notable directors working in German currently include Sönke Wortmann
Sönke Wortmann
Sönke Wortmann is a German film director and producer.- Biography :Wortmann’s father was a miner. After Wortmann’s A-Levels he wanted to become a professional football player and started playing with Westfalia Herne at the third best category and with SP Vgg Erkenschwick...

, Caroline Link
Caroline Link
Caroline Link , is a German film director and screenwriter.-Life and work:Caroline Link is the daughter of Jürgen and Ilse Link. From 1986 to 1990 she studied at the Munich Academy of Film and Television , and then worked as an assistant director and script writer.Link's early work includes the...

 (winner of an Academy Award), Romuald Karmakar
Romuald Karmakar
Romuald Karmakar is a German film director and screenwriter. He was born in Wiesbaden as the son of an Indian father and a French mother. From 1977 to 1982 he lived in Athens. He won several awards, including the Bavarian Film Award for Best Screenplay...

, Harun Farocki
Harun Farocki
Harun Farocki is a German filmmaker.He has made over 90 films, the vast majority of them short experimental documentaries...

, Hans-Christian Schmid
Hans-Christian Schmid
Hans-Christian Schmid is a German film director and screenwriter.-Life and work:Hans-Christian Schmid has collaborated with Michael Gutmann on several of his the film that he has directed. Gutmann wrote screenplays for 23 - Nichts ist so wie es scheint , and Crazy...

, Andreas Dresen
Andreas Dresen
Andreas Dresen is an award-winning German film director. His directing credits include Cloud 9, Summer in Berlin, Grill Point and Night Shapes. His film Stopped on Track premiered at the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Prize of Un Certain Regard...

, Ulrich Köhler
Ulrich Köhler
Ulrich Köhler was a German archaeologist.-Biography:He studied at the University of Jena and was appointed secretary of the Prussian embassy at Athens and later was made professor of archaeology at the University of Strassburg...

, Ulrich Seidl
Ulrich Seidl
Ulrich Seidl is an Austrian film director, writer and producer.-Selected filmography:* 1990 Good News* 1992 Loss Is to Be Expected * 1995 Animal Love ...

, and Sebastian Schipper, as well as comedy directors Michael Herbig and Sven Unterwaldt.

Germany has recently experienced an influx of independent
Independent film
An independent film, or indie film, is a professional film production resulting in a feature film that is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system. In addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies, independent films are also produced...

 and underground films (mostly pertaining to the horror genre
German underground horror
German underground horror is a sub-genre of the horror film, which has achieved cult popularity since first appearing in the mid-1980s.Horror films produced by the German underground scene are usually trademarked by their intensity, taking on topics that are culturally taboo such as rape,...

). Directors in this popular circle include Andreas Schnaas
Andreas Schnaas
Andreas Schnaas is a German director and actor, working exclusively in the horror genre. Since he first appeared on the film scene in 1989, Schnaas has become a leader in Germany's ultra-violent low-budget horror film industry.- Early years :Andreas Schnaas was born in Hamburg and embraced cinema...

, Olaf Ittenbach
Olaf Ittenbach
Olaf Ittenbach is a German horror movie director, actor and special effects artist.-Biography:Ittenbach was born in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany...

, Jorg Buttgereit
Jörg Buttgereit
Jörg Buttgereit is a German writer/director known for his controversial films. He was born in Berlin, Germany and has lived there for his entire life.He is maybe best known for his 1987 film Nekromantik....

, Timo Rose
Timo Rose
Timo Rose is a German horror and science fiction filmmaker, rapper, and founder of the production company Sword of Independence Filmworks .-Films:...

, and Daryush Shokof
Daryush Shokof
Daryush Shokof is an Iranian artist, film director, philosopher, writer, art director, and film producer, and singer...

 with some highly original works beginning with his Seven Servants
Seven Servants
Seven Servants is a USA - Germany co-production 1996 German drama -comedy film made by Daryush Shokof. The movie is about a man who wants to unite and "connect" the races until his last breath.-Plot:...

.

The new decade has also seen a resurgence of the German film industry, with bigger-budget films and good returns at the German box office.

German production companies have been quite commonly involved in expensive French and Italian productions from Spaghetti Westerns to French comic book adaptations. In recent years, German production interests have also become very involved with American television and film production to help offset the costs of such productions, as evidenced by the company credits in certain films and TV shows.

Germany have a long cooperation with the Swedish film industry, which started as early as during the 1960s. German film industry has primarily been economically involved in Swedish films, but does not put itself in the artistic product. However, some German actors have had small parts in Swedish films and some Swedish actors have had small parts in German films. The co-operation became stronger during the end of the 1990s.

Literature

  • Blaney, Martin 1992 Symbiosis or Confrontation? Bonn
  • Hoffman, Kay 1990 Am Ende Video – Video am Ende? Berlin
  • Kracauer, Siegfried
    Siegfried Kracauer
    Siegfried Kracauer was a German-Jewish writer, journalist, sociologist, cultural critic, and film theorist...

    . 2004 RE. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film
    From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film
    From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film is a book by film critic and writer Siegfried Kracauer, published in 1947. The book is considered one of the first major studies of German film between World War I and World War II...

    . Princeton: Univ. of Princeton Press. ISBN 0-691-11519-2
  • Schneider, Irmela 1990 Film, Fernsehen & Co. Heidelberg.
  • Fay, Jennifer. 2008. Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Reeducation of Postwar Germany. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-4745-3

See also

  • Cinema of the world
  • History of cinema
  • Kammerspielfilm
  • List of films set in Berlin
  • German underground horror
    German underground horror
    German underground horror is a sub-genre of the horror film, which has achieved cult popularity since first appearing in the mid-1980s.Horror films produced by the German underground scene are usually trademarked by their intensity, taking on topics that are culturally taboo such as rape,...

  • World cinema
    World cinema
    World cinema is a term used primarily in English language speaking countries to refer to the films and film industries of non-English speaking countries. It is therefore often used interchangeably with the term foreign film...


External links