German Women Filmmakers
German 281, Fall 1996
|Silke von der Emde
Until the 1970s there were hardly any women film directors in Germany.
Today there are proportionally more than in any other film-making country,
and their work has been extremely influential. Films made by German women
directors since the mid-1970s present a body of work that cannot be ignored;
nor for that matter can the work of Leni Riefenstahl in the 1930s, although
no feminist would want to claim her work for Nazis as feminist film. Directors
like Leontine Sagan, Helke Sander, Ulrike Ottinger, Jutta Brückner,
Margarethe von Trotta, and Monika Treut have made a huge contribution to
feminist film culture, but until now critics of the German Cinema have
focused almost exclusively on male directors such as Lang, Fassbinder and
Wenders. We will examine how restrictive social, economic, and institutional
conditions have compounded the neglect of women directors. We will explore
the principal characteristics of women's film-making, and ask about the
importance of the women's movement for West German films by women, the
concern with the notion of a "feminine aesthetic," women's entry
into the mainstream, and the emergence of a so-called post-feminist cinema.
In this course, we will cover a wide variety of films. Politically,
they range from the anti-authoritarian Girls in Uniform, made just
before the Nazi era, to Marianne Rosenbaum's pacifist film Peppermint
Peace (1983) made at the height of the West German peace movement,
from Leni Riefenstahl's notorious propaganda film for the Nazis Triumph
of the Will (1935) to Monika Treut's The Virgin Machine (1988)
promoting sexual choice . In terms of style, they range from the relative
conventional Marianne and Juliane (1981) by Margarethe von Trotta
to the much more experimental director Helke Sander with her film REDUPERS
(1977), and from Jutta Brückner's narrative film Years of Hunger
(1979) to the surrealistic Ticket of No Return (1979) by Ulrike
Because we are fortunate enough to have film maker Monika Treut with
us this semester, we will be focusing on her films, and we will be able
to hear and learn more about the production side of German filmmaking.
Ms. Treut will be an important resource for the course.
The course aims to examine the films within the larger socio-historical
context in Germany. Since this is a culture studies course, we will
analyze 20th century German history, politics, and culture by looking at
German films. Films by German women directors make up a body of work that
cannot be ignored in any discussion of German cinema. In turn, filmmaking
by women in the 1970s and 1980s cannot be examined without taking into
account feminism's "second wave" in Western Europe and the U.S.
Nor can film theory be examined without looking at feminist film theory.
In this course we will talk about the fundamentals of film analysis and
contemporary film criticism, so that the formal structures of the films
can be understood. By the end of the course, students should be able both
to do a "close reading" of a film and to place it within the
larger historical context defined by the aesthetic and political debates
in West German society to which the films respond.
|Silke von der Emde, CH 133
Tel.: x 5618
M: 2:30-3:30, Th 11:00-12:00
German 281: German Women Filmmakers
M, W: 11:30 - 12: 45
- Week 1: September 2 - 4: INTRODUCTION
- Brief Overview of German Film History
Read (for Wednesday)
Week 2: September 9 - 11: IS THE GAZE MALE ?
Josef von Sternberg, The Blue Angel (1930: 94 min)
|Lesage, "Feminist Film Criticism: Theory and Practice" |
|Knight, "The Absent Directors," pp. 1-21 |
Week 3: September 16 - 18: BODY POLITICS I: EARLY LESBIAN FILM ?
Sagan, Girls in Uniform (1931: 88 min.)
|Josef von Sternberg, Fun in a Chinese Laundry (excerpts) |
|Johnston, "Women's Cinema as Counter-Cinema" |
Week 4: September 23 - 25: BODY POLITICS II: Sexual Choice
Monika Treut, The Virgin Machine (1988)
|R. Rich, "Repressive Tolerance to Erotic Liberation"|
|A. Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality & Lesbian Experience"
Week 5 : September 30 - October 2: DOCUMENTARY
Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will (1935: 110 min)
|Knight, ch. 6: "A Change in Direction" 150 - 172 , esp. 162-170|
|Colin Richardson, "Monika Treut: An Outlaw at Home"|
|Mayne, "Woman at the Keyhole" |
Week 6: October 7 - 9: DOCUMENTARY, BIOGRAPHY
Ray Müller, The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
|J. Lesage, "Political Aesthetics of Feminist Documentary"|
|R. Rich, "Leni Riefenstahl: The Deceptive Myth" |
Week 7: October 14 - 16: the "Private/Public" Dichotomy
Helke Sander, The All-Round Reduced Personality (REDUPERS)
(1977: 100 min)
|Susan Sontag, "Fascinating Fascism"|
|Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" |
|Knight, ch. 1: "Divided History"; |
|G&GC: Marc Silberman, "Interview"; and |
|G&GC: Rich, "He Says, She Says: The Power of the Narrator
in Modernist Film Politics" |
October 18 - 27: FALL BREAK
Week 8: October 28 - 30: Representing History
Margarethe von Trotta, Marianne and Juliane (Die Bleierne
Zeit) (1981: 106 min))
Week 9: November 4 - 6: Sexual Repression &the Cold War I
Jutta Brückner, Years of Hunger (1979: 114 min)
|Knight, ch. 5: "Is There a Feminist Aesthetic?" 122-149.
|G&GC: Barton Byg, "German History and Cinematic Convention
Week 10: November 11 - 13:Sexual Repression &the Cold War II
Marianne Rosenbaum, Peppermint Peace (1983: 100 min)
|Knight, ch. 3: The Women's Movement" 73-101, esp. 88-89. |
|G&GC: Barbara Kosta, "Representing Female Sexuality";
|G&GC: Silberman, "Interview with Jutta Brückner"
Week 11: November 18 - 20:FEMINIST DOCUMENTARY
Helke Misselwitz, Goodbye Winter (1988: 115 min)
|Knight, ch. 2: "Critical Reception," 51 - 69 |
|G&GC: Weinberger, "Marianne Rosenbaum and the Aesthetics
of Angst" |
Week 12: November 25 - 27: The Avant-garde Vision I
Ulrike Ottinger, Ticket of No Return (Bildnis einer Trinkerin)
|Rosenberg, "Goodbye to Winter: An Interview with Helke Misselwitz";
|J. Lesage, "Political Aesthetics of Feminist Documentary"
Week 13: December 2 - 4: The Avant-garde Vision II: "BAD GIRLS"
Monika Treut, Female Misbehavior (1992)
|Knight, ch. 5: "Is There a Feminist Aesthetic?" 129-33; |
|G&GC: Silberman, "Interview"; and |
|G&GC:Hansen, "Visual Pleasure, ...: Interview with
Ulrike Ottinger"; |
Week 14: December 9: Course Summary and Conclusion(s)
|Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae (excerpts); |
|Bell, Whore Carnival (excerpts) |
|Bordwell/Thompson, Film Art |
|Julia Knight, Women and The New German Cinema |
|Articles from Frieden, McCormick, et.al. Gender and German Cinema:
Feminist Interventions (2 vols) (= G&GC; on reserve in the
|Xeroxed articles and hand-outs to be distributed in class |
|Corrigan, New German Film: The Displaced Image |
|Eisner, The Haunted Screen |
|Elsaesser, New German Cinema: A History |
|Frieden, McCormick, et. al., Gender and German Cinema: Feminist
Interventions (2 vols) |
|Giannetti, Understanding Movies |
|Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler |
|Kuhn, Women's Pictures: Feminism and Cinema |
|Mast and Cohen, eds, Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings
|New German Critique 24-25 (Fall/Winter 1981-82) |
|Pflaum and Prinzler, Cinema in the Federal Republic of Germany
|Phillips, New German Filmmakers: From Oberhausen Through the 1970s
|Rentschler, West German Film in the Course of Time |
|Rentschler, ed. German Film and Literature: Adaptations and Transformations
These books can be found on reserve in the library.
- Short film reviews or discussion of the reading, aproximately 1 page
each (typed), every Monday.
- Opening class discussion of film with one or more other students -
at least once. You are asked to prepare background information on the film/the
filmmaker, talk about importatnt issues the film raises, and prepare questions
for the discussion.
- Midterm paper (essay based on sequence analysis); 5 pp. minimum.
- Final Examination: choice of short essay questions and identifications.