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German Rubble Film 1946-49

by Kolar
German Rubble Film 1946-49 by Kolar
German Rubble-Film (1946-1949) Rubble Film: German Cinema in the Shadow of the Third Reich (1946-1949) A chronological sequel to my previous list: The Third Reich 1933-1945 Some of the best postwar German films had been the earliest. – Fehrenbach, 148 Definition Rubble film (German: Trümmerfilm) was the style of choice for those films made directly after World War II dealing with the impact of the ravages of the War on the countries at the center of battle. The style is characterized by its use of location exteriors among the “rubble” of bombed-down cities to bring the gritty, depressing reality of the lives of the civilian survivors in… Read more

German Rubble-Film (1946-1949)

Rubble Film: German Cinema in the Shadow of the Third Reich (1946-1949)

A chronological sequel to my previous list: The Third Reich 1933-1945

Some of the best postwar German films had been the earliest.
– Fehrenbach, 148

Definition

Rubble film (German: Trümmerfilm) was the style of choice for those films made directly after World War II dealing with the impact of the ravages of the War on the countries at the center of battle. The style is characterized by its use of location exteriors among the “rubble” of bombed-down cities to bring the gritty, depressing reality of the lives of the civilian survivors in those early years. Notable films to utilize this style are Germany Year Zero (1948), The Murderers Are Among Us (1946) and In jenen Tagen (In Those Days, 1947). The style was mostly used by filmmakers in the rebuilding film industries of Eastern Europe, Italy and the former Nazi Germany. (wikipedia)


Die Mörder sind unter uns (aka The Murderers Are Among Us, 1946)

Rubble film (Background)

The vibrant German film industry, which boasted a cinematic tradition and star system relatively independent from Hollywood, found itself in shambles in the aftermath of World War II. During the Third Reich, cinema served as Goebbel’s most powerful propaganda instrument. Nationalistic films celebrated nationalism and militarism and entertainment movies projected images of immaculate social stability. For its role in disguising the unpleasant realities of the fascist regime, Nazi cinema has earned itself the name, “Dream Factory.” If Third Reich film was the era of dreams, then the postwar era was a rude awakening to a rubble-strewn reality, punctured by recurring nightmares instead of blissful dreams. It was this new state of mental being that the German Trümmerfilme, or “rubble films,” attempted to reflect. Made mostly from 1946 to 1949, the rubble films only constituted a brief period in German film history in a short-lived attempt to cultivate a new sensation of space.


Irgendwo in Berlin (aka Somewhere in Berlin, 1946)


Irgendwo in Berlin (aka Somewhere in Berlin, 1946)

The Germans’ experience with space was hardly pleasant. For a set, rubble filmmakers could use the real tragic ruins of actual German cities. This close connection between diegetic space and the actual space in which Germans found themselves stressed the fact that, unlike the Nazi Dream Factory, the Trümmerfilme dealt with the real tangible problems of the here-and-now in order to locate meaning in the cold hardships of everyday existence. These hardships actually brought more Germans to the cinema. The theater was a warm place with comfortable seats in a time of chronic heating and housing shortages. For a populace with few resources, it was the most economical form of entertainment and provided the promise of temporary escape from the miseries of everyday life.

Initially, German film demand went unfulfilled, for cinematic infrastructure had largely been destroyed and the Allies initially prohibited German films. Before long, the Allies realized that film could be a useful medium for entertaining and pacifying a destitute and antagonistic occupied people. Since German film demand could not be filled by current production, the British and Soviets took up previously produced German films that the occupation censors deemed appropriate for viewing by the German public. The Americans, on the other hand, chose to mostly import Hollywood films to Germany. In addition to Hollywood’s commercial ambition of infiltrating the German film market, the Americans also had cultural and political purposes. As Roger Manvell describesin The German Cinema, “In the American Zone these films were considered to be carefully chosen for their ‘escapist’ value and for their gradual infiltration of new, more ‘democratic’ values. The result was an initial release of about fifty Hollywood films prepared by the Motion Picture Export Association of America with sub-titles in German.”


In jenen Tagen (aka In Those Days, 1947)

For the time being, the films fulfilled the logistical purpose of providing cheap entertainment and escapism for an impoverished and war-stricken German people. These films facilitated the occupation by redirecting the energies of German frustration away from the streets and into the domesticating sphere of the theater. The Allies avoided showing anything controversial or “which might appear to be propaganda or to hint even at the recent war in Europe,” for their main concern was keeping the general peace.

In contrast to the other occupation powers’approach to films, the Soviets quickly seized film as a medium for active political reform and cultural engagement. Rather than using the cinema simply as a means of distraction from the current state of affairs, the Soviets wanted to make the Germans face their past and address an ignominious history of fascist abuses. It should be noted that almost all of the politically ambitious rubble films were made under the auspices of Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA), the centralized state-owned East German film company inaugurated by Soviet occupation authorities. DEFA’s purpose was to “reeducate” the German citizens, which involved confronting the wrongdoings of the recent past and eliminating fascist ideology in favor of socialism. With the production and screening of the rubble films, audiences that retreated into theater space to avoid the berubbled exterior would only be confronted again by rubble on the interior film screen. Those seeking a few hours of escapism would be sorely disappointed.


Film ohne Titel (aka Film Without a Name, 1948)

Initially, the rubble films produced in DEFA studios met with critical and popular success. The 1946 films, The Murderers Are Among Us (Die Mörder sind unter uns, Wolfgang Staudte) and Somewhere In Berlin (Irgendwo in Berlin, Gerhard Lamprecht), did well amongst international critics and at the box office. However, by 1947, “rubble film” had become a derogatory term. As Heide Fehrenbach remarks, “The gritty realism of Trümmerfilme soon wore thin, and German audiences began to demand films that corresponded more to their fantasies than mundane social realities. By early 1948, the genre was bust.” Initially, international critics and filmmakers mistakenly imagined that the rubble films would play the role of unearthing and addressing repressed memories of a Nazi past. However, German audiences, who considered the rubble films excessively preachy and somber, were more interested in retreating to glamorous fantasies than dismantling the Nazi Dream Factory. Rather than facing the past, people preferred to be entained or distracted away from it. Especially in West Germany, the people were forward-looking; the rubble was being cleared and the economy was picking up. Before long, West Germany would enter a new era of prosperity, outpacing both of its West European occupiers, France and Britain. With a bright future, full of the diversions inherent in a capitalist consumer economy, no one wanted to look back.

The dark, menacing shadows of the rubble films, and its struggle with sobering questions of war guilt and responsibility, were rarely welcome on German screens by 1950. Critics complained that German film “betrayed its initial promise,” for the general feeling was that “the talents which had shown their initial strength during the three years of social adjustment were soon to be stifled, unless they turned wholly in the direction of escape.”


Liebe 47 (aka Love’ 47, 1949)

In a sort of final judgement on the film of that era, Fehrenbach says, “Some of the best postwar German films had been the earliest” – the rubble films.

Rubble films, as their name suggests, dealt with the horror of the devastated German cityscape and the project of reconstruction. They involved a break with previous ways of representation and expressed a desire to distinguish themselves from the classical continuity and linearity of the Ufa film system’s style. Rubble films experimented with the emotionally charged mise-en-scéne of the Weimar Expressionist tradition, borrowing from detective thrillers and film noir. German filmmakers believed that a new way of looking at history required a new cinematic language. (Lost in the Rubble, scribd.com)


Videos /Samples


Die Mörder sind unter uns (aka The Murderers Are Among Us, 1946)

Scene: Somewhere in Berlin (1946)

Links / Books

German Postwar Film Industry (complete article)
PDF Introduction and an excerpt from Chapter 1 Rubble films
JUMP CUT, Review of Robert R. Shandley, Rubble Films: German Cinema in the Shadows of the Third Reich
Book: Rubble films: German cinema in the shadow of the Third Reich, (Robert R. Shandley)
Book: Cities and cinema, Barbara (by Caroline Mennel)
Book: Cinema in Democratizing Germany: Reconstructing National Identity After Hitler (by Heide Fehrenbach)
Book: German Postwar Films: Life and Love in Ruins (by Wilms/Rasch)
Book: Dismantling the Dream Factory: Gender, German Cinema, and the Postwar Quest for a New Film Language (by Hester Baer)


Rubble films on Mubi
Special: Rotation (1949), Though not a rubble-film, Rotation offers a remarkably similar – and similarly central – image of a passive male gazing at and ruminating on the sets. Read less