FS 317 - Transatlantic Cinema: Germany and the U.S.

German and American filmmaking looks back on a long, interconnected history. Ever since the invention of the moving image, contact across the Atlantic has proved mutually stimulating, supportive, and competitive. This transatlantic relationship involves directors and actors travelling in both directions in search of inspiration, money, and (in the case of filmmakers fleeing Hitler Germany) safety; it also relates to reciprocal aesthetic influences, imaginings of the self and the other, and to flows of capital both ways. As one chief object of analysis, this course will highlight the close relations between the (Berlin-) Babelsberg and Hollywood film studios in the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will address questions like the following: what were the historical contexts of these moments of cooperation during the Weimar Republic of the 1920s and the post-Wende cinema since the 1990s? What impact has the economic power of Hollywood had on German filmmaking? What strategies has German film developed to approach this economic imbalance? As another central topic, the course will address the question of Americanization. How did American culture and power engender attraction as well as fear in Germany during the Weimar Republic? How did post-war West German and East German filmmaking differ dramatically in the positions they took regarding their relation to the United States? Is Americanization still an adequate concept to understand the globalizing film market in which the U.S. and Germany are only players among others?

On a theoretical level, a transatlantic perspective invites us to ask questions about the idea of a national cinema in the light of the international dimension of the production and reception of movies, and to explore the ways in which cinema cultures coexist within the broader context of globalization. Concepts of the national, the international, the transnational, and the global will be discussed in their relations to film aesthetics and economies. On a thematic level, the course explores how U.S. and German cinemas have engaged with major themes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These include: Urbanization and Modernization, World War II, the Holocaust and the Cold War, the Fall of the Wall, Globalization, as well as concepts of capitalism, gender and race. We will analyze how discussions of these topics and concepts differ and change not only through time (and from film to film) but also depending on their national-cultural contexts. The city, which for the greater part of the films discussed in this class functions as setting and symbol, will be analyzed as a critical platform on which (trans)national identities are negotiated.

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Film Studies

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