Volker Schlondorff's Cinema: Adaptation, Politics, and the "Movie-Appropriate"

By Hans-Bernhard Moeller; George Lellis | Go to book overview

1
Introduction:
The Historical Importance
of Schlöndorff

During the 1960s, cinema redefined itself. Baby boomers worldwide were entering their teens and young adulthood—the demographic ages at which moviegoing peaks. At the same time, the classicists of the Hollywood cinema, like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock, were moving into the twilight of their careers. They were leaving behind a Hollywood studio system battered by competition from television, antitrust legislation, and unpredictable audiences. This system would never—despite the new Hollywood's ongoing economic clout—regain its former glory. Technological change was making film production easier, cheaper, and less dependent on a large-scale industrial model: low-budget, personal movies could coexist with monumental blockbusters.

Film culture became Janus-faced. On the one hand, a body of film had emerged over the medium's sixty-year history that demanded to be reassessed, reclassified, and reappreciated by younger generations. On the other hand, youthful audiences demanded change: they had new ideas about what could be filmed and how it should be filmed. This demand for change emerged in West Germany in the 1960s with the Young German film movement. In 1966, two remarkable features by first-time West German filmmakers startled and provoked film festival audiences and art house patrons. Alexander Kluge's Yesterday Girl (Abschied von gestern) and Volker Schlöndorff's Young Törless (Der junge Törless) became the first serious harbingers of the New German Cinema that was to become a major force in international film during the 1970s. Stylistically, they were nearly polar opposites. Kluge's film was an avant-garde cinematic essay about a young woman adrift and confused in a modern, morally sterile West Germany obsessed with the “economic miracle. ” Schlöndorff's more classical film honored the legacy of the

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