The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style

The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style

The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style

The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style


"An original, intelligent, and insightful book. Over the past twenty years, the New German Cinema has been the topic of some of our most sophisticated studies of memory, history, and political identity. Flinn extends, deepens, and expands on this work to offer necessary insights about music, cinema, and national identity in postwar Germany. With wit, rigor, and an engaging prose style, Flinn exposes the New German Cinema in its ability to dramatize a commitment to historical memory that is not sentimental, romanticized, or fueled by nationalist fervor. This is a remarkably innovative, transformative, and important work."--Patrice Petro, author of "Aftershocks of the New: Feminism & Film History

"Using the musical soundtrack as her 'Auftakt, ' Caryl Flinn revisits melodrama and melancholia, camp and kitsch, and memory and shock in the works of such filmmakers as Fassbinder, Kluge, Ottinger, Treut, and Schroeter. The resulting intellectual counterpoint is dazzling. In the wake of this articulate analysis, the New German Cinema will never be the same again. In these 'leaden times' of ours, Flinn reminds us of the hope that an alternative aesthetics has to offer."--Alice Kuzniar, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, author of "The Queer German Cinema


Style is not simply window-dressing draped over a script; it is the very flesh of the work.


The relationship between history and film style and music is a long and uneven one. It tends to heat up when exaggerated, nonverisimilitudinous forms are used with “serious” or sensitive subject matter. Critics found One Day in September (McDonald, 1999), the recent documentary on the Black September terrorists who disrupted the 1972 Munich Olympics, too “MTV-like” in its sensationalized display of the victims, its flashy editing, and hard rock score. Putting aside its judgment of the film, this critique presumes that an “appropriate” form of music and style existed for the film, but was not selected. It also implies that music and style do something to history, and that whatever that is, it is bad. The present study, by contrast, maintains that memory and history do not exist without style, which I see as a constitutive feature of all forms of representation. But what are the links between them? How does one form of remembrance become more readily stylized than another? How do music and style connect—or disconnect—past and present? How do they prompt filmgoers to engage with the past, and with the experiences of others?

In recent decades, filmmakers, scholars, and filmgoers have all become increasingly aware of the importance of style—and music, thanks in part to music television channels like MTV—in the cinema, and in visual culture more generally. Today, countries around the world produce films that are awash in self-conscious style, dominated by special effects and computer-generated imagery. We have ironic eye-winking references to other films; action and artifice go hand in hand; camp has gone mainstream. Cin-

Portions originally published as “Strategies of Remembrance: Music and History in the New German Cinema, ” © Music and Cinema, ed. James Buhler, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 2000), 118–41. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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