Academic journal article German Quarterly

North-South, East-West: Mapping German Identities in Cinematic and Literary Versions of Doris Dörrie's Bin ich schön?

Academic journal article German Quarterly

North-South, East-West: Mapping German Identities in Cinematic and Literary Versions of Doris Dörrie's Bin ich schön?

Article excerpt

The multifaceted artistry of Doris Dörrie in the 1990s illuminates some of the prevailing possibilities and pitfalls of writing and filmmaking in post-Wende Germany. Aligning Döme's literary writings, in particular her books Für immer und ewig: eine An Reigen (1991) and Bin ich schön? (1994) with her later film Bin ich schön?'(1998) allows for a productive analysis of the differences between the two modes of presentation rather than a privileging of literature over film or vice versa. Such an analysis makes clear that Dome's books and film arise in distinct contexts and are designed to reach different audiences. As I will argue in part I, for Dörrie, the production of literary texts is integral to her approach to cultural production in general and to filmmaking in particular. In both film and literature, Dörrie strives to achieve an aesthetic that she describes as ambivalence. As a comparison between corresponding scenes from the book and the film will show, differences between the media lead Dörrie to adopt strategies that often result in the "removal" of certain controversial aspects of a short story once it is made into a film. It becomes evident that Döme's conceptions of prose and film essentially rationalize her accepting commercial pressures on her filmmaking. Because this realization only captures one facet of Dome's artistic production, part II examines the change of location from the US and Germany in the print version to Spain in the celluloid version. This section reads the film as a vehicle for critically probing the uses contemporary Germans make of southern climes, especially Spanish-speaking regions and cultures, in constructing their identities and transforming their lives. To deepen our insights into how the film contributes to the German tradition of north-south identity discourses, my argument will then move from an analysis of the establishing sequence of the film in part III to specific sections of the book in part iy before returning to salient moments in the film's concluding sequences in Part Y Along the way, I will speak of Dörrie's literature moving along an east-west axis with Germany and California as respective end points, and her film's north-south axis that runs primarily between Germany and southern Spain but with an imaginary stretching as far as Panama and Argentina. By the end of my essay, I will have established that Dörrie's artistic production conforms to a cultural division of labor in which "serious issues" are deemed more appropriate for literary forms, without losing sight of the fact that her filmmaking succeeds in offering non-trivial insights into German national identity in spite of its commercial orientation.

I

With the 1985 breakthrough film Manner, Doris Dörrie was catapulted into cultural prominence. Heralding a new generation of filmmakers and offering an accessibility often scorned by figures of the New German Cinema, Dome's comedy is often considered to have initiated the wave of 1990s Beziehungskomödien such as Abgeschminkt (1993), Der bewegte Mann (1994), and Stadtgespräch (1995, Coury 360). Dörrie has not surpassed the commercial success of Männer, with over five million admissions arguably one of the most successful postwar German films ever, but she has to date created some 20-plus films that offer perspectives on German society from the point of view of women (Bin ich schön?; Keiner liebt mich, 1994; Männer), minorities (Happy Birthday, Türke, 9 1999 1; Keiner liebt mich] and other marginal positions (Hake 174). Yet despite her numerous motion pictures, it is too simple to view Dörrie only as a filmmaker. Since Männer, Dörrie has worked as a film professor in Munich, been engaged as a professor of creative writing in the United States, and increasingly received recognition as a writer of short prose and novels. With the positive critical reception of the story collections Für immer und ewig: eine Art Reigen in 9 1999 1 andBin ich schön? in 1994, it became clear that Dörrie's published writings deserved attention in their own right. …

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