Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

TEACHING IN YOUR DREAMS: Screen-Play Pedagogy and Margarethe Von Trotta's the Second Awakening of Christa Klages

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

TEACHING IN YOUR DREAMS: Screen-Play Pedagogy and Margarethe Von Trotta's the Second Awakening of Christa Klages

Article excerpt

Résumé: Cet article examine l'emploi psychologique qu'ont fait douze canadiennes de races blanches du film Das zweite Erwhachen der Christa Klages (Le second éveil), visionné dans le cadre de leur certificat en éducation primaire. L'étude fait appel à des concepts de psychanalyse comme le transfert, la répression, le narcissisme, la mélancolie, l'idéalisation et la projection pour comprendre comment ce film est devenu pour elles non seulement un réceptacle pour le rêve sublime de l'amour de l'enseignement mais aussi un substitut pour certaines formes de froideur institutionnelle qui menacent d'anéantir le désir. L'auteure explique ce processus d'investigation- « le 'screen-play' pédagogique » -qui représente une utilisation innovatrice et interdisciplinaire des théories de la réception filmique.

On the surface, Margarethe von Trotta's The Second Awakening of Christa Klages (FRG, 1977) is a moody little crime story about a botched bank robbery that nets its temperamental heroine (a school teacher turned terrorist) not punishment but unexpected exoneration. It is shot in a somber, unsettling style that alternates scenes of separation and flight with domestic set pieces marked by wacky male obsessions (stuffed bats and pornography). The robbery is carried out by the eponymous protagonist of the film, played by Tina Engel. The well-meaning heroine is accompanied by two ineffectual male partners, recruited by Klages to help her achieve a not-yet-fully-formed objective of trying to keep her socialist school alive and out of the hands of child-hating male capitalists who want to evict the "noisy, dirty" nursery brats to make way for a porn shop. Christa's desperate act leaves her on the run, pursued not only by the police, but mysteriously, by a young bank teller named Lena, who was her hostage during the escapade. Lena, asked by the police to identify the prisoner as the wanted woman at the end of the film, stares at Christa. "No," she says, "that's definitely not her." Of this moment, John Sanford writes, "The camera too in this last shot dwells on Christa's face, as it manifests a mixture of astonishment, controlled delight, and revelation: this, as the closing title makes clear, is the second awakening of Christa Klages, occasioned by the first awakening of the bank-clerk Lena."1

Set in the 1970's and based on a real-life story of a Munich kindergarten teacher, the film is haunted by German post-war culture and its social challenges: "the complexities of female bonding; the dimensions and dilemmas of liberalism and the uses and effects of violence."2 In the words of psychoanalytic film critic Adrienne Harris, we might see such social challenges as the task in all postwar cultures, "to bridge the caesura in social life, to reconnect memory, metabolise trauma, fill in the blanks."3

Here, I utilize an audience response study format to explore how von Trotta's film taps into unconscious desires about femininity and schooling, in which viewing identifications may be used as jumping off points for learning.4 I examine the psychological uses made of the film by twelve white English Canadian women, ages twenty-eight to forty, who viewed The Second Awakening of Christa Klages during the final months of their primary teacher certification year. The study was part of a larger inquiry into the politics of desire in teacher education, in which, over a five-month period, I examined female, beginning teachers' phantasy engagements with films about teaching.5 In this account of what the subjects said they experienced of one of the films (Christa Klages), I provide a summary of my aims and method, an overview of viewer responses, and an analysis of possible meanings of their responses as illumined by psychoanalytic theories of interpretation. I make no claim to unraveling exhaustively the meanings of viewer experience. Rather, the study raises interesting questions about how screen-play pedagogy (which I will define below) may serve as a forum for radical thought-experimentation and self-renewal through reflective experiences that problematize the grounds and dynamics of phantasy itself. …

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