Kino der Kaiserzeit. Zwischen Tradition und Moderne

By Carlson, Andrew R | German Quarterly, April 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Kino der Kaiserzeit. Zwischen Tradition und Moderne


Carlson, Andrew R, German Quarterly


20th Century Literature and Culture

Elsaesser, Thomas, und Michael Wedel, eds. Kino der Kaiserzeit. Zwischen Tradition und Moderne. Munchen: Richard Boerberg, 2002. 429 pp. euro29.50 paperback.

The broad parameters of German cinema in the Weimar Republic, Third Reich, and the post-World War II era have long been known. Scholars are constantly at work filling in the gaps in these time periods. On the other hand, the broad outline of German cinema in the Kaiserzeit, 1895-1918, is still being written. Perhaps this is because for years it was generally held that Germany had nothing to offer in this period, believing that innovations in cinema came from France, the United States, and other countries. Furthermore, much of what was done in Germany in the early days of cinema has been lost. It is the goal of this book to overcome these beliefs and point out where German cinema made a genuine contribution to the development of cinema in the pre-WWI era.

The present work moves the research along, building on earlier work done in the 1990s, such as: Thomas Elsaesser, ed. A second Life. German Cinema's First Decades; Paolo Cherchi Usai and Lorenzo Codelli, Prima di Caligari/Before Caligari: German Cinema, 1895-192.0, and Corinna Muller, Fruhe deutsche Kinematographie: Formale wirtschaftliche und kulturelle Entwicklung 1907-1912.

This book consists of essays, many of them outstanding, by individuals knowledgeable in Wilhelmine cinema. They vary in theme and approach. Some are sketches of individual actors and actresses of the period while others are in-depth analyses of films. There is a tendency to overlap in some essays, however this is a plus since they never cover the same ground. Thus the reader is afforded a different perspective on some films. The purpose of this foray into an era that has only been touched by professionals and film aficionados is to stimulate interest in this period of German cinema. In this respect the book has succeeded admirably.

Many of the films reviewed in these essays have not been seen, except by a few film professionals, for a century or more. It was a daunting task for the authors to construct the early days of German cinema because so little seems to have survived in the national German memory of the era. To accomplish their task they had to mine periodicals devoted to film as well as daily newspapers to contradict the often-held belief that Germany had no film culture before WWI. …

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