The American Impact on Postwar Germany

By Reiner Pommerin | Go to book overview

10. CINEMA, SPECTATORSHIP, AND THE PROBLEM OF POSTWAR GERMAN IDENTITY

Heide Fehrenbach

Spectatorship is not only the act of watching a film, but also the ways one takes pleasure in the experience .... Spectatorship pgnumers to how film-going and the consumption of movies and their myths are symbolic activities, culturally significant events ... Spectatorship is not just the relationship that occurs between the viewer and the screen, but also and especially how that relationship lives on once the spectator leaves the theater.1

T he story of West German cinema has often been told as an extension of World War II, in which military defeat was merely the prelude to a much more serious economic and cultural emasculation by Hollywood. Hollywood's postwar thrust into the West German market, it has been claimed, stunted the development of a native national cinema by monopolizing domestic screen time, shutting West German films out of the international (and especially European) market, and colonizing the consciousness of West German citizens by transforming them into American-style consumers.

Without attempting to construct a new narrative, I would like to share aspects of my research that question this interpretation, and in the process shed some light on identity construction after Hitler. To begin, I will need to shift the investigation away from the American incursion and focus instead on the responses of native elites in church and state to postwar film viewing and the newly established "Americanized" model of film

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