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Harvard Film Archive presents “The Management of Shattered Identity: German Films, 1945 – 1957”

Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55

Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55, © Harvard Art Museums

28.03.2018 - Article

In conjunction with the groundbreaking exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums, the Harvard Film Archive is screening five complementary German films from the period from April 20 – April 23, 2018.

The Management of Shattered Identity: German Films, 1945 - 1957

As the curators of Inventur describe, “the exhibition focuses on modern art created at a time when Germans were forced to acknowledge and reckon with the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust, the country’s defeat and occupation by the Allies, and the ideological ramifications of the fledgling Cold War. Chosen for the way it helps characterize the art of this period, the word Inventur (inventory) implies not just an artistic stocktaking, but a physical and moral one as well—the reassurance of one’s own existence as reflected in the stuff of everyday life. The exhibition, too, ‘takes stock,’ introducing the richness and variety of the modern art of this period to new audiences, while prompting broader questions on the role of the creative individual living under totalitarianism and in its wake.”

Relatively underscreened and unknown, German postwar cinema occupies a liminal sector of film history, sandwiched between Nazi era productions and the New German Cinema of the 1970s. The signatories of the 1962 Oberhausen Manifesto would indict the light entertainments of the Adenauer era (1949-1963), dismissing its escapist comedies, Heimatfilme and melodramas as examples of a moribund “Papa’s cinema.” The judgment was dismissive and unfair. Postwar German cinema in fact gave rise to numerous innovative, critical, and formally striking productions. Harvard professor Eric Rentschler’s series revisits a period in film history that until recently has been unfairly written off and overlooked, putting on display some buried treasures such as Under the Bridges, which was shot on location in Berlin during the last months of the war; the abstract, avant-garde Jonas; and Peter Lorre’s single directorial exercise The Lost One.

Curated by Eric Rentschler, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures & Director of Graduate Studies, Harvard.

Special thanks: Lynette Roth, Katherine Rennebohm—Harvard Art Museums; Mathias Bollinger—Deutsches Filminstitut, Robert Distelrath—Goethe-Institut München; Petra Kettner—SWR Media Services; and Michael Werkmeister, neue deutsche Filmgesellschaft. 

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