Siegfried Kracauer, 'Filmkritik', and the Young German Film

Vortrag von

Eric Rentschler

is the Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University where he is also the Chair of the Film and Visual Studies Program. His books include West German Film in the Course of Time,1984; German Film and Literature, 1986; West German Filmmakers on Film, 1988; Augenzeugen, 1988 (second updated edition 2001, with Hans Helmut Prinzler); The Films of G. W. Pabst, 1990; The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife, 1996; Neuer Deutscher Film. 1962–1985, 2012 (with N. Grob and H.


Provokation der Wirklichkeit. 50 Jahre Oberhausener Manifest

Ausschnitt aus dem Plakat zum Symposium

Das Wiener Symposium zu 50 Jahre Oberhausener Manifest, 7.-8.6.2012 im Österreichischen Filmmuseum

Donnerstag, 7. Juni 2012 - 11:00
Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Augustinerstraße 1, A - 1010 Wien

During the postwar era the history of discourse about cinema in the Federal Republic of Germany to a great extent depended on which of Siegfried Kracauer's two film books was privileged. If From Caligari to Hitler influenced much writing from the late fifties through the sixties, it would be Theory of Film that had the stronger impact during the next decade. The most noteworthy West German film journals (Filmkritik, Film, and Filmstudio) consciously deferred to and sought to continue Kracauer's critical project, to illuminate the ideological contents and social meanings of contemporary film production. At the end of the 1960s, though, the editorial collective of Filmkritik, which included critics like Wim Wenders, Gerhard Theuring, and Siegfried Schober, who were referred to as "Sensibilisten", would distance itself from the ideological emphases of From Caligari to Hitler. As exponents of a private and personal relationship to the film experience, the "Sensibilisten" discovered dimensions of meaning in Theory of Film that surely had not been acknowledged by the book's initial commentators. Indeed, when the study's German translation appeared in 1964, reviewers were surprised that it had so little in common with the Weimar essays that had been collected in 1963 under the title, Das Ornament der Masse. The study provided little intellectual sustenance for readers of the mid-1960s with progressive agendas. Where, reviewers wondered, was the critique of distraction and the Culture Industry? Why would such an otherwise incisive social critic insist on divesting objects of their historical status and shrouding them in an undialectical, whimsical, and even mystical idealism? Revisiting West German responses to Kracauer's monograph today offers an acute appreciation of Kracauer's redemptive resolve and his insight into the invigorating potential of the cinematic experience. Indeed, what Kracauer articulated as well as catalyzed in his Theory of Film was a unique mode of experience that, as shall be discussed, is also both pertinent and essential for our understanding of Young German Film.