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|eTheses from Faculty of Arts and Humanities legacy departments
|The split screen: cinema and national identity in a divided Germany (1979-89)
|Meurer, Hans Joachim
|University of Stirling
|The generic term national cinema implies that, viewed in their totality, the films of a country promote notions of collective and cultural identity. Most studies of post-war German cinema, however, focus exclusively on the former Federal Republic of Germany and concentrate on issues of authorship and the influence of literature on film rather than examining East and West German films in relation to the antagonistically opposed social systems in which they were produced. Thus, under the title The split screen: Cinema and national identity in a divided Germany (1979-89), a comparative analysis is undertaken of the political, economic and ideological determinants shaping East and West German feature films during the so-called established phase of the two states between 1979 and 1989. The overall framework of the study is a discussion of German film culture within the climate of post-war ideological conflict, covering three main objectives. The first part of the thesis provides a theoretical framework for comparing the two German film cultures on an abstract ideological level. The second part of the project analyses the extent to which, during the eighties, the political systems of the FRG and GDR shaped production, distribution and exhibition in order to establish a particular type of film culture. The breadth of reference thus provided is combined with greater analytic depth in the third part of the project, where the goal is to investigate in greater detail how political, economic and cultural debates surrounding the question of an East and West German identity were translated into filmic discourse. Based on such a relational perspective, the thesis comes to three major conclusions. First of all, there was a greater interaction or confrontation between the two German film cultures with regard to their dissemination of a distinct national identity than it has commonly been assumed. Secondly, there were recurring cycles of liberalism and orthodoxy in the film policies of the two states - which can be linked to varying degrees of internal stability and external confrontation. And thirdly, the 'officially approved' and promoted films constituted an artificially created high culture mainly produced for an international market and hardly ever finding wide-spread public support among the German audience. Thus, an all-German film culture between 1979 and 1989 can be perceived, metaphorically, as a 'split screen': an imaginary space which projects, through its polarised division, the search of the divided German nation for a specific national-historical identity during a period which later proved to be the concluding phase of the Cold War.
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