Key filmmakers: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (pictured above), Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Margarethe von Trotta, Wim Wenders
Key dates: 1968-1982
What is it? New German Cinema or ‘Neuer Deutscher Film’ (or ‘Das Sexy Fassbinder Ones With The Ladies Und Der Boobies’) emerged like a sapling from the country’s moribund postwar film industry. Culturally the country, still 20 years from farewelling Lenin, was at a low ebb. The Red Army Faction was spreading terror, the nation split down the middle and Western rock stars were soon polishing off Berlin’s heroin supplies. Into this void, like an answer to West German cineastes’ prayers, came three greats: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, as well as a phalanx of other talents that included female directors like Helma Sanders-Brahms and Margarethe von Trotta. They took 1962’s Oberhausen Manifesto, a call to arms by 26 disillusioned German filmmakers, as their springboard, parlaying its unofficial mantra “Papa’s Kino ist tot” (“Papa’s cinema is dead”) into brain-bending new visions of what cinema could be when its creators really set their minds to it.
Their ambitions were only matched by their productivity during an incredible ten years in German cinema. When Herzog wasn’t thinking about hauling steamboats around South America, he was striking up sparky relationships with Bruno Schleinstein, a street musician better known as Bruno S., and the often barely-hinged Klaus Kinski. While Herzog was exploring man’s inner essence – the beast inside – in Aguirre, Heart Of Glass and The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser, Fassbinder dwelt on his capacity for artifice and elaborate parlour games (The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant, Fox And His Friends) and Wenders headed for the open road that would eventually lead to Paris, Texas.
What to watch: Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant (1972), Alice In The Cities (1974), Fear Eats The Soul (1974), The Lost Honour Of Katharina Blum (1975), The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser (1974), The Marriage Of Maria Braun (1979), Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979), The Tin Drum (1979), Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
What did it influence? The death of the prolific Fassbinder in 1982 after a drug overdose robbed the movement of its prime mover, but he left his mark on young American film lovers like Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino. Also, about a million pretentious students.
Trivia: Krautrockers Can recorded the soundtrack for Wim Wenders’ Alice In The Cities in less than a day.
What to say: “The old film is dead. We believe in the new one.” (The Oberhausen Manifesto)
What not to say: “Why don’t you just sail the boat around the hill?”