University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > German Graduate Research Seminar > The city stripped bare by her histories, even: 1948 Berlin film

The city stripped bare by her histories, even: 1948 Berlin film

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This paper examines how contested urban narratives set in the immediate aftermath of war were represented in the German film of the time. These ‘Trümmerfilme’ offer a narrative of otherworldliness whilst striving to establish spaces and narratives of recuperation. The narrative reframing of the ruins often located the fragmentary images of destruction within a set of counter-narratives which offered reconciliation with both past and future cities. The ruined present in the cinematic frame threatened to shatter the carefully contrived narrative constructs of futurity and history by mounting an overwhelming ‘attack of the present on the rest of time’. As an unmediated partial object representing a static embodiment of a traumatic interpretive space within a negative historical narrative that could not appear on screen as having the possibility of an afterlife. However, these tropes of focalistion were unable to abate the unsustainable visual tensions which threatened the sustainability of the narrative form itself. This predicament required drastic nondiagetic intervention. The use of focalisation in a time beyond the present, therefore also necessitated recuperative metalepses to shield the narrative from the radical emptiness in the images of urban destruction. In this way, the city narrative in the Trümmerfilm often breaches a ‘fourth wall’ in an effort to involve the urban cinema audience directly in the construction of a shared narrative in an attempt to re-establish cohesion for the narrative form itself as a means of circumventing the impossibility of a suspension of disbelief when faced with the unwelcome Real.

This talk is part of the German Graduate Research Seminar series.

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