Berlin School Glossary
New Publication by Lutz Koepnick
Berlin School Glossary: AN ABC of the New Wave in German Cinema
Intellect, August 2013
Berlin School Glossary is the first major publication to mark the increasing international importance of a group of contemporary German and Austrian filmmakers initially known by the name the Berlin School: Christian Petzold, Thomas Arslan, Christoph Hochhäusler, Jessica Hausner, and others. The study elaborates on the innovative strategies and formal techniques that distinguish these films, specifically questions of movement, space, spectatorship, representation, desire, location, and narrative. Abandoning the usual format of essay-length analyses of individual films and directors, the volume is organized as an actual glossary with entries such as bad sex, cars, the cut, endings, familiar places, forests, ghosts, hotels, interiority, landscapes, siblings, surveillance, swimming pools, and wind. This unique format combined with an informative introduction will be essential to scholars and fans of the German New Wave.
The volume grew out of series of conferences and workshops. It gathers the work of more than a dozen prominent films scholars and was edited by by Roger F. Cook, Lutz Koepnick, Kristin Kopp, and Brad Prager.
From the Introduction
The films of the Berlin School raise important questions about the relation of contemporary filmmaking to various avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements of the postwar era. As importantly, however, it also urges us to think about the way in which filmmakers, film critics, and film scholars not only participate in ongoing conversations about the cinematic canon, but in these conversations constantly redefine what belongs, and what should not belong, to the canon in the first place. The films of the Berlin School are predominantly small and minor films. They rely on minimalist means and defy the grand narratives and sensory spectacles of mainstream cinema. As was to be expected, the rhetorical smallness and formal rigor of much of Berlin School filmmaking has quickly transformed their interventions into German film studies' newest good objects: legitimate examples of German cinema worthy enough to be added to the canon of film art and therefore, for instance, shown in art-houses' series or taught in college seminars. Though many of our glosses are written with considerable sympathy for the Berlin School's experiments with sound and sight, it is the nature of the gloss to display a certain irreverence and indifference toward questions of canonization as well. As it freely cuts through and across recent German art cinema, Berlin School Glossary aspires to manifest some of this kind of critical irreverence. The primary task of the following glosses is to reveal and discover, not to enshrine heroic gestures and claim this cinema's timeless qualities. In fact, for the contributors to this project to trace important tendencies of recent German filmmaking most appropriately means to suspend the usual work of canon-making and canon-unmaking. Rather than promote recent German filmmakers and cinematic works as members of a new canon, then, the glosses of this book understand the smallness and inconclusiveness of Berlin School filmmaking as good reasons to change our very thinking about the function of canonicity amid our increasingly postcinematic condition.
Table of Contents:
INTRODUCTION: THE BERLIN SCHOOL-UNDER OBSERVATION
SEEING AND SAYING
STRIESOW, DEVI D