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Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Atonement With The Nazi Past

2664 words - 11 pages

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was arguably one of the greatest German directors after World War II. During his fifteen-year career, Fassbinder directed and produced among his other film works 40 full-length films. Fassbinder was born in a small Bavarian town, Bad Wörishofen, on May 31, 1945, and died presumably of a drug overdose at the young age of 37 on June 10, 1982. He was the most prominent German film director, actor and screenwriter in the New German Cinema. He continued the tradition of great German movies, and dealt with the German Nazi past, the average person’s involvement in the dictatorship and the tendency to suppress the memory of those years after World War II.
The political reality and hard times in the 1920’s helped with the rise of the rightwing nationalist party. Adolf Hitler was an avid movie fan and embracing new technologies for his party, such as flying in an airplane to hold speeches in several cities on one day, realized the potential that existed for Nazi propaganda. His future propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, a short man with a clubfoot, eventually would control the film industry. Goebbels removed all Jewish involvement with the film business, which led to many talented people having to leave Germany (as long as they still could get out). Equally, he removed all people were not in line with the official party thinking, so many more people, such as Fritz Lang, the director of Metropolis, left.
At the beginning of the Nazi era, more propaganda movies, such as “Triumph des Willens”(Triumph of the Will) from Leni Riefenstahl about the Nazi party congress 1934 in Nuremberg, in which she glorifies Hitler and the masses that paid homage to him, were made (“Leni Riefenstahl”). Nazi officials noticed that overtly propagandistic movies, such as the anti-Semitic film “Der ewige Jude” (The eternal Jew) proved unpopular. Goebbels now ordered to have movies made mainly for entertainment and many films finished during the reign of the Nazis are strangely disengaged with the reality of the German people, especially those completed during the last years of the losing war. Many directors and actors claimed that they were not involved with the Nazi regime and just did their work in films, such as Leni Riefenstahl who failed to examine her role critically in the Nazi regime. Some actors had a difficult time to gain employment for a short while, such as Heinz Rühmann, but he achieved success again, as did many actors who were prosperous in the postwar years in the mostly German market again (“Heinz Ruehmann”). The movies in the 1950’s continued the tradition of entertainment and many movies were made for pure entertainment of the masses that wanted to escape their day-to day lives. With the occurrence of the economic miracle in the Ludwig-Erhard-era, people were busy accumulating wealth yet again and tended to ignore the recent Nazi past (“It’s now Chancellor Erhard”).
This premise is what Fassbinder attempted to explore with his...

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