How do we understand the great capital cities of the world if we have never seen them? How does this change once we have visited a place? To what extent is our contemporary imagination of national space and power constructed by images? This course offers students an introduction to the cultural politics of cinematic imaginings of Berlin, a dynamic European capital that has become a laboratory for creative urban studies. Students will examine Berlin’s unique 20th and 21st-century history of expansion, destruction, division, unification, and urban marketing in relation to films that pictured the city for various political regimes and cultural objectives. The course will question this film legacy through the lens of political events, urban change, virtual technologies, spatial memory, geographical orientation, and location politics in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.
Inviting students to critically reexamine filmic representations of Berlin, the course will focus on several key time periods in German film production: 1) the Weimar Republic; 2) the Nazi Era and the immediate postwar years; 3) the Cold War; and 4) the postwall era. Not only are these time periods important to German cinema and its representations of Berlin; they also fostered competing cultural political versions of the city that would continue to circulate in the digital age.
One goal of the course is to introduce students to audiovisual analysis through a number of Berlin films spanning German film history. A second goal is for students to acquire knowledge of the sociocultural discourses that inform the production and reception of these films. Students will work on a number of questions in small groups and will then be asked to share their analyses and thoughts with the rest of the class. A third goal of the course is to introduce students to relevant cultural and geographical resources in Berlin through field trips to, for example, the Museum of Film and Television and Studio Babelsberg.
By the end of the course, the students will have gained a better understanding of Berlin’s history, its cinema, and its current film production and urban marketing discourses. They will be able to analyse the ways in which film form, content, geographical orientation, and historical context create meaning. Not only will the students enhance their skills in audiovisual analysis; they will also acquire the ability to interrogate the political circumstances that led to these films’ creation and reception.
This course is open to anyone with an interest in cinema in general and German cinema in particular.
No prior knowledge of German, German films, or film and media studies is required. Students must be able to speak and read English at the advanced intermediate level.
Attendance and participation in class, leading one class discussion, one field trip report, and one term paper.
A course reader will be provided on the first day of class.