Inverting the lives of 'others': retelling the Nazi past in 'Ehe im Schatten' and 'Das Leben der Anderen'
Wolfel, U. (2011) Inverting the lives of 'others': retelling the Nazi past in 'Ehe im Schatten' and 'Das Leben der Anderen'. German Life and Letters, 64 (4). pp. 601-618. ISSN 1468-0483
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The article compares Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film Das Leben der Anderen (2006) with Kurt Maetzig's early post-war film Ehe im Schatten (1947). The comparison is based on significant narrative and thematic elements which the films share: They both have a ‘theatre couple’, representatives of the ‘Bildungsbürgertum’, at the centre of the story; in both cases the couple faces a crisis caused by the first and second German dictatorship respectively and then both try to solve the crisis by relying on the classical ‘bürgerliches Erbe’, particularly the ‘bürgerliches Trauerspiel’. The extensive use of the ‘bürgerliches Erbe’ in the films activates the function this heritage had for the definition of the German nation in the nineteenth century. However, while Maetzig's film shows how the ‘heritage’ and its representatives fail in the face of National Socialism, von Donnersmarck's film claims the effectiveness of this ‘heritage’ in the fight against the East German dictatorship. Von Donnersmarck thus inverts a critical film tradition of which Ehe im Schatten is an example; furthermore, as this tradition emerged from dealing with the Third Reich, von Donnersmarck's film, it will be argued, is more interested in the redemption of the Nazi past than the East German past.
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