German film class Unit 5
Recovery in Germany after World War II was probably most apparent in a once again free cinema. Many filmmakers, now without a fascist regime to dictate what came out in the movies, had to face a public whose viewing had been conditioned by the Nazi Party and what they wanted the public to see. All of a sudden, the populace had to think again and not handed the ideals. Many filmmakers wanted to return to early Weimar cinema where they could tell a story, and maybe even have a moral.
Wolfgang Staudte’s 1949 film Rotation was one of the films known as “DEFA’s antifascist classicism” (Silberman 101). Staudte and many other filmmakers of the time “took up the question of personal culpability and complicity” (102). This complicity is seen astutely in the fact that Rotation deals with a German man before the war who must comply with ideas he may not agree with in order to stay alive and live well. This political coercion even allows him to turn a blind eye to “a friendly Jewish couple downstairs” (107). Staudte makes the audience understand how these atrocities were allowed and that we [Germans] should be ashamed of ourselves at this point of history. Staudte also made this film “as a protest against the first signs of political restoration he perceived already” (103).
I can’t help but add as a side note that I have seen stuff like pre-World War II propaganda take effect in the minds of students that I teach. Many times I have actually heard students ask if they could just watch the movie instead of read the book. While trying to justify reading and that a movie must be examined for director bias and bias toward the novel, they sometimes don’t see the point. When asked point blank, “Do you want your thinking done for you?” I have many times heard the response, “Yeah.” I understand how propaganda could work with an unthinking or unresponsive population. When given the chance to think with free reign, many would like it spoon fed to them.