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Following the Second World War, German cinema experienced a period of creative stagnation. The up-and-coming filmmakers of the 1960s were frustrated by the state of things and called for an artistic rebirth of the German film industry. With the signing of the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962, New German Cinema was born.
The directors of the period have won countless awards and are all critically acclaimed, but what defines them is their readiness to push boundaries, stir up controversy, or explore taboo themes in pursuit of their art. Their passion for their work and their hunger to revolutionize German cinema has cemented their place among the most important and inspiring film directors of the 20th century.
Schroeter is considered by many to be one of the most influential directors in German cinema. His films are difficult to categorize, as they incorporate several artistic styles. His first feature film, Eika Katappa, mixed opera and pop to create something completely new. In addition to directing, Schroeter worked as a producer, editor, cinematographer and actor, and also directed several theater and opera productions.
Like many of the other directors of the New German Cinema, Wim Wenders has many different interests. He studied medicine and philosophy and aspired to become a painter. He became fascinated by film just as the New German Cinema period was blossoming and Summer in the City, his first feature, was released in 1970. Wenders’ films feature a distinct cinematography and he is now experimenting with 3D film production. He has also distinguished himself as a photographer and documentarist.
Schlöndorff was not one of the founding members of the New German Cinema movement but he became associated with the group after the release of his feature film debut, Young Törless. This film draws several comparisons to pre-war Germany and many consider it to be among the most important films of the New German Cinema period. Schlöndorff also worked on several films with his wife, Margarethe von Trotta, a distinguished director in her own right. Schlöndorff focuses on feminism and politics in many of his films. The Tin Drum, Schlöndorff’s most successful film, was released in 1979 and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film that year.
Von Trotta was one of the driving forces behind the movement. She broke out from her husband Volker Schlöndorff”s shadow and became one of Germany’s most prominent female directors. She entered the film industry as an actress with the aspiration of becoming a director at a time when it was unusual for a woman to hold such a profession. As a feminist filmmaker, von Trotta aims to show women in a different light. Her films focus on themes of political radicalization, sisterhood, female bonding and violence. She often depicts strong women facing moments of weakness and explores how they overcome the obstacles they face.
In addition to being a film director, Werner Herzog has also directed operas and been a producer, actor, screenwriter, and author. Herzog’s films often feature protagonists with impossible dreams. One unique aspect of Herzog’s filmmaking is that he likes to feature local non-actors in his films in both acting and non-acting roles. He has also lent his voice to several animated television programs, created a public service announcement, and even publicly ate his own shoe after losing a bet.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder has been labeled as the central figure of the New German Cinema and the movement is said to have ended with his death in 1982. He worked at an incredible pace, creating 40 feature films, three short films, two television film series, 24 stage plays, four video productions, and four radio plays in the span of fifteen years. He also took on 36 acting roles and worked as a theater manager, author, editor, producer, composer and designer. Fassbinder began his career in the theater and this gave a distinct feel to his work. His films explored themes such as sexual orientation, race, politics, class, and fascism in everyday life. Loneliness, betrayal and companionship also played prominent roles in many of his films. Fassbinder’s films were often perceived as controversial and offensive. His biggest success was 1978’s The Marriage of Maria Braun