Fates from the density of new German Cinema
By the early 1970s, Europe’s new-wave revolutions were roaring across the film world. In the FRG, however, it was only then that New German Cinema emerged, bringing excitement to movie screens that continues today. It is not the external world its protagonists are at war with, as the world, the era and history have all already eaten their way deep inside them.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Volker Schlöndorff – an impressive list. Very different artists. Fassbinder was the most sensitive of them when it came to exploring how personalities are shaped by social influences. Wenders’s heroes are looking for their place, their home, in a globalising world. (At that time, the term ‘globalisation’ was still relatively obscure.) In Werner Herzog’s films always address the dilemmas of savagery and civilisation, and of primary and secondary nature. Schlöndorff, for his part, is an unwavering moralist bent on constantly exploring how long an individual’s capacity for moral tolerance can last. What is it that connects them all to each other? More than anything else, the fact that their protagonists are left to their own devices when compelled to make a decision. The filmmakers behind New German Cinema are the chroniclers of an age in which the community is growing increasingly uncertain. This is no longer the age of lone justice-seeking heroes, who may once have felt that they were acting in the name or interest of some community, but one of solitary individuals who have to carry a disproportionately large burden. The last work in the series deviates, in a sense, from this general theme. The Wim Wenders film Faraway, So Close! (1993) is already entering a new era after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, with many changes afoot across Europe. As with German cinema itself. But this is another story, one in which we ourselves are also actors here and now.