The department's very first German Film series, organized by Faculty Director of the Max Kade House Vicki Dischler and graduate student Mary Hennessy, has proved a roaring success! One Wednesday evening per month during the fall term, around 30 members of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Max Kade German Residence, Ann Arbor and U-M communities gathered together to enjoy a meal, catch up, and watch a German film in North Quad, home for Max Kade students.
The fall program ran the German cinema gamut. We kicked off the series with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s New German Cinema gem Martha (1974), then jumped to the present day with Maren Ade’s festival favorite Toni Erdmann (2016), before traveling back in time once more with Fritz Lang’s classic thriller The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). Each film was chosen and introduced by a department graduate student, faculty member, or lecturer, and showcased our department’s diverse interests in German cinema.
Fassbinder’s melodrama stars Margit Carstensen as the eponymous Martha, a librarian who meets her future husband Helmut (Karlheinz Böhm) on vacation in Rome. Once married, Helmut’s domineering and sadistic behavior leads Martha to believe that her new husband is trying to kill her. Graduate student Mary Hennessy introduced Martha by situating the film against women’s films from the 1940s and Douglas Sirk’s 1950s melodramas.
In Ade’s bittersweet dramedy, a retired music teacher (Peter Simonischek) with a penchant for playing practical jokes tries to reconnect with his hardworking daughter (Sandra Hüller). Featuring no end of awkward father-daughter encounters and a memorable rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” Toni Erdmann is a film that has redefined the landscape of contemporary German cinema. Professor Tyler Whitney’s introduction to the film emphasized its depiction of a “global Germany” and its take on workplace humor.
A follow-up to his silent thriller Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), Fritz Lang’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse follows criminal mastermind-turned-madman Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) as he seeks to establish a criminal empire from an insane asylum. Banned by the Nazis soon after its release, Mabuse is a police procedural about madness, violence, and power. Lecturer Ramona Uritescu-Lombard’s introduction to the film focused on the film’s depiction of the relationship between power, in/visibility, and media.
Although each film represents a particular genre (melodrama, comedy, and crime film) and hails from a different historical moment, all three films explored themes of power in myriad forms—in society, law, marriage, and family. Stay tuned for more information about next term's line-up, which will include a detective comedy from 1913, experimental films by Friedl and Peter Kubelka, and a 2011 documentary about the Austrian rapper Nazar.