Framing the dark side of the nation : visions of the serial killer in German film culture 1946-1951 / by Claudia M. Fritsch.
Within the problematic context of German identity reconfiguration after 1945, the study concentrates on feature films produced and released in Germany during the immediate postwar period whose narrative feature the figure of the killer and address aspects of seriality. As a visualization of deeper anxieties and a symbol of alterity within a cultural community, the theme of murder in postwar German film participates in the discourse of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the coming to terms with the Nazi past, and serves as a strategy of displacement in the process of negotiating German identity after Hitler and the Holocaust. The thematic linking of seriality and murder, which, in its most explicit form, establishes an analogy between serial killer and Nazi perpetrator, is examined for its compliance with, and subversive potential against, the increasingly reactionary landscape of the time.Aiming at a dense, cross-disciplinary contextualization, the study analyses each film text's discursive negotiations based on a wide range of visual and textual archival material. This retrospective deciphering process tracing the signifying practices of the immediate postwar period intersects with the detailed decoding of the films' visual characteristics and formal elements. Following Tom Gunning and Roland Barthes, among others, this study focuses on the multi-layered "moreness" of the visual sign and traces the presence of the image as an independent communicator causing potentially disruptive visual deviations from a film's dominant storyline.The complex overlay of prevailing configurations and disruptive fissures that informed the postwar public debate materialize in similarly ambivalent form in Wolfgang Staudte's The Murderers Are Among Us, Hans Deppe's Green Is the Heath and Peter Lorre's The Lost One. Venturing into dangerous terrain by integrating elements of murder and seriality, the films chosen for this study contain, almost by necessity, disruptive after-images that function as negative imprints of the Nazi past. While the narrative surface, in accordance with the postwar strategy of national exculpation, casts the perpetrator ultimately as the victim of the Nazi regime, the darker visual elements of all three films carry disruptive diegetic implications and expose a deeper level of complicity and crime.
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