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Andreas Dresen


Julian Preece and Nick Hodgin

Andreas Dresen is a leading European filmmaker whose œuvre now spans three decades and includes some of the most acclaimed German films of recent times, such as Halbe Treppe (Grill Point, 2002), Sommer vorm Balkon (Summer in Berlin, 2005) and Halt auf freier Strecke (Stopped on Track, 2011). The essays collected in this volume by leading scholars from the USA, UK and Ireland place him in the tradition of auteur cinema while emphasising his roots in the pre-1990 film industry of DEFA in the GDR. Dresen works with an established team of performers, technicians and scriptwriters, uses improvisation and non-professional actors, and makes music and song an integral component of many of his films. He is a scholar-filmmaker who pushes at the boundaries of his chosen modes and genres (documentary, neo-realism, films about films or literary adaptation); he is socially committed, casting a Brechtian eye on interpersonal encounters in neoliberal environments; and he is always interested to tell universal stories from the localities he knows best, the working-class milieus of Germany’s east.

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Self-Reflexivity and Films within Films: From Stilles Land (1992) to Whisky mit Vodka (2009) via Halbe Treppe (2002) and Sommer vorm Balkon (2005) (Julian Preece)


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Self-Reflexivity and Films within Films: From Stilles Land (1992) to Whisky mit Vodka (2009) via Halbe Treppe (2002) and Sommer vorm Balkon (2005)

The purpose of this chapter is to tease out some of the features of Andreas Dresen’s philosophy of film through exploring his use of self-reflexive motifs, film references and, finally, his two films about staging or filming a performance: his debut feature Stilles Land made immediately after the Wende and Whisky mit Vodka released some seventeen years later. Dresen’s films show him to be both an astute student of film history and an informed critic of the contemporary film industry. His philosophy is revealed in numerous ways. For example, he breaks the illusion of mimesis and deploys moments of mise en abyme to distance audiences from the screened images in front of them or to encourage reflection on the relationship between image and sound. References to other films also belong to a strategy of distanciation. By becoming aware that we are viewing one film through another, as we do for example when we notice the echoes of Taxi Driver in Nachtgestalten (as Stephen Brockman documents in his chapter in this volume), both our aesthetic and critical faculties are addressed. Dresen’s understanding of art is both democratic and moral, however; filmic moments of self-reflexivity demonstrate his understanding of film to be an ethically grounded aesthetic practice. Art includes any cultural product, usually mimetic in character and often made by...

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