Edited By Geraldine Horan, Felicity Rash and Daniel Wildman
Martin Weidinger Fridericus, Madame Dubarry and die Nibelungen: The (Nationalist) Politics
of Historical Films in Weimar Germany Weimar cinema and the history of film Following World War I, the historical drama developed into one of the most popular genres in German cinema. As in literature, the genre reached a height of popularity that lasted throughout the Weimar period and beyond. The narratives it produced and the stories it delivered to its audiences are generally considered to be predominantly of a conservative, sometimes reactionary tendency. The popularity of historical films is known to have risen particularly in periods of crisis and widespread political and social insecurity and fears about the future. In the retrospective considerations of historians, social scientists and film scholars, the role assigned to historical films in German cinema following the national trauma of the lost war is often as one of the tools of right-wing propaganda. Thus nationalism can be seen as integral to the interests pursued in the majority of historical films. One is led to ask: is the genre just generally dominated by conserva- tive politics or is there really a nationalist thread running through most of its narratives? Does the popularity of films with historical subjects in the years following World War I, and the fact that the majority of these relate narratives of the founding or defending of nations under strong and charismatic leaders, warrant the classification of the entire genre as predominantly nationalist? Is it an anti-progressive, anti-democratic genre generally oriented towards the reconstruction or perpetuation of an idea of ‘Germanness’ as it was...
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