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Performing the Modern German

Performance and Identity in Contemporary German Cinema


Matthias Uecker

Since the late 1990s, German cinema has gone through a period of astonishing productivity and success that has made it the focus of scholarly analysis once more. What can contemporary German cinema tell us about current German society and its problems? What are the distinguishing features of filmmaking in Germany today?
This book analyses the representation of individual and collective behaviour in post-unification German cinema. It looks at performances of gender, ethnicity and nationality in a wide range of contemporary German films. Using Performance Theory as a framework, the book discusses how modern German identities are presented as conformist, liberating or subversive responses to external challenges.
Theoretical considerations regarding the efficacy of performance and the dialectical relationship between transgression, resistance and normalization form the background for an analysis that investigates contemporary German films in terms of their function within the restructuring of post-unification German society.


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Chapter 6 Against Normality? Performing Rebellion and Resistance


1. Performing resistance When Performance Studies first emerged as a separate discipline in the 1970s, its focus was firmly on transformative, subversive and oppositional performances. The study, and more importantly, the practice, of perfor- mance promised to provide a key to developing social practices that would help to change the established normality of authoritarian, exploitative and consumerist regimes by exposing their true nature and simultaneously pro- viding glimpses of an alternative way of life. A renewed theatre, embracing traditional rituals, and new forms of Performance Art would provide the tools for a fundamental transformation of individual consciousness as well as social structures. Performance Art in particular was invested with the promise of breaking out of the institutional frameworks of established drama to confront audiences with the unexpected in unexpected places, inviting (or forcing) them to become participants in such performances rather than passive observers.1 But as we have seen in Chapter 1, the oppositional paradigm in Performance Studies has always had to compete with another paradigm focused on the reproduction of normality through the pressure of conform- ism. Indeed, the concentration in the preceding chapters on such a normal- ist-conformist paradigm might suggest that performances in contemporary 1 For an overview of recent debates and approaches to ‘resistant performance’ see Marvin Carlson, Performance: a critical introduction (London/New York: Routledge, 1995), 165–186. 208 Chapter 6 German cinema (and by implication, perhaps, in contemporary German society) are primarily concerned with the reproduction of a normality that relies on individuals repeating rather...

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