An analysis of five important films that reflect back on the Third Reich through the experiences of women of different ages.
German society's inability and/or refusal to come to terms with its Nazi past has been analyzed in many cultural works, including the well-known books Society without the Father and The Inability to Mourn. In this pathfinding study, Susan Linville challenges the accepted wisdom of these books by focusing on a cultural realm in which mourning for the Nazi past and opposing the patriarchal and authoritarian nature of postwar German culture are central concerns—namely, women's feminist auto/biographical films of the 1970s and 1980s.
After a broad survey of feminist theory, Linville analyzes five important films that reflect back on the Third Reich through the experiences of women of different ages—Marianne Rosenbaum's Peppermint Peace, Helma Sanders-Brahms's Germany, Pale Mother, Jutta Brückner's Hunger Years, Margarethe von Trotta's Marianne and Juliane, and Jeanine Meerapfel's Malou. By juxtaposing these films with the accepted theories on German culture, Linville offers a fresh appraisal not only of the films' importance but especially of their challenge to misogynist interpretations of the German failure to grieve for the horrors of its Nazi past.
- Introduction: Seeing Through the "Postwar" Years
- 1. Kinder, Kirche, Kino: The Optical Politics of Marianne Rosenbaum's Peppermint Peace
- 2. The Mother-Daughter Plot in History: Helma Sanders-Brahms's Germany, Pale Mother
- 3. Self-Consuming Images: The Identity Politics of Jutta Brückner's Hunger Years
- 4. Retrieving History: Margarethe von Trotta's Marianne and Juliane
- 5. The Autoethnographic Aesthetic of Jeanine Meerapfel's Malou
Innovative West German women filmmakers of the late 1970s and early 1980s such as Marianne Rosenbaum and Margarethe von Trotta created films that focus on the three K's of women's traditional sphere in German culture—Kinder, Kirche, Küche—children, church, and kitchen—in order to reinterpret the politics of the "postwar world" they experienced in their childhoods. While these films embrace an auto/biographical and often intensely personal focus, they neither conceptualize female identity as separate from public politics nor skirt the issue of the Nazi horrors; instead, they demonstrate in diverse ways how the triad of Kinder, Kirche, Küche is politically inflected and enmeshed with the process of understanding the Nazi past. These films develop distinctive critiques of the conventional social gender order that the postwar era furiously struggled to reinstate; in the process, they create narrative structures and cinematic styles that implicitly oppose the hierarchic and matrophobic dimensions of the postwar discourse on the authoritarian personality. Women's auto/ biographical films reflect back on how daughters growing up in the 1940s and 1950s were taught to see and not to see; how food and consumption worked as mechanisms to deflect and confound their Wisstrieb (epistemophilia) and their Schaulust (scopophilia); how schooling and religious training at best fell short in educating young people about the Holocaust, at worst remained hypocritically complicit with fascist practices from the past; and how traditionally structured families and gender identities, far from leading to a radical break from authoritarianism and xenophobia as experts claimed they would, helped perpetuate their hold on the culture, exacerbating Germany's amnesiac tendencies and undermining forces for change. Concurrently, the films recall and sharply reprove the unequal access to the channels of public discourse and memory authorized by media apparatuses and cultural tradition.
At one level, this book is an examination of the diverse ways in which women's auto/biographical films of the late 1970s and early 1980s contradict, critique, and enlarge the postwar theories on authoritarianism, melancholy, and mourning that have centrally shaped our understanding of postwar Germany and the New German Cinema. Their detractors have used postwar psychosocial theories to fault German feminist films. In sharp contrast, my aim is to demonstrate the varied means by which women auto/biographical filmmakers shed new, critical light on the intersections among the authoritarian, patriarchal, and oedipal dynamics that absorbed postwar theorists, and to reveal how these filmmakers augment spectatorial desire for alternatives to the postwar vision of the "restored family"—a vision which "restored" women to their traditional sphere within German culture—Kinder, Kirche, Kúche. The original and diverse contributions of these films can be appreciated only against the backdrop of those postwar conceptual frameworks, which also metaphorized fascism as secretly female—and not patriarchal after all.
This introduction sketches and historicizes postwar psychosocial research on mourning and the authoritarian personality—in particular, the work of Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich—as a prelude to an appraisal in the chapters that follow of the aesthetic and political contributions of Marianne Rosenbaum's Peppermint Peace (Peppermint Frieden, 1983), Helma Sanders-Brahms's Germany, Pale Mother (Deutschland, bleiche Mutter, 1979), Jutta Brúckner's Hunger Years (Hungerjahre, 1979), Margarethe von Trotta's Marianne and Juliane (Die bleierne Zeit, 1981), and Jeanine Meerapfel's Malou (1980). Fredric Jameson notes the gap between individual experience rendered through the aesthetics of a work of art and the scientific or cognitive models that map the social structure of existence? Yet just as autobiography is both the invention and the discovery of selfhood, so too are the biological and social sciences as much tools for the construction of natural and social reality as they are a means to its discovery. Although the politics inherent in an auto/biographical work are necessarily tethered to the anecdotal and limited, auto/biography can usefully be juxtaposed in a contrapuntal relationship with "scientific" modes of interpretation. Self-portraiture can comment on the hidden fictionality of science—for example, its unacknowledged debts to "universalist" master narratives of the "Western" humanist tradition. Moreover, insofar as the autobiographical subject's self-representation requires situating the self in its cultural embeddedness and giving that embeddedness aesthetic expression, self-portraiture can transcend the purely idiosyncratic or idiopathic. It can provide a figuration and critique of the social realities that structure lived experience. As I show, the continuum that exists between West German auto/biographical films by women and (for example) the contemporary antihierarchic essays of science historian Donna Haraway illustrates the ties that bind the seemingly disparate fields of autobiography and social-science writing.
According to the postwar psychosocial research of the Mitscherlichs, German authoritarianism and avoidance of both mourning and Vergangenheitsbewältigung—coming to terms with the past—are rooted in the prototypical German son's failure to accept or identify fully with patriarchal authority. Both Society without the Father (Alexander Mitscherlich, 1963) and The Inability to Mourn (Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, 1967) depend upon this concept of the underoedipalized son, and both point toward a corollary scientific-political position—namely, that in the wake of World War II, a forceful reinstatement of the traditional patriarchal family and social gender hierarchy offered the only possible antidote to fascism, a politics they metaphorized as "effeminate" and "regressive." Much like their cold-war counterparts in the United States, the authors validated patriarchist policy by linking the need for traditional sexual identities to issues of a viable national political identity.
Its masculinist politics notwithstanding, The Inability to Mourn has remained a privileged text in analyses of German cultural expression, including New German Cinema. Indeed, despite some acknowledgment of limitations in the Mitscherlichs' work, its general validity has remained largely unchallenged. Andreas Huyssen, for example, uncharacteristically misses the misogynistic inflection of the Mitscherlich texts and contexts and attests to the authors' persuasive power. Thomas Elsaesser filters their work through Lacan, Metz, and Baudry in order to theorize specular relations in New German Cinema generally, ultimately conflating Hitler's gaze, the maternal (phallic mother's) gaze, and the gaze of the camera in a dynamic defined by primary narcissism. More recently, Martin Jay has cited the Mitscherlichs not to question their work's accuracy or applicability to postwar Germans, but rather to spell out the limits in parallels between the post-1945 and post-1989 situations in Germany. While highlighting important differences between the issues of mourning called up by the death of GDR socialism in 1989 and those evoked by the demise of National Socialism, Jay also emphasizes the failure of citizens of the former GDR to mourn losses suffered in 1945. I want to insist, however, on the complex status of the Mitscherlichs' work as a cultural product. For while their work brings a crucial postwar problem into focus and affords a revealing interpretive framework, its science is imbricated both with Western humanist fictions of melancholia and with twentieth-century political narratives that naturalize male supremacy.
Like Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" to which they are indebted, Society without the Father and The Inability to Mourn participate in a masculinist discourse of melancholy and mourning historically rooted in the universalist poetic and philosophic traditions of European Renaissance humanism. Juliana Schiesari has drawn a detailed map of the misogynistic gender divisions which have shaped this discourse virtually transhistorically and regardless of the discipline in which they appear. From Ficino to Freud and Lacan, and from humoral medicine, philosophy, and literature to psychoanalysis, melancholy has been gendered and valued or disparaged as follows: First, "when melancholia is considered undesirable it is stereotypically metaphorized as feminine or viewed as an affliction women bring onto men." Second, female depression and grieving are "seen as the 'everyday' plight of the common (wo)man, . . . quotidian event[s] whose collective force does not seem to bear the same weight of 'seriousness' as a man's grief"—or the same need for special comment. Third, when melancholy is culturally valued, as it is with individual men of great accomplishment, it is deemed superior to mourning, a traditionally feminine ritual function that has been privatized and repressed. A final characteristic derives especially from Freud and his efforts to differentiate melancholia from conditions that are stereotypically feminine. As Schiesari explains, "A criterion of differentiation [for Freud] is found in the narcissistic identification said to be carried out by melancholia. This narcissistic basis for differentiation is consonant with an implicit masculinizing of the neurosis," particularly in its culturally validated form. Narcissism is gendered masculine here, because, "following Freud's logic, narcissistic identification would be effected by the child through its identity with an ego ideal, whose paradigmatic case is that of the boy identifying with the father"; that is, Schiesari, unlike the Mitscherlichs, reads Freud's emphasis to be on secondary rather than primary narcissism.
While the Mitscherlichs stress that no widespread melancholia set in among West Germans, they analyze "representative cases" of psychological disturbance that fit all too well the patterns Schiesari detects. The Mitscherlichs' attribution of negative "feminine" qualities and mother-dependence to "representative" male case studies, their theorizing of Hitler as an internalized maternal imago, their neglect of female experiences per se, and their lack of attention to traditions that identify both the capacity for sympathy and the ability to mourn as feminine illustrate their allegiance to the masculinist mythos of melancholy. By following the centuries-old practice of spotlighting male melancholia while suppressing women's experiences of loss, their work effectively reduces women and children to tropes of emasculation and guilt in a dehistoricized male psychomachia, tropes that elide the postwar experiences of German women and children as such. Far from innocent, their work was made to order for the official needs of a postwar society that, into the 1960s and beyond, was still struggling to rigidify the social gender hierarchy and to exonerate patriarchy of its role in the fascist past. Their exculpation of the paternal function, moreover, occurs at the expense of that familiar postwar scapegoat, the "mother"—whatever "her" guise." The Mitscherlichs' identification of Hitler as a maternal imago and their failure to consider the role of the negative stereotyping of mourning as women's work are two areas that merit more specific comment, for both are relevant to the women's auto/biographical films to be examined here.
One of the more startling theses in Society without the Father is the notion that the authoritarian "mass leader" resembles the "imago of a primitive mother goddess," the child's tie to whom "never reached the level, so rich in conflict, where the conscience is formed and ties with it are established"; that is, the notion of underoedipalization. This gender transformation of the authoritarian leader, it should be stressed, does not take its cue from what might be an expected source—namely, Freud's "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego." There, Freud identifies the Hitlerian type of leader as a version of Nietzsche's Übermensch—as the dreaded primal father, whose absolute narcissism is not balanced out by any love for others. Neither do the Mitscherlichs take their cue from Nazi propaganda, with its constant idealization of the fatherland. Their argument does, however, effectively reenact the gendered psychomachia that forms the heart of the conventional Western mythos of melancholy. Indeed, their "bad mother" fantasy is thoroughly bound up in the melancholic tradition, and that tradition in turn helps sustain the fiction of the sufficiency and integrity of the classical male subject.
In the essay on melancholy and mourning, Freud asserts, "We see how in [the melancholic subject] one part of the ego sets itself over against the other, judges it critically, and, as it were, takes it as its object.... What we are here becoming acquainted with is the agency commonly called 'conscience.'" That is, Freud sees in the melancholic a strong identification with the father—in Lacanian terms, the law. Schiesari glosses Freud's account of the object which the paternal voice criticizes as follows: "My feminist suspicion is that this object, at once vilified, desired, and judged by a 'superior, moral' instance, is situated in the same way as woman in classic phallocentrism (that is, as a devalued object, as abject and at fault)" [Schiesari's emphasis]—a suspicion she proceeds to confirm. The Mitscherlichs' formulation in no way contradicts Schiesari's idea. Indeed, their argument depends upon a retrospective view that Hitler was not really an introjected father figure, despite innumerable testimonies about the idealism Germans felt he represented; instead, he was a variant on the so-called pre-oedipal, phallic mother—a figure whose guilt and lack are retrospectively exposed in a process that empowers the father. Hence, according to the Mitscherlich view, melancholy failed to loom over the culture because the identification with the father never took complete hold.
This revisionist view of Hitler as maternal and of the narcissistic cathexis to him as primary rather than secondary (or as comprising some tessellation of the two) seems particularly counterproductive to the process of mourning when one remembers the negatively "feminine" stereotyping of Jewish men during the Third Reich. Nazi propaganda deemed Hitler the powerful father and demeaned the Jewish male as feminine, guilty, abject. After the war, the Mitscherlichs not only identified Hitler with the guilty mother, they also, in one case history (that of "R."), identified the Jewish male as the paternal surrogate. "Frailty thy name is woman," indeed. This kind of repetitious attachment of pejoratively feminine labels to whoever is currently being devalued and vilified (whether deservedly or not) suggests that it was not "feminine" psychic qualities and intrusions that impeded the Germans' ability to mourn, as the Mitscherlichs argue, but something else entirely. More likely, it was the fear and hatred of traditionally or stereotypically feminine things, one of which is mourning, both as private experience and as public ritual. The displays of emotion associated with grieving would have been seen as an unbearably painful affirmation of the German male's so-called emasculation-feminization-infantilization.
An insight close to this one, in fact, informs an essay on German melancholia that is otherwise inattentive to differences of gender—namely, Michael Schneider's "Fathers and Sons, Retrospectively: The Damaged Relationship Between Two Generations." In an analysis that partly dovetails with Schiesari's findings, Schneider contends that postwar Germany failed to grieve due to the cultural prejudice against mourning as stereotypically unheroic—as women's work. He asserts that the misogyny which militated against the fathers' expressions of sorrow and their acknowledgment of pain during the postwar era is a Nazi legacy:
The paralytic "character shield" and the resulting spiritual and psychological immobilization of the war generation can be attributed... to the internalization of a specific ideal of manliness which unconditionally denounced any sensitive coming-to-terms with one's emotions as a form of "weakness." . . . Mourning, sorrow, the acknowledgement of pain could not (at least in public) be reconciled with [this generation's] heroic image of humanity and masculinity as perceived under National Socialism ("as tough as leather, as hard as Krupp steel," so the slogan went).
This analysis of the Nazi and postwar discourse of masculinity creates a welcome and revealing alternative to the Mitscherlichs' view of authoritarianism. Indeed, by exposing the postwar aversion to things "feminine," Schneider's argument helps explain how the culture would produce the biases and blind spots in the Mitscherlich study, such as their failure to theorize empathy or female subjectivity and their disparagement of nonclassical male subjectivity.
For all Schneider's insight, however, his essay remains caught up in the same old web that Schiesari details. He reproduces an identical symbolics of loss that elides female experience, and his discussion of prejudices against stereotypically female things serves the narcissistically restricted purpose of illuminating a male psychomachia, wherein women serve as little more than abstract tropes and precipitating or introjected causes. Schneider explains, "If the generation of the fathers had manicly defended against sorrows, melancholy, depression, and all the emotional problems which went along with it, the present generation is made up of little else." The "feminine" emotionalism which the fathers disdained is thus recuperated in the name of male experiences of loss, specifically the sons' relationship to the "lost pasts of their fathers during the Third Reich." On the other hand, women's actual experiences of loss due to their perennially devalued status within European patriarchy, including in postwar Germany and during the 1970s, their debilitating virtual synonymity with passivity, emotion, ineffectuality, and guilt, do not figure into Schneider's text . Nor does Schneider pose the question of how women were to work through the process of mourning and remorse when the representational deck for doing so was so heavily stacked against them. When "feminine" passivity and maternalized guilt are posited as essentialized qualities and as essential causes of genocide, are not two likely results women's all-consuming self-loathing or their total denial? Schneider, however, identifies his generation with Hamlet and concurs with Ernst Bloch's description of the melancholic prince as a "disabled Orestes"—that is, unable to kill the mother who has arrogated his (father's) power to herself. And here, the matrophobic echoes of The Inability to Mourn are unmistakable. For all Schneider's insight, the Mitscherlichian image of Hitler as an evil primitive mother figure, a Clytemnestra in drag, remains a palimpsest to his text.
The sons' narcissistic derealization of women's status under patriarchy during the 1970s is of course problematic also for another reason: It can be linked back to the fathers' narcissistic derealization of Jewish suffering and to the totally erroneous view held by some postwar Germans, male and female, that they themselves were the war's principal victims. I want to emphasize that I do not in any way regard these two instances of derealization as equivalent phenomena. At no point in the history of Western patriarchy have women as a group faced the threat of annihilation, of total derealization in that sense, faced by the European Jews. Historically, however, a lack of empathy for women as subjects and the trivializing of their experiences have formed the culturally validated prototype for derealizing the experiences of other groups defined by difference. Hence, though decidedly disparate, the phenomena are related.
Besides the psychoanalytic context, the biosocial context is also critical to a historically grounded understanding of the Mitscherlichs' work. In an important sense, The Inability to Mourn is a continuation of the project Alexander Mitscherlich began in Society without the Father. Like the work that followed it, Society without the Father seeks to identify the etiology of authoritarian behavior, but through argumentation that is relatively more propped on research in the biosocial sciences, disciplines which first gained autonomy between 1920 and 1940. Whether rooted in psychoanalysis or in biosocial research, however, the assumptions that guide these two books share, first, the binary logic found within all hierarchical systems based on the polarization between feminine and masculine; and second, the dislocation of key gendered social practices into a naturalized sphere, be it the pre-oedipal or what contemporary social science took to be an objectively viewed, necessary, natural order. I will now turn from a focus on the gendering of melancholia to a consideration of the gendering of social science, especially its biologically determinist models of culture, and its relationship to mourning in the Mitscherlichs' work.
The gendering of Hitler as secretly female and maternal is linked to concerted efforts in the biosocial sciences to naturalize the social gender hierarchy. These attempts to equate dominance with nature rather than culture abetted the conceptualization of Hitler's role in German history in nonpatriarchal terms. As Donna Haraway has demonstrated, biosocial research that examined dominance hierarchies among animals held a mirror up to nature and discovered models of competition, divisions of labor, and patterns of resource allocation that were in full accord with contemporary views validating human male dominance. Such findings granted scientific legitimacy to patriarchist assumptions in a range of other fields. For example, they became the basis for anti-labor union positions. Haraway expressly relates the biosocial research to authoritarian behavior studies as follows: "Throughout the period around the Second World War, similar studies of the authoritarian personality in human beings abounded; true social order must rest on a balance of dominance, interpreted as the foundation of co-operation. Competitive aggression became the chief form that organized other forms of social integration. "
It is illuminating to examine one example of this research in some detail, for the parallels between it and Society without the Father are striking. A specific instance of animal research that promoted the biologically determinist view of the social gender hierarchy is Clarence Ray Carpenter's late-1930s investigation of social organization among rhesus monkeys. Carpenter's experiment entailed removing the "alpha male" from a free-ranging society of monkeys. The resulting "society without the father" purportedly suffered from unproductive, individualistic competition among the primates and serious social disruption. Tellingly, however, Carpenter never carried out the presumably obligatory control experiment of removing animals other than the dominant male—an experiment which might have revealed that co-operation, co-ordination, and flexibility are as valuable to simian social survival as competitive aggression. This omission occurred, according to Haraway, because performing the control experiment "did not make sense within the whole complex of theory, analogies to individual organisms, and unexamined assumptions."
Using floridly sexual rhetoric, Mitscherlich depicts a paradigmatic human counterpart to Carpenter's fatherless simian community: It is "a gigantic army of rival, envious siblings. Their chief conflict is characterized not by Oedipal rivalry, struggling with the father for the privileges of liberty and power, but by sibling envy directed at neighbors and competitors...." The "army," he avows, ensures the success of "a mothergoddess lavish with her milk, the political conjurer (demagogue)." Like Carpenter, Mitscherlich here legitimizes and naturalizes the political principle of male dominance, according to which females are by definition excluded from the pursuit of the father's "liberty and power" and knowledge. Consequently, he is able to avoid interpreting fascistic behavior in terms that challenge the presumed naturalness and necessity—including the moral necessity—of a male-headed social gender hierarchy. Indeed, by warding off competing constructions of social reality, he precludes the emphasis on matrifocal, nonhierarchical, and productively collaborative forms of social organization that has subsequently shaped feminist perspectives in physical anthropology and primatology, feminist studies of ancient societies centered on fertility goddess worship, and the work of various German feminist filmmakers, including Rosenbaum and von Trotta—directors who have not spared patriarchy the kind of radical critique that the triple catastrophe of World War II, fascism, and the Holocaust should have prompted. Instead, and paradoxically, he contributes to the fortification of conventional family arrangements and gender identities as a postwar imperative, the only scientific means, given his assumptions, for averting further authoritarian personality disorders and their potentially cataclysmic social consequences.
Not surprisingly, the most recent biosocial research into the roots of fascist behavior among primates encompasses far more evidence than was available to Mitscherlich. It is equally unsurprising that this evidence lends a good deal more credence to feminist perspectives than it does to his. In particular, current research into the biological and evolutionary roots of social violence—including deliberate intraspecies murder, so-called ethnic cleansing, and imperialist expansion—has focused on the telling differences between the behaviors of two of our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees and the bonobos. The latter resemble chimpanzees in appearance, but their social behavior differs radically. Among chimpanzees, the social gender hierarchy is brutally enforced; collaboration among females is minimal; and intraspecies warfare, gang violence, battery, infanticide, and rape are within the norm of male behavior. Among bonobos, in sharp contrast, a female-policed pacifism wards off the excesses inherent in the social hierarchy; extensive female bonding serves to augment the exercise of restraint and compassion; and, as Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham and science writer Dale Peterson explain, "your rank depends on who you are, not what sex you are." Moreover, among the bonobos, the closest bond between the sexes is that between mother and son. Wrangham and Peterson affirm that "female power is a sine qua non of bonobo life, the magic key to their world." From these authors' perspective in the 1990s, female power may well also be a key to creating a future that limits human male aggression and that militates against the frenzied collective allegiance to a demonic male that commonly characterizes the politics of fascism.
Yet from Mitscherlich's quite different perspective in the early 1960s, the trend that he perceived toward a weakened patriarchy was lamentable. Moreover, his very choice of the title Society without the Father bespeaks a fear that it is already too late for the hierarchy to be restored. And the sense of absence, loss, or lack signified in his book's name finds its counterpart in a mood of melancholic longing for traditional European patriarchal values, norms, and labor practices that coexists with and inflects the science of his text. Mass culture, technological advancements, and the recognition of equal rights for women emerge in this narrative as a key triad of counter-fatherly forces, as modern developments that have sadly undermined authority structures founded on the civilized, Old World paternal image. The result of their impact, according to Mitscherlich, is that individual men now suffer an enormous sense of inner loss, while the civilization as a whole is diminished and fragmented. This phenomenon of a loss that is both in the world and in the ego, of course, fits Freud's concept of melancholia, and I am suggesting that Society without the Father both describes and participates in a highly problematic melancholic relationship to what its author sees as a dying paternalistic ideal. This view of patriarchy is in no small measure facilitated by the reconceptualization and splitting off of patriarchy's most horrific hour (that is, 1933-1945) from the concept of "real" patriarchy, a splitting off which, I assert, seriously undermines any genuine work of mourning, whether for patriarchy or for the German nation's fascist crimes. The reconfiguration of the Nazi past as a deviation from true paternal law and authority, which purportedly allowed men to be men and women women, simultaneously fed a postwar nostalgia for traditional gender identities, the fortification of which could be seen as serving the best interests of the state and of the individual.
Thus both the science and the sexual nostalgia that shaped Mitscherlich's Society without the Father were able to take a vital place in validating a body of cultural criticism, film, and West German legislative efforts from the immediate postwar era onward that furiously worked to demonstrate the social and moral urgency of pairing powerful fathers with economically dependent, supportive, privatized mothers, precisely at a time when women were challenging these roles. Many of these postwar texts were popular and in some regards more retrograde than Mitscherlich's. Some, including the work of influential sociologist Helmut Schelsky, were far more overtly antifeminist—and antilesbian and homophobic—than Mitscherlich's. But along with Schelsky, Mitscherlich argued for a social model that served to ward off the kind of thoroughgoing cultural self-scrutiny that the crimes committed under authoritarian patriarchy could have provoked. The Germans' inability to mourn thus not only reflected a failure to acknowledge the value of the traditionally feminine labor of mourning or to appreciate the importance of women's access to public life; it also betokened an unwillingness to face the radical social ramifications of the history that German and Western culture in general needed—and still needs—to confront.
Conversely, the films examined in this study develop markedly different concepts of the relations among authoritarian, patriarchal, and oedipal issues. Not only do they focus on the experiences of daughters—not sons—and revise received notions of authoritarian dynamics, each also visualizes the dynamics of social hierarchy in a way that illuminates gendered spectatorship, with its interrelated cinematic and sociopolitical dimensions. In these films, patriarchal social structures, such as the church and state's mechanisms of surveillance, emerge not as potential antidotes to fascism or as vehicles for remembrance and contrition but as apparatuses of authoritarianism and amnesia. Far from being a panacea, the restored patriarchy is at best a palliative or placebo whose psychological benefits come at a tremendous cost.
I begin my analysis of these films in chapter 1 with a close reading of Marianne Rosenbaum's Peppermint Peace. As this point of departure reveals, my order of discussion for the films does not follow the chronology of their production but instead tracks a biochronology across the films, seen at one level as a collective diachronic record of the female subjects' shifting places in language and culture-moving from childhood to adolescence to adulthood within specific historical parameters. Accordingly, Peppermint Peace focalizes the perspectives of a very young, very inquisitive female child, expressionistically rendering her vantage point through camera work that makes war and the female socialization process appear strange. A potent comedy, the film defamiliarizes and satirizes West German postwar social dominance hierarchies, contradicting the Mitscherlichs' position that such social ranking is the antidote to fascism. The film not only mocks the lunacies of German society during World War II and the cold-war era, it also implicitly attacks United States foreign policy of circa 1983. Simultaneously, it criticizes various forms of repression within German culture during its narrative time frame (from about 1943 to 1950), including the inhibition of healthy sexuality, the avoidance of confronting the public with the meanings of the Holocaust, and the inhibition of desires for genuine social change. The Church as an agent of repression comes under particularly acute attack.
Chapter 2 also examines a film that takes as its autobiographical subject a girl in her early childhood. This film is the far better known Germany, Pale Mother, the most analyzed and controversial film to be considered here. While Peppermint Peace implicates the distanced "Antigone phase" of the mother-daughter dyad in authoritarian dynamics, Germany, Pale Mother recollects and affirms an intensely cathected mother-daughter dyad. Even though the mother in this film literally "shuts the blinds" on the Nazi atrocities, the film nonetheless posits the daughter's bond with her as a basis for female authorship and feminist resistance. Concomittantly, it posits a healthy female narcissism and a compassionate, though not condoning, view of the apolitical mother as an antidote to debilitating depression. Further, by focusing on the particulars of the mother's experience and by casting Eva Mattes not only as the German mother of the title, but also as a Polish peasant and a French partisan, the film deconstructs the hypostatized "Pale Mother" Germania figure announced in its title.
Hunger Years, the focus of chapter 3, validates the Mitscherlichs' view that many West Germans substituted identification with the economic system for other sources of identity. The film explores the unhealthy female narcissism that helped sustain this process. What Hunger Years contributes well beyond the Mitscherlichs' study, however, is an illuminating appraisal of the role of the commodified female body in promoting postwar amnesia. The film offers a stark assessment of the toll that consumerist dynamics and narrow social blinders take on an adolescent girl, who is isolated and blocked in her efforts at both coming of age and coming to terms with her nation's repressed history. In effect, the Küche, the site of consumption, becomes the central metaphor here and the locus for understanding the relationship between bulimic consumerism and the undigested past. In this context, the girl's psychopathology emerges as a product and expression of the pathology of her culture. Moreover, the repressive binarity that underlies, on the one hand, unhealthy narcissistic mother-daughter dyads and, on the other, the cold-war superpower "economy of the same" becomes the grounds at the end of the film for its emphasis on the need for radical change—through rejection of repressive narcissistic female positionings, through "Third World" anticolonialist revolt, and, implicitly, through a dialogization of women's movements and national liberation movements.
Chapters 4 and 5 both analyze films that dramatize the process of memory by depicting it from within the subjective flashbacks—or windscreens, as Bruce Kawin terms them—of an adult female protagonist. In each case, the protagonist's present, in the 1970s or early 1980s, is at least as much the film's focal point as is her past. And in each, the woman's attempts to remember and mourn are resisted by her liberal and wellintentioned but uncomprehending male companion. Marianne and Juliane explores the past in relation to present tensions and ties between sisters, one a feminist, the other a terrorist shaped loosely after Baader-Meinhof member Gudrun Ensslin, who died under suspicious circumstances in Stammheim Prison. A fictionalized biography rather than an autobiography, Marianne and Juliane nonetheless contains strong autobiographical resonances, as von Trotta has avowed. While the film partly accords with Elsaesser's sense that von Trotta's work in general examines dramatizations "of self and other, of identification and projection," in contrast to his claims, von Trotta also joins the other women directors in treating identity politics at the level of history and auto/biography. Indeed, she dramatizes the process of retrieving both personal and public history as a critical form of feminist intervention. Further, von Trotta deviates from the patterns of traditional psychoanalytic theory by representing mourning in terms of the intersubjectivity of women, ultimately showing feminine mourning to be a mobilizing process with potentially regenerative powers. She aims to bridge the gender divide which, especially in the 1950s, but also in the 1970s and 1980s, privatized the women's work of mourning and mothering. Her film's German title, Die bleierne Zeit ("The Leaden Time"), a phrase drawn from Hölderlin, refers expressly to the 1950s in Germany, an era whose repressions she recalls primarily in the context of family and church.
Meerapfel's Malou, a film named after the protagonist's mother, also addresses the ways in which female grieving has been sequestered in the private sphere and denied public forums for expression. The most multicultural of the films discussed, Malou inscribes mourning in relation to pluralistic subjectivities made diverse by multiple languages, cultures, religions, and ethnicities—those of the mother, a convert to Judaism who died in exile, and those of the daughter who remembers. At one level, depicting an expressly feminist version of Freud's grandson's fort/da game, the film insists on the cultural embeddedness, as well as on the femaleness, of the mourning ritual it represents. Malou reveals the disproportions in power that have cut off the incorporation of these rituals into the public sphere. Further, like the other films, Malou is a fictionalized life story and, just as in the other films, fictionalizing serves partly to generalize the experiences depicted and to augment spectatorial involvement in order to overcome resistance to difficult realizations. Yet while this fictionalizing component concurrently functions, in accordance with Barbara Kosta's theory, as a means of demarcating a distance between present and past lives and as an acknowledgment of the distortions of time, memory, and representation, it contributes only slightly to a distanciated aesthetic in Malou. Indeed, breaking with New German Cinema, this film turns to Latin American genres and forms in creating an aesthetics that is far more lyrical and intimate than that which typifies the strongly Brechtian-influenced New German films.
It should be added that for most, if not all, of these directors, even the term "postwar" is dubious: In Sanders-Brahms's view, as German efforts at remasculinization took place, the war moved inside, into the family, and became "domestic"—even Germany itself experienced no real "postwar" era. In a 1984 interview, at a time when the cold war seemed to be heating up, Rosenbaum stated that "there is still a thirty- or forty-year war that has been going on continuously since 1945." The films of Rosenbaum, von Trotta, and Brückner overtly recall that even if Germany was no longer battling the Allies, wars continued to be waged—in Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, and elsewhere—whether they were "cold wars" between the "First World" superpowers or "hot wars" in "Third World" countries resisting "First World" colonizers. For these filmmakers, moreover, domestic and international wars were interdependent. My own choice to use the term "postwar" in this book is based on its convenience as a period designation, but the term itself should be read here as always implicitly placed in quotation marks or prefaced by "so-called."
As for the question of theorizing auto/biographic filmmaking, I am interested, especially in the last chapter, in the complex problems and pleasures of conceptualizing feminist autobiography. My general aim, however, is less to originate a theory of German feminist narratives ofwomen's lives than it is to create a dialogue between feminist films and postwar authoritarian theory. I aim to reveal the ways in which specifically feminist film strategies for thematizing identity, the home, the family, the political, history, and the processes of mourning and remembrance create critical oppositional perspectives to influential postwar outlooks. Having said that, I nonetheless wish to stress that even the historical development of the theory of autobiography provides a context that elucidates issues of postwar matrophobia. For this reason and others, some prefatory remarks on the theory of autobiography are in order.
As Nancy K. Miller has documented, 1950s theorists of autobiography valued what they saw as a differentiated, autonomous, and insular individualist—not a subject woven into a fabric of intimate human relationships or situated as part of a political collective. Underscoring the postwar theorists' need to suppress the autobiographer's attachment to others—especially the mother—and to "promote a concomitant fantasy of a separate self," Miller explains:
In 1956, echoing what we now see as a cold-war rhetoric of autonomous selfhood, Georges Gusdorf, the founding figure of modern autobiography theory, famously posed individualism as the sine qua non of Western autobiography. Autobiography, he claimed, does not develop in cultures where "the individual does not oppose himself to all others... [where] the important unit is ... never the isolated being."
In contrast, during the 1970s and 1980s, feminism and feminist theorists of female autobiography valued relatedness—relatedness both to a single, select other (especially the mother) and to an oppressed collective (especially a community of women). Relatedness became, in fact, a defining trait of a newly invented, purportedly universal, female subject. Without denying the enduring importance of this feminist theoretical project, Miller reminds us that women's collective experience "was (and remains) a good deal more diverse than we may have sometimes made it out to be." Just as importantly, Miller discovers that key canonical and postmodern male autobiographies also conceptualize identity as an intrinsically relational process. Certain canonical texts such as Augustine's Confessions are far more maternally cathected than cold-war theorists allowed; and some postmodern texts, including Art Spiegelman's Maus, conceive the male self in relation to an oppressed collective and to "a significant other-who is also a mother." The relationship to the mother can be especially important to postmodern elegiac auto/biographical texts, whether they bear a female or a male signature.
Alongside its valuing of connectedness to others was feminism's belief that "the personal is the political," a position articulated by U.S. feminist Charlotte Bunch in 1968. Most memorably, the esteeming of relatedness and the recognition that the personal is political became tightly interwoven themes in the work of Carol Gilligan, whose research throughout the 1980s focused attention on gendered ethical development. Although Gilligan has sometimes been misconstrued as offering a simple celebration of the traditionally feminine values of human attachment and empathy, her work, in fact, consistently criticizes the separation of public and private—the gendered division of labor and of values that weds "masculine" autonomous selves to public life and "feminine" interconnectedness to the domestic sphere.
The perception that this traditional gendered division must be criticized and dismantled strongly informs not only Anglo-American feminism but also German feminist auto/biography; it is, as well, a cornerstone in the work of Kosta, who has written the most extensive analysis of German feminist literary and cinematic autobiography to date. In Kosta's words, German feminist autobiographies are "personal histories" that dissolve the split between public and private and displace fictions of "objective" historiography with subjective accounts. By dismantling the traditional separation of public and private, she explains, German feminist self-portraits expose the disjunction between oppressive postwar power structures that were condemned in the public sphere but accepted in the private. Beyond that important function, I would add, woman-filmed personal histories offer compelling evidence that conventional concepts of melancholy and mourning exacerbated the double standard that shaped the postwar public-private split. These concepts thereby hindered rather than helped the processes of mourning and regeneration and allowed human needs to be instrumentalized in the name of hierarchical nationalist ideals. A related hindrance, as some of these films also reveal, was the father fetishism of the postwar era, which saw fatherlessness as the key to all social evils—a point of view only too similar to right-wing U.S. political discourse of the 1990s, which has further used the term "feminazi" to dissociate itself from fascism, to disavow fascism by gendering it female.
While Kosta's theorization of the interdependence of the public and private is compelling, her assertion that autobiography is "the most selfreflexive of literary and cinematic forms" is problematic. A text's consciousness of itself does not inevitably follow from or imply its author's self-awareness. Varying degrees of reflexivity characterize the aesthetics of the films discussed here. Further, the presence of reflexivity is no guarantor of a progressive feminist text—any more than the presence of melodrama inevitably makes a film politically retrograde. I also differ from Julia Knight when she goes to the other extreme by overemphasizing the "realist" and "documentarist" aspects of the films' autobiographical aesthetics. Knight asserts:
Although drawing on one's own experiences, especially autobiographical material, would tend to identify the filmmaker as a film's author, the representation of personal experiences can be viewed as diametrically opposed to a cinema of self-expression. The former is rooted in real events and can thus be viewed as constituting a representation of "reality" rather than as an act of creative selfexpression.
While auto/biographical films do make important uses of documentary footage, radio broadcasts, and documentarist elements, Knight's view underestimates what Kosta rightly highlights: that German women's autobiographies are acts of self-invention, embodied in stylistically innovative—often reflexive—aesthetic forms that serve as powerful critical tools.
In addition to these characteristics and to the complex fictionalizing dynamics already identified, the following aesthetic and thematic elements typify the German feminist auto/biographical films examined here: 1. an emphasis on mother-daughter and other familial relationships, often represented through the codes of maternal melodrama, codes that are simultaneously complicated and/or critiqued by means of alienation techniques, multicultural inflections, or dialogic combinations with other aesthetic modes, including fairy-tale narratives and motifs; 2. a dismantling of the public-private split through deconstructive juxtapositions of disparate discourses, such as documentary and melodrama, and/or an emphasis on the power dynamics of media apparatuses, including the cinematic apparatus; 3. a concomitant rejection of the hierarchy that deems only public, conventionally heroic, or famous lives to be fit subjects for auto/biography; and 4. a foregrounding of subjective processes, especially memory, through the use of mindscreens, subjective flashbacks, directorial voiceover, optical point-of-view shots, expressionistic use of mise-en-scène, free-association editing, and other techniques of first-person cinema.
It is worth noting that the autobiographical impulse crystallized in key women's films is also all but omnipresent in New German Cinema as a whole. Self-portraiture, often in less overt, more distanciated and deflected form, is a constituent of the New German Cinema's auteurist orientation . Fassbinder's various cameo appearances, acting parts, and voice-over commentaries and Herzog's emphasis on "Herzog's" filmmaking process, both within his films and in his personal appearances, are two of the more obvious examples. The feminist auteur-biographer, however, should no more be conceived in individualistic terms, as the source, guarantor, or final arbiter of meaning, than should any other auteur. To view filmmaking in such terms is naively romantic—an endorsement of masculinist myths of "seminality" and creativity. From a feminist theoretical perspective (and hence for my purposes), far more productive is Sandy Flitterman-Lewis's elegant conception of authorship as a tripartite structure of enunciation comprised of the following: "1) authorship as a historical phenomenon, suggesting the cultural context; 2) authorship as a desiring position, involving determinants of sexuality and gender; and 3) authorship as a textual moment, incorporating the specific stylistics and preoccupations of the filmmaker." My focus throughout is on the perpetually dynamic interrelations among these spheres.
With regard to the second of them—authorial desire, encompassing sexuality and gender—psychoanalytic tools are commonly used to understand it. Although in this book I also attempt to use psychoanalytic concepts to explore identity and desire, I view psychoanalysis as an extremely problematic discourse, not as a heuristic system to be taken at face value. For while poststructuralism may be correct in asserting that psychoanalysis "speaks us"—produces us, creates us—feminists and others know that psychoanalysis also leaves many of us misspoken or simply unspoken altogether. The implicit blaming and silencing of women that are characteristic of much psychoanalytic discourse on melancholy and mourning prove this area to be no exception.