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Copyright Featured Image and Page Header Image: Bob Goedewagen.

Exploring German cinema

Since March 2013 until March 2022, I had the privilege to program entirely to my own discretion a series of monthly screenings of highlights chosen from a wide range of German films, of all periods. These screenings were labeled as Kino Klub Goethe and were held at the Goethe Institut Niederlände in Rotterdam (Westersingel 9). From 2015 onwards the Deutsche Bibliothek in Den Haag joined this series.

This assignment was inspirational and very honorable for me. It was also very rewarding to see there is also an audience for my whimsical choices. I did not need to worry about marketing, logistics, projection, ticket sales and bar service, because the wonderful staff of Goethe Institut Rotterdam took care of that. Together we provide the audience a film programme of international level.

As a film programmer I consider myself as a generalist, this means knowing just a little bit about many decades and national cinemas. Therefore, it was a pleasure to be challenged to specialize myself in German cinema. My intention as a freelance film programmer curating the monthly screenings of Kino Klub Goethe were to offer visitors an exciting and surprising introduction to the rich history of German cinema.

My workflow of programming Kino Klub Goethewas fairly easy. I could choose from the ‘DVD Gesammt Verzeichnis’, a yearly updated catalogue of films available on dvd and with cleared rights for non-commercial screenings.

  • I recognized in this list many film titles that were earlier successfully released in the Netherlands in the seventies, eighties or nineties, but which are rarely seen in the 21st century. A reprise is therefore justified.
  • Incidentally I could also choose from the contemporary offerings of Dutch film distributors, as in the case of Salzmänner von Tibet (1997), or the television series Welt am Draht (1973).
  • In my view it can also be considered relevant to keep the memory alive of more recent releases. Some examples of films which were released in the 21th century in the Netherlands and surely deserved second viewings: Soul Kitchen (2008), Effi Briest (2009), Drei (2010), Oh Boy (2010), Hannah Arendt (2011), Berliner Tagebuch (2012), and Barbara (2012).
  • Incidentally, the series of Deutsches Kino in Filmhuis Lumen (Delft) and Cinema Ketelhuis (Amsterdam) offered me an inspiration for a reprise at Kino Klub Goethe.
  • Fortunately, I also encountered inspiring films, which to my knowledge were never released or even screened in the Netherlands, such as Goya or Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis (1971), or Unter den Brücken (1946). Also Absolute Giganten (1999) has the status of ‘previously unreleased’. It is an early film by director Sebastian Schipper. The screening of this suited nicely in the month that his most recent film Victoria (2015) was released in the Netherlands.
  • Several iconic DDR-films were represented in each season, for example Berlin Ecke Schönhauser (1957), Das Kaninchen bin Ich (1965), Ich war neunzehn (1968).

Gradually a number of red threads could be distinguished in my explorations, with the following keywords: modern classics, ensemble films, films by female directors, and films with a cosmopolitan repercussion.

Spontaneously, my selection also included big names from German cultural history, such as films about Johan Sebastian Bach or Bertolt Brecht, and film adaptations of novels by Franz Kafka (Klassenverhältnisse, 1984) and Theodore Fontane (Effi Briest, 2009). By the way, book adaptations were not dominant in my selection. Adaptations of modern novels were limited to interesting incidents such as Das Wochenende (2012), Die Vermessung der Welt (2011), Ich und Kaminski (2015), Emmas Gluck (2006), and Katz und Maus (1967).

After a few seasons it became clear that I prefer a number of contemporary directors such as Wim Wenders, Christian Petzold, Fatih Akin, Wolfgang Becker and Tom Tykwer. Among the older generations Helmut Kaütner and Konrad Wolf are my favorites.

For each screening I provided a handout with information and recommended sources. These handouts can be found on my website:

After nine seasons it was time to conclude the series in 2021, partly because the Covid-lockdowns proofed to be disruptive interruptions, partly because at the Goethe Institut Rotterdam a fundamentally renovation of the ground floor was planned in 2022, and partly because it is wise to stop at the peak. Due to lockdowns the last screening eventually took place in March 2022.

I wish to thank the staff of Goethe Institut Niederlände for the opportunity to program this series. Their first and only requirement was to curate a series of high artistic quality, a policy which seems rather scarce in the cultural field nowadays.

Overview of Kino Klub Goethe Seasons

“Eklektischen Wahlverwandschaften im deutschen Film”

 Programma of the pilot in Spring 2013

  • March: Klassenverhältnisse (Jean-Marie Straub & Daniëlle Huillet 1984), novel: Franz Kafka
  • April: Melodie der Welt (Walter Ruttmann 1929). Short: Opus II (Walter Ruttmann 1921)
  • May: Der amerikanische Freund (Wim Wenders 1977), novel: Patricia Highsmith
  • June: Himmel über Berlin (Wim Wenders 1987)

 Programme first season (2013-2014)

  • September: Unter den Brücken (Helmut Kaütner 1946)
  • October: Welt am Draht (R.W. Fassbinder 1973, 2 parts) in cooperation with Eye Filmmuseum
  • November: La Habanera (Douglas Sirk 1937, with Zarah Leander)
  • December: Chronik der Anna Maria Magdalena Bach (Straub/Huillet 1968)
  • January: Auf der Anderen Seite (Fatih Akin 2007)
  • February: Berliner Tagebuch (Rosemarie Blank 2012), in cooperation with We Want Cinema + Amstel Film
  • March: Berlin is in Germany (Hannes Stöhr 2001)
  • April: Effi Briest (Hermine Huntgeburth 2009) in cooperation with A-film, novel: Theodore Fontane
  • May: Genoveva, opera Schumann (registration performance in 2008), in cooperation with Operadagen Rotterdam
  • June: Solino (Fatih Akin 2002)

Programme second season (2014-2015)

  • September: Sonnenallee (Leander Haussmann, 1999), novel: Thomas Brussig
  • October: Barbara (Christian Petzold 2012)
  • November: Good bye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker 2003)
  • December: Himmel ohne Sterne (Helmut Kaütner 1955)
  • January: Auf Wiedersehen, Amerika (Jan Schütte 1993)
  • February: Die Salzmänner von Tibet (Ulrike Koch 1997) in cooperation with Contact Film
  • March: Winterschläfer (Tom Tykwer 1997)
  • April: Abschied – Brechts letzter Sommer (Jan Schütte 2000)
  • May: Goya oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis (Konrad Wolf 1971), novel: Lion Feuchtwanger
  • June: Das Leben ist eine Baustelle (Wolfgang Becker 1997)

Programme third season (2015-2016)

  • September: Absolute Giganten (Sebastian Schipper 1999)
  • October: Das Wochenende (Ninna Grosse 2012), novel: Bernhard Schlink
  • November: Alice in den Städten (Wim Wenders 1974)
  • December: Unter Schnee (Ulrike Ottinger 2010)
  • January: Angst Essen Seele Auf (Fassbinder 1974)
  • February: Gespenster (Christian Petzold 2005)
  • March: Hannah Arendt (Margarethe von Trotta, 2011)
  • April: Lola Rennt (Tom Tykwer, 1998)
  • May: Eine Liebe in Deutschland (Andrzej Wajda, 1983)
  • June: Soul Kitchen (Fatih Akin, 2008)

Programme fourth season (2016-2017)

  • September: Mit brennender Geduld 1983 (Antonio Skarmeta, 1983), novel: Antonio Skarmeta
  • October: M, Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (Fritz Lang, 1932)
  • November: Berlin Ecke Schönhauser (Gerhard Klein, 1957)
  • December: Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes (Werner Herzog, 1972)
  • January: Im Lauf der Zeit (Wim Wenders, 1976)
  • February: Die Allseitig Reduzierte Persönlichkeit (Helke Sander, 1979)
  • March: Die Fremde (Feo Aladag, 2010)
  • April: Jerichow (Christian Petzold 2008)
  • May: Die Vermessung der Welt (Detlev Buck, 2011), novel: Daniel Kehlmann
  • June: Annas Sommer (Jeanine Meerapfel 2001)

Film tip in february 2017: Kino Klub Goethe on the Campus, a screening of Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, 2015) held at Erasmus Paviljoen on the Woudenstein campus of the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Programme fifth season (2017-2018)

  • September: Drei (Tom Tykwer, 2010)
  • October: Der geteilte Himmel (Konrad Wolf, 1964). Novel: Christa Wolf
  • November: Bagdad Cafe / Out of Rosenheim (Percy Adlon, 1987)
  • December: Katz und Maus (Hansjürgen Pohland, 1967), novel: Günther Grass
  • January: Die Farbe des Ozeans (Maggie Peren, 2010)
  • February: Stand der dinge (Wim Wenders, 1982)
  • March: Die endlose Nacht (Will Tremper, BRD 1963)
  • April: Oh Boy (Jan Ole Gerster, 2010), in cooperation with Cinemien
  • May: Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog 1981)
  • June: Emmas Glück (Sven Taddicken, 2006), novel: Claudia Schreiber

Programme sixth season (2018-2019)

  • September: Bis später Max! Love comes lately (Jan Schütte, 2007)
  • October: Die Spaziergängerin von Sans-Souci (Jacques Rouffio, 1982), novel: Joseph Kessel
  • November: Der junge Törless (Volker Schlöndorff, 1966), novel: Robert Musil
  • December: Nachtgestalten (Andreas Dresen, 1998)
  • Januari: Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973, Heiner Carow)
  • Februari: Meine Mütter (Rosa von Praunheim, 2006)
  • March – Brigitta (Dagmar Knöpfel, 1994), novel: Adalbert Stifter
  • April – Haus ohne Dach (Soleen Yusef, 2016)
  • May – Ich war neunzehn (Konrad Wolf, 1968)
  • June- Wild (Nicolette Krebitz, 2016)

Film-tip in january 2019: Berlin Alexanderplatz: Die Geschichte Franz Biberkopfs (1931), M Eine Stadt such einen Mörder (1931) and Wir Wunderkinder (1958) at cinema Lantarenvenster, offering a context for the release of Werk Ohne Autor (2018).

Programme seventh season (2019-2020)

  • September: Ich und Kaminski (Wolfgang Becker, 2015-), novel: Daniel Kehlmann
  • October: Der junge Karl Marx (Raoul Peck, 2017)
  • November: Das Kaninchen bin Ich (Kurt Mätzig, DDR 1965)., novel: Manfred Bieler
  • December: Flucht nach Berlin (Will Tremper, 1961)
  • Januari 2020: Vor der Morgenröte: Stefan Zweig in Amerika (Maria Schrader, 2016)
  • Februari 2020: Gegen die Wand (Fatih Akin, 2004)
  • March: Nosferatu (W. Herzog, BRD 1979)

Three screenings in Spring 2020 were cancelled, due to measures of Coronavirus COVID-19.

Programme eighth season (2020-2021)

  • September 2020: Berlin um die Ecke (Gerhard Klein, DDR 1965/1990)
  • October: Beethoven – Tage aus einem Leben (Horst Seemann, DDR, 1975/76)
  • November:Fritz Lang, der Andere in uns (Gordian Maug, 2016)
  • December: Über-Ich und Du (Benjamin Heisenberg, 2014-2016)

January – June 2021: screenings cancelled, due to COVID-19

Programme ninth season (2021-2022)

  • September 2021: Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland (Yasemin Samdereli, 2011)
  • October: Gundermann (Andreas Dresen, 2018)
  • November: Halbe Treppe (Andreas Dresen, 2002)
  • March 2022: Transit (Christian Petzold 2018). Novel: Anna Seghers


Recommended books about German films
  • Bergfelder, T. et. al. (2020) The German Cinema Book, second editionLondon: Bloomsbury Publishing/British Film Institute.
  • Brockmann, S. (2010) A Critical History of German Film. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House.
  • Dillmann, C. & O. Müller (eds. 2016) Beloved and Rejected: Cinema in the Young Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963. Frankfurt: Deutsches Filminstitut (catalogue of a retrospective at the Locarno Film Festival, among others)
  • Hake, S. (2002) German National Cinema. London/ New York: Routledge.
  • Hoffgen, M. (2009) Studying German Cinema. Leighton Buzzard: Auteur Publishing.
  • Langord, M. (ed. 2013) Directory of World Cinema: Germany 2. Bristol: Intellect Books.
  • Langord, M. (ed. 2011) Directory of World Cinema: Germany 1. Bristol: Intellect Books.
  • Wedel, M. (ed. 1999) The BFI Companion to German Cinema. London: BFI.
  • Mühlbeyer, H. & B. Zywietz (eds. 2013) Ansichtssache: Zum aktuellen deutsche Film. Marburg: Schüren Verlag.
  • Schick, Th. & T. Ebbrecht (eds. 2011) Kino in Bewegung: Perpektiven des deutschen Gegenwartsfilms. Wiesbaden: Springer Verlag.
Relevant websites & blogs recent German films
My selection of German films 1930-1980
If I would select a programme of 10 German films of 50 years of the 20th century I would ignore the films of the Third Reich. And I would reserve an overview of silent movies for an additional programme. My choice would be to choose the following features:
  1. Melodie der Welt (Walter Ruttmann 1929)
  2. M Eine Stadt such einen Mörder (Fritz Lang, 1931)
  3. Unter den Brücken (Helmut Kaütner 1946)
  4. Wir Wunderkinder (Kurt Hoffmann, 1958)
  5. Der geteilte Himmel (Konrad Wolf, 1964)
  6. Katz und Maus (Hansjürgen Pohland, 1967)
  7. Chronik der Anna Maria Magdalena Bach (Straub/Huillet 1968)
  8. Alice in den Städten (Wim Wenders 1974)
  9. Angst Essen Seele Auf (Fassbinder 1974)
  10. Nosferatu (Werner Herzog 1979)
Berlin is a special city, it deserves a side-bar programme on itself:
  1. Berlin Alexanderplatz: Die Geschichte Franz Biberkopfs (Phil Jutzi, 1931)
  2. Himmel ohne Sterne (Helmut Kaütner, 1955)
  3. Berlin Ecke Schönhauser (Gerhard Klein, 1957)
  4. Die Allseitig Reduzierte Persönlichkeit(Helke Sander, 1979)
  5. Der Mann auf der Mauer (Reinhard Hauff, 1982)
  6. Himmel über Berlin (Wim Wenders, 1987)
  7. Das Leben ist eine Baustelle (Wolfgang Becker, 1997)
  8. Nachtgestalten (Andreas Dresen, 1998)
  9. Lola Rennt (Tom Tykwer, 1998)
  10. Drei (Tom Tykwer, 2010)
Silent movies / Stummfilme
Silent cinema has not been programmed yet at Kino Klub Goethe. Still, there is an abundance of fascinating material. Some of my favorite options:
The silent metropole in Weimar Cinema
  • Der Verrufenen (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1925)
  • Berlin – Die Sinfonie der Grossstadt (Walter Ruttmann, 1927)
  • Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück (Phil Jutzi, 1929)
  • Menschen am Sonntag (1930)
Love is a battle
  • Variety (E.A. Dupont, 1925)
  • Asphalt (Joe May, 1929)
  • Die Büchse der Pandora (G.W. Pabst, 1929)
Silent Global Cinema in Berlin/ emigrated directors
  • Die Gezeichneten (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1922)
  • Fiakec Nr. 13 (Michale Kertész/ Michael Curtis, 1926)
  • Bigamie (Jaap Speyer, 1927)
  • Das Mädchen der Strasse (Augusto Genina, 1928)
  • Das lebende Leichnam (Fedor Ozep, 1929), novel: Lev Tolstoi.
  • Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen (Maurice Tourneur, 1929)
The subconscious is muddy water
  • Nerven (Robert Reinert, 1919)
  • Die Strasse (Karl Grune, 1923)
  • Geheimnisse einer Seele (G.W. Pabst, 1926)
Best practices in the Netherlands
  • February 2014: Menschen am Sonntag (1930), silent film with live musical accompaniment, screened at Eye Filmmuseum (Amsterdam) with a newscore by Albert van Veenendaal, performed by Oene van Geel (altviolin), Miriam Overlach (harp) and Albert van Veenendaal (prepared piano).
  • May 2016: Menschen am Sonntag (1930), silent film with live musical accompaniment by the pop band Mik Adrian, screened at Filmhuis Den Haag.
  • June 2017: Das Cabinett des dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920), silent film with live musical accompaniment by Kevin Toma (piano), Bianca Bongers (cello) and Huib van de Grint (guitar), screened at Tante Nino in Rotterdam as the 60th edition of the Khachapuri Kino Club.
  • November 2017: Der letzte Mann (Wilhelm Friedrich Murnau, 1924), accompanied live by Pien Straesser (soprano) and Daan van de Hurk (piano), screened at Eye Filmmuseum in the series of Cinema Concerts.
Further Reading about German silent film
  • Brennicke, I. & J. Hembus (1983) Klassiker des deutschen Stummfilms 1910–1930. München: Goldmann.
  • Eisner, L.H. (1969) The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Isenberg, N. (ed. 2009) Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to the Classic Films of the Era, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Pflaum, H.G. (2002) German Silent Movie Classics, Wiesbaden: Friedrich-Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung/München: Transit Film GmbH.
  • Roberts, I. (2008) German Expressionist Cinema: The World of Light and Shadow, London and New York: Wallflower.