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The memory of the city and demand for authenticity on the example of film The Lives of Others

Magdalena Dobkiewicz

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14746/i.2013.21.22

Abstract


This article is a reflection on the category of authenticity in cinema, based on Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's movie The Lives of Others (German: Das Leben der Anderen). The action of the film takes place in the late 1980s in East Berlin. The film can be classified as belonging to the category of “coming to terms with the past” and may be treated as a representation of collective memory concerning Berlin, as it depicts Berlin and the former institutions of communist terror. However, it is also an important statement about German collective memory in general. The focal point in the debate on this film is the category of authenticity, which I attempt to trace in the topography of Berlin related to the communist past present in the movie. The main problem is the juxtaposition of materialized and authentic forms of remembering (e.g. buildings, the streets of Berlin) with a fictional story. In case of this movie, it turns out that the pursuit of authenticity to some extent violates taboos of German collective memory, as it conflicts with the canon of official memory, as well as, in some cases, the canon of the audience’s memory (many of whom can still recall the communist past).

Keywords


Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; The Lives of Others; Das Leben der Anderen; collective memory; authenticity; coming to terms with the past; Berlin; Stasi

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References


M. Detjen, Die Mauer, w: Erinnerungsorte der DDR, red. M. Sabrow, C.H. Beck Verlag, München 2009, s. 389.

P. Kutnyj, Inwigilacja po niemiecku, „Film” 2007, nr 3, s. 96.

T. Sobolewski, Niemcy rozbrajają NRD, „Gazeta Wyborcza” 2007, 26 stycznia, nr 22, s. 14.

E. Fiuk, Nowe spojrzenie na własne dzieje. Życie na podsłuchu Floriana Henckela von Donnersmarcka w świetle rozważań społeczno-historycznych, „Kwartalnik Filmowy” 2007, nr 57–58, s. 195–208.

M. Ponzi, Il cinema del muro. Una prospettiva sul cinema tedesco del dopoguerra, Mimesis, Milano 2010, s. 200.

M. Wilke, Das Leben der Anderen – Wieslers Verweigerung, „Deutschland Archiv“ 2012, vol. 45, no. 1, s. 136.

N. Hodgin, Screening the East. Heimat, Memory and Nostalgia in German film since 1989, Berghahn Books, New York, Oxford 2011, s. 1.

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