A Formula That Works

Dresden.jpgThere was a time when German film makers scorned the formulas of American movies and (horrors) TV dramas.  On the contrary, the postwar struggle to depict -- or not depict -- the horrors of the Nazi past kept obsessively clear of anything that smacked of Hollywood.

I am not sure exactly when that changed, but one milestone was the American TV miniseries Holocaust, which despite being lambasted by critics, drew a massive audience in West Germany in 1979 and opened an unprecedented public discussion of the topic.

Since then, German TV has become very adept at making American-style miniseries, borrowing every trick in the book, including the much scorned device of placing a love story center stage, with cataclysmic historical events as backdrop.  What the critics miss, though, is that a formula does not determine the quality of the result.  Artistry does.

In the right hands, the TV miniseries can do amazing things.  Case in point: the 2006 German production Dresden, now available on DVD in the US.  The cataclysmic backdrop is the firebombing of that city, said to be the most beautiful in Germany, by the British Royal Air Force in 1945 -- an act that some have compared with America's dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Predictably in a production that carefully weighs the guilt of both sides, the love story is between an English pilot shot down over Dresden a few days before the firebombing and a German nurse who helps him.  Conveniently, the pilot (John Light) is the German-speaking son of a German mother; so he and the lovely Anna (Felicitas Woll) have no trouble communicating their way into romance.

I was not one of the critics who disliked Holocaust.  Of course it did not do justice to its topic.  But surely some awareness in the popular mind is better than none.  And the same can be said of Dresden.  If your reaction to that immense act of destruction was "they deserved it," I won't argue.  But see this film anyway.  It treads a delicate path between showing the evil of the regime (the scales tip deeply toward Germany's greater guilt) and reminding us that along with a horrendous load of guilt, Germany carries a horrendous memory of suffering.  And compared with some countries in the world, the Germans work very hard at coming to terms with both.  Even at the price of borrowing formulas from the USA.

July 19, 2009 8:03 PM |



PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Serious Popcorn published on July 19, 2009 8:03 PM.

Truly Bella was the previous entry in this blog.

The Professor and the Cop is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.