When one thinks of German cinema, the first thing that comes to mind is the propaganda movies made by the Nazis. However, there is much more to Germany’s film industry than just those. This article will consider which are the Top 5 German Coming-of-Age movies.
The German film industry can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. It has produced some quality movies over the years, and the “New German Cinema” of the 1960s and 70s has cult status because of the artistic quality of the films produced during that era. It also meant that, for the first time, German was ready to confront its Nazi past and this was reflected in film.
One excellent example of this is Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), Shlondorff, 1979. This movie tells the story of Oskar Matzerath, as he recalls his childhood. Born in Danzig in the mid 1920s, he receives a tin drum as a gift on his third birthday. Oskar decides that he never wants to grow up and, whenever he feels overwhelmed, he starts banging his drum.
He cannot bear to be parted with that drum and, if anyone tries to take it away from him, he emits this glass shattering scream. As he grows up during the 1930s and Nazism starts to emerge, he carries on playing his drum, oblivious to what is going on around him. It is only after the war that he finally agrees to give this up.
Although the movie has had its fair share of controversy, and was even banned in Canada and Oklahoma for a short period, it is now widely acclaimed and has cult status. It is said to reflect how the country as a whole buried its head in the sand during the Nazi era.
The 1980s saw more German films becoming widely distributed worldwide, especially since the introduction of VHS. Zoo, also known as Christiane F, Udi Edel, 1981 tells the story of a young girl’s downward spiral into drugs. The movie has a great soundtrack, featuring David Bowie.
Europa Europa, Agnieszka Holland, 1990, is the story of a young boy during World War II trying to hide the fact that he is Jewish from the Nazis. He decides to join the Hitler Youth. The film is based on a true story.
Another film produced the same year and also focusing on Germany’s Nazi past is Das Schreckliche Madchen (The Nasty Girl), Verhoeven, 1990. Sonja is teenage girl working on a history project for school. She lives in a small town and little by little she starts to uncover the role the town played during the War. As she does so, the people in the town start to turn against her.
In more recent years, Sommersturm (Summer Storm), Marco Kreuzpainter, 2004, tells the story of Tobi and Achim, two teenage friends who go to summer camp. There, Tobi struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, as he realizes that what he feels for Achim is more than purely a platonic friendship.
These are one person’s opinion as to the Top 5 German Coming-of-Age movies. They are a great introduction for those who are new to films produced by this European country. Viewing them, you will find that there are many facets to German cinema.
What do you think? If you have seen any of the movies listed in this article and/or would like to suggest another title for the list, don’t hesitate to do so in the comments.