Researching filmmaker Werner Schroeter in anticipation of Facets Multimedia’s upcoming retrospective reminded me just how little American spectators have seen of the New German Cinema movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder have become recognizable figures here, but other major directors—such as Schroeter, Peter Fleischmann, and Alexander Kluge—remain largely unknown in the States. Kluge, an author and public intellectual who practically spearheaded the movement, seems especially overlooked; some day, perhaps his work will receive a stateside retrospective too.
New German Cinema was as much an act of cultural intervention as an aesthetic breakthrough, confronting buried traumas in the national culture that included not only Nazism but social inequalities within the postwar Federal Republic. If you’d like to learn more about it, I’d recommend reading Candice Wirt’s recent essay at Mubi.com, which explains the origins of the movement (incidentally, the Oberhausen Manifesto, which introduced its goals to the world, was written almost exactly 50 years ago this week). And on Sunday night the Nightingale will screen Studies for the Decay of the West, a 2010 work by Klaus Wyborny , another lesser-known member of the group.