My research explores how German film comedies since reunification engage critically with national identity in the context of the Second World War. I am interested not only in how German film comedies since 1990 treat the German War past and what notions of German national identity are disseminated but also how these films try to problematize the media’s involvement in the construction of national identity. Criticisms in national identity building go hand in hand with meta-cinematic filmic approaches which attest to particular media reflexivity in a number of German film comedies. Meta-cinema describes films which are self-reflexive in that they show the processes of film production or the films’ own materiality. My research considers meta-cinematic film comedies because comedies often evidence self-reflexive devices, such as self-reflexive irony, parody or pastiche, and because both meta
and comedy point to criticism.
The corpus for my research consists of six German post-reunification film comedies which all incorporate various devices typical for meta-cinema: Schtonk! (1992, Helmut Dietl), Schartl (1994, Sigi Zimmerschied), Der Wixxer (2004, Tobi Baumann), Mein Führer: Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler (2007, Dani Levy), Rubbeldiekatz (2011, Detlev Buck), Er ist wieder da (2015, David Wnendt). The six case studies examine the films’ treatment of the Second World War and their meta-cinematic devices in relation to national identity and national identity formation.
Ultimately, my hypothesis is that despite their self-reflexivity, these film comedies fall short in their criticism of the films’ own involvement in national identity construction vis-à-vis the War past. While these films gesture towards the critical, they fall short of actually taking a critical position. This suggests that these meta-cinematic comedies of the post-reunification period are a symptom of an art of exhaustion and reflect an increasingly lackadaisical German society with regard to its national past and identity.