German subscription cinema and literature

Site: dolanguages
Course: dolanguages
Book: German subscription cinema and literature
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Date: Monday, 17 January 2022, 7:13 AM

Description

The dolanguages resources are a systematic approach to teaching literature/cinema through the target language in class.  They consist of * full page by page vocabulary (lit only) * detailed gapped summary (8 pages average)* searching questions* contextualised grammar for enrichment and analysis* essay preparation tools with sample plan and essay* links to the best external resources.  They will save you much preparation time and enhance the learning experience.

All the German content on the site is available to subscribers to the German package at £20.   You can purchase your subscription for German only here, or you could opt for all languages at £45.  Your login details will be set up manually and sent to your email address.

Annual subscription charge

1. Find out more about exercise types

Studying cinema as we have seen is a challenge as sometimes capturing the message of the film through the prism of a range of senses can seem out of reach especially when working in the target language.    The dolanguages resources below contain the following elements (not all necessarily all of them) to help you tackle.

Studying literature requires a long-term strategy, commencing with a reading of the book for enjoyment in the target language, no little challenge when there is a huge body of unknown vocabulary.    The dolanguages resources below contain the following elements (not all necessarily all of them) to help you tackle this project successfully.

Full German-English page by page vocabulary list (literature only)

The vocabulary list is the activity which will save you the most time, particularly if you are a non-native speaker of English.   The list can be downloaded in pdf format for students to flick through on a mobile phone or on an ipad.  

Gapped summary with full vocabulary

The summaries capture the essential elements of the film/book at the level of detail required at the same time as requiring students to find the appropriate part of key verbs.   This provides a quick aide-mémoire of the film when required as well as boosting vocabulary relevant to the content.

Questions

Detailed questions covering the full film/book require detailed recall of the content and can be used orally and/or in writing.   

Character

The character profile tool gives a full range of appropriate adjectives to enable students to describe protagonists in a sophisticated manner.   Suggested sentence starts are given to encourage a high quality of language.

.Contextualised grammar

The A factor exercises concentrate on encouraging students to vary the structures they use for writing the essay, including the present participle, the passive and the present subjunctive.    Exercises are given in context covering the full length of the film/book.

Multi-tense tool

Students appreciate being able to see examples of contextualised sentences with key verbs used in the full range of tenses in a simple exercise to increase awareness

Direct/Indirect speech

Students link direct speech quotations to the protagonists and then transform the direct speech to indirect speech sentences, a key process for giving key evidence in essay writing.

Essay planning and sample essay

An essay plan using a template is used with advice on creating each step of the process.

The sample essay is designed to demonstrate successful essay techniques.

Modified essays

Student essays with comments on how to improve them and in some cases corrected versions.

Useful external links

There is a considerable amount of useful material available from film/literature/history related websites, universities and exam boards and we have linked to some of the best examples.


2. Andorra


andorra

Reasons to study this work
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The play like other post war plays commonly studied examines the collective guilt of the German nation and how it is up to individuals to assert themselves when unfair persecution is taking place.  It is interesting from that point of view and it is also one of the shortest and easiest works to read, especially with our vocabulary list.

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This short, very accessible play set in a fictional Andorra, rather than the real one, takes place as a menacing army gathers on the borders threatening the existence of anyone who happens to be Jewish. 

Andri who was adopted as a baby by his teacher father thinks he is Jewish and as the play progresses is imbued with all the stereotypical characteristics of a Jewish person.   Although he is an excellent woodworker he is pulled out of the workshop to sell the furniture products-because that is what Jews do.

A range of characters come forward during the play to deny their role in the eventual death of Andri, echoing the institutions of German society before and during World War 2.

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Andorra



3. Biedermann und die Brandstifter

biedermann und die brandstifter

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Like other postwar works by German playwrights Biedermann is characterised by its sense of impending doom.  Short and easy to read the metaphor behind it is well suited to today's environmental crisis showing that art can remain relevant.

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Originally written in the early fifties as a radio play, Biedermann und die Brandstifter, once it emerged in its current form quickly established itself as a commonly performed play and as a school text.

With its range of heavy duty themes, ranging from the individual's power to help shape his own destiny, to the need to display humanity to one's fellow man, the play challenges us in a context which is general enough for us to be able to relate it to a range of potentially cataclysmic situations, whether it be nuclear war or climate change.

Like other plays produced in the 50's in Germany, assigning a genre is difficult as ironic humour transcends a play which is only ever going to have one outcome-and not a happy one.   The intervention of the choir at the end of each scene helps lend the play a transcendent quality taking it straight back to the Greek tragedies.

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Biedermann und die Brandstifter

4. Das Brot der frühen Jahre

das brot der fruhen jahre

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The seamless manner in which the novel's themes interweave makes it   a very rewarding read and one which lends itself to character development.

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Written in 1955, Böll's Novelle Das Brot der frühen Jahre is a very interesting work tracing a day in the life of washing machine engineer Walter Fendrich.   The events happening throughout the book relate to his going to the station to pick up a young lady, Hedwig, coming to the big city for the first time and what transpires when he takes her home.  The events are intermingled with Walter looking back on his former life going back to the war.  Much of this period involved the school boy, then the apprentice which he became making every effort to get his hands on food, particularly bread, hence the title.

The Novelle covers a period where the horrors of war are still apparent and fresh in the memory, at the same time as hinting at the emerging materialism, with the washing machine symbolising a whole raft of other consumer goods which are coming through the system and contributing to German's Wirtschaftswunder of the 1950s and 60s.

Böll's political leanings come through clearly in the novel where Walter is becoming only too aware of the profits that his Mittelstand employer, Wickweber, is making, much of at it as his expense.  

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Das Brot der fruhen Jahre


5. Das Leben des Galilei

Das leben des galilei

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The pressure put on Galilei to revoke his ground breaking astronomical work is reminiscent of what is happening today on an international level, so very relevant to contemporary concerns.

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So the earth is no longer the centre of the universe following the proofs put forward by Galilei.  This does not go down well with the Catholic church who puts increasing pressure on him to renounce his discoveries despite the fact that when seen through his modelling it is impossible to deny their truth.    Will he give in to the pressure?   Is it worth dying for the cause of science?   

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Das Leben des Galilei

6. Der Besuch der alten Dame

der besuch der alten dame

Reasons to study this work
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Still one of the most popular German plays, Der Besuch is frequently performed; it has been converted into a musical and been filmed on a number of occasions.  Its critique of materialism and the corruption it leads to is still utterly relevant.

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A town awaits at the station the arrival of its most famous and richest inhabitant who has the power to save it from terminal decline.  Already she has bailed out other towns in the locality and everyone is expectant that now it is Güllen's turn.

On Clara Zachanassian's arrival, however, it quickly transpires that she has a bone to pick with her childhood lover Alfred who is part of the welcoming committee and has apparently forgotten why the multi-millionaire should want revenge on him.

The play demonstrates the extent to which money can corrupt even the most outwardly honest and well-meaning.

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Der Besuch der alten Dame


7. Der Vorleser

der vorleser

Reasons to study this work
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At 200 pages, the novel is quite a long read but it is a thoroughly absorbing one and one which will fascinate and enthral young people in the English speaking world has much as it has those in German speaking countries.

If the film with Kate Winslett is shown, it should be pointed out, if it's not obvious enough, that there are many significant differences between the two works as is usually the case.

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Written in 1995 by law professor, Bernhard Schlink, Der Vorleser quickly established itself as an important work, dealing with the fading memories of those who had lived through the war and been involved either as active participants, as passive bystanders or people who looked the other way.

The novel starts off as the love story of a 15 year old boy who falls for the much older woman who helps him out when he is ill.  He is initially poorly placed to judge the woman, Hanna, as she reacts unexpectedly to what he considered to be perfectly normal statements or actions.  In hindsight the woman's behaviour is explained as the last phase of the book unfolds.

Parts of the novel, particularly those involving the court and judicial issues can be quite difficult to understand although the strength of the underpinning theme of the relationship between Michael and Hanna helps keep interest high, particularly when he discovers his former lovers two big secrets.

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Der Vorleser

8. Die Physiker

die physiker

Reasons to study this work
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Definitely a play to stretch the more gifted, maybe for Oxbridge entrance and those with an interest in science and ethics.

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A nurse has been murdered in a mental asylum, the second one in a short time.  The inhabitants are three scientists each pretending to be another one and each with a different, enormous secret.    Mirroring the tensions of the cold war in the 50's the play is considered to be Dürrenmatt's best.   

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Die Physiker

9. Die Verwandlung

die verwandlung

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A masterpiece which is short and linguistically not too difficult to read and with its metaphorical nature and the socio-cultural background lying behind it worthy of interesting discussion.

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The opening sentence of Franz Kafka's Die Verwandlung is one of the most well-known in literature yet the simplicity of it belies the rich and unknowable meaning of the work itself;   the number of interpretations of the novella testifies to its importance and underlying complexity.   It is possible to read the novella superficially almost as if were one watching a cartoon but a closer look at Kafka's family background and the situation of Jews in a city which was at the time half German and half Czech will pay dividends.   Kafka's work is now seen as some of the most important of the 20th century, defining the nature of a civilisation becoming increasingly alienated both at a family and societal level.

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Die Verwandlung

10. Fundbüro

fundburo

Reasons to study this work
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A linguistically accessible book for A level students particularly with our full page by page vocabulary, Fundbüro offers plenty of scope for the discussion of a wide range of themes.

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Published in 2003 this feel-good novel is set in the lost property office of a station where the main protagonist Henry Neff quickly settles in to a routine punctuated with unusual finds which culminate in friendship, the pursuit of an apparent criminel and other apparently random events.

The  novel seems to me to be an extended reflection on the nature of the stories we tell and the stories we live within our work place, our community and within an extended international context.   The author has set the book in an indeterminate town and in an indetermined time before the arrival of mobile phones when the typewriter still reigned:  it seems almost to be its own slightly other-worldly universe.

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Fundburo

11. Ich fühle mich so fifty-fifty

ich fuhl mich so 50 50

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Apart from the inherent interest in the subject matter, Ich fühle mich so fifty fifty is also an excellent "trainer" novel in that the language is relatively straightforward with plenty of dialogue which is so valuable for language learners.

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This short, popular book was published in 1991 to help German adolescents comprehend the changes that were taking place within their reunited country.  It therefore attempts to cover what it felt like to be part of the socialist system in the former DDR, restricted and spied upon at the same time as demonstrating the the new liberties which were to unfold.

The first many western people knew of the rapidly evolving political situation was the site of east Germans crossing through to Austria via the Hungarian border and this is where the novel starts.   It is interesting to read what it felt like to be within a state from which travel was difficult but from which people were disappearing every day;  it is therefore a useful challenging document to get young people thinking about the freedoms they take for granted.

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Ich fuhl mich so 50 50


12. Das Leben der anderen

das leben der anderen

Reasons to study this work
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Besides being an extraordinarily rich film to study, Das Leben der anderen is a very interesting way of looking more closely at the DDR as a whole.

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The paraonoic and despotic world of the former DDR is centrestage in this claustrophobic story of surveillance, love and deception.  When experienced Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler is assigned to spy on the house of prominent playwright Georg Dreyman he little suspects to what extent he is to become involved in the fate of this man and his partner Christa-Maria an ambitious actress.

In a multi-layered story we witness the totalitarian state in operation;  a careless quip or joke to the wrong person can end up in demotion or the loss of one's job.    One of Dreyman's fellow theatre friends can now no longer work and his own partner Christa is being blackmailed by a Stasi chief in order that she can continue to work.

Against this background, Wiesler is dragged into the increasingly tense relationship between Christa and Georg;  his loyalties are tested as things come to a head.

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Das leben der anderen


13. Das Wunder von Bern

das wunder von bern

Reasons to study this work
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This is an excellent film to study on several levels.  The dolanguages.coom resources are designed to help build excellent knowledge of the narrative and to provide plenty of grammatical exemplification at the same time as reinforcing familiarity with the characters and plot.  This would be a very good film to use to encourage year 11 students to study A level, particularly boys.

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This marvellous film was made 50 years after the central event, Germany's victory in the 1954 world cup finals which took place in Bern, Switzerland. The social developments of the time play an equally large part in the narrative as Peter Lubanski the father of the family returns to Essen after 11 years of imprisonment in Russia.  

The film opens with a group of friends including the main protagonist Mattes, waiting for the results of their favourite team Rot-Weiss Essen's latest match by pigeon post.  Subsequent results including the world cup matches themselves are delivered by a full range of communicational methods to Mattes whether it be through the radio or reenacted by the friends as they play football in the street.    

The Heimkehrer Peter finds it incredibly difficult to identify with the world he finds on his return and most of the drama in the film derives from his clashes with his own family as he struggles to regain his confidence.   The inevitable reconciliation is thoughtfully and beautifully constructed resulting in the ultimate feelgood factor film.  

At the same time as being an excellent drama, one is also immersed in the period of reconstruction as the Wirtschaftswunder starts to kick off;  one realizes suddenly that Adi Dassler who is showing Herberger, the national team manager his latest design for screw-in studs is the founder of Adidas, part and parcel of German's economic success story.

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Das Wunder von Bern

14. Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei

die fetten jahre sind vorbei

Reasons to study this work
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This film is a good vehicle for discussing the way the modern western world functions  and the role the individual has in making it a better place to live in.

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West Germany in the 60's was a hotbed of radicalism with demonstrations and terrorist attacks by highly politicized activists being a regular phenomenon.   In this film, idealistic friends Jan and Peter team up with the aim of doing their bit to demonstrate to rich "capitalists" that they will not always have things their own way.  Their raids on rich people's homes are designed to unsettle.  However things get out of hand when Jule, who has a genuine grievance against a millionaire who has ruined her life, trashes his house, going beyond the normal limits the group imposes on itself.

In the unintended dénouement the young people are forced to examine the way they think about themselves and their view of revolution.  

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Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei

15. Goodbye Lenin

goodbye lenin

Reasons to study this work
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The film is both amusing and informative, presenting as it does a considerable amount of  detail about life in the former DDR and about die Wende.    One of the most popular German films currently being studied by English students, the film merits study even if filmically maybe it "over eggs the omelette" a little and is over long.

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Confrontations between police and protesters are becoming more and more violent as the last days of the DDR approach.  Alex's ideologically committed mother suffers a heart attack in the street during a demonstration and by the time she has recovered the Berlin wall has fallen and the two Germanys are rapidly coming together. 

Alex is warned that any shock could kill his mother so in order to protect her from the perils of capitalism he works with his friends and family to pretend that things are still as they were before.   Junge Pioniere parade infront of her bed singing communist songs, DDR food is put infront of her to eat and Alex and his friend go so far as to produce doctored versions of the TV news for her.

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Goodbye Lenin