Fall Take-home Exam
Tom Gunning writes: “Mabuse’s claim to be a state within a state not only expresses his megalomania but acknowledges the fragmentation of power, especially the control of force and violence in Germany after the Great War.” (p. 138)
Drawing specific examples from the film(s), demonstrate how Lang’s Mabuse illustrates the chaos of the Weimar era. How does the struggle between Mabuse and Von Wenk articulate the larger struggle within Germany?
Throughout the hardship that Germany faced during the Weimar Era, their power struggle remained the most eminent of their problems. Dealing with the hyperinflation, political extremists, and hostility from the victors of the war, Germany’s ability to keep its once growing sustainability post World War I began to collapse. Dr. Mabuse remained persistent to his megalomaniac character throughout most of the film. Because his power constantly grew and only declined at the very end of the movie, it is hard for Mabuse’s character to represent Germany’s struggle as a whole. Instead, Mabuse more accurately portrays the end of the Weimar Era in 1933 and the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich. Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, conveniently released in 1922, illuminates the chaos of the Weimar Era because it exemplifies the Great War Germany had just faced. In Tom Gunning’s article he expands, “The images of warfare in the city streets, especially when the police force gives way to the military armed with grenades, certainly recall the battles between Freikorps and revolutionaries in various German cities. These, among the most realistic images in a film often classified as “expressionist”, strongly support Anton Kaes’s claim that for the Weimar cinema, as for Germany generally, the image of the war was traumatically repeated and never resolved theme” (P.138). More representation in the movie of Germany’s crisis in 1919 is shown through Germany’s struggle to escape their debt. This resulted in the printing of money, in which over time lost its value. In the attempts to escape his probable capture, Mabuse is found trapped in Hawasch’s counterfeiting workshop, at which point he confronts his complete loss of power. Mabuse’s inability to compel the blind workers with the power of his gaze elucidates the idea that he no longer has any control. As he faces this reality, he begins to go insane, rolling and throwing around the stacks of money as if it has no real value, typically signifying the currency crisis Germany faced. At only one specific point in Lang’s film is Mabuse representative of Germany’s suffering rather than Hitler’s Third Reich. This is during his struggle with Von Wenk. Von Wenk, being the Chief inspector, only represents morality and justice like most of the roles of law enforcement in movies. In this case, Von Wenk represents the allied countries. These countries expected Germany to pay reparations for damages caused during World War 1, as well as restricting their army and military numbers. This is represented through Von Wenk slowly killing off all of Mabuse’s henchmen, before, after and during the big raid. He completely eliminates the forces that keep Mabuse strong, isolating him and forcing him to the underground space that demonstrates his desperation. In this way, the struggle between Mabuse and Von Wenk articulate the larger struggle within Germany and the allied countries.
Bill Nichols challenges our conception of the term "documentary" when he distinguishes between the goals of reproduction and representation. He states: “documentary is not a reproduction of reality; it is a representation of the world we already occupy. It stands for a particular view of the world...." (p 83)
Select a film screened during the course and, using examples from it, evaluate Nichols' focus on representation. How does an analysis predicated upon this question yield insight into the film you have selected?
Being able to differentiate between a documentary...
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