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Sonnenallee Film Essay

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Leander Haussmann’s film Sonnenallee (1999) has been the subject of much criticism, this criticism centred on the issue of ostalgia. (Allan, 2000; 11) Critics have dismissed the film as being an exercise in ostalgia, some having gone so far as to claim that in its representation of life in the GDR that it is downright ‘dangerous’. (Dale, 2000; 11) What this criticism betrays, however, is a very particular hypocrisy. It is symptomatic of a colonial mentality existing between East and West, the West in its criticism of Eastern remembrance seeking to define its identity by dictating how it could remember its past. Ostalgia then is not about documentarian reconstruction; a faithful memory of life in the GDR as it was, but a response to the present,…show more content…
It plays with the distorted views of the West all the while acknowledging but justifying its own distorted recollections – acknowledging also that it is selective reconstruction. In this way it challenges the very criticism which it faced with respect to the concept of ostalgia, the film being both a justification and critical look at ostalgia which emerges as a reaction to its present circumstances rather than the past. The film explicitly takes leave of Stasi obsessed portrayals of life in East Germany in order to recover a self determined notion of identity as the Ossi struggled with the patronising expectation of assimilation which was imposed upon them. Cormican said it best when he said: ‘If East Germans sometimes remember it too fondly... then West Germans often reject East German’s remembrances too callously’. (Cormican, 2000; 11) By speaking back, both critiquing the West and enabling it to understand the situation which bore the concept of ostalgia, the film functions as a reconciliatory space for East and West, ostalgia addressing the colonising tendency of the West towards Ossi
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