Many probably associate the term “genre film” with Italian westerns, American horror classics ... but with the latest hit science-fiction movie from Germany?
Looking back at recent decades of German film history, German genre cinema tends to eke out a niche existence. Yet early German film history, more precisely the so-called Weimar Phantastik, produced films like Metropolis (Fritz Lang), without which the form of today’s science fiction films would hardly be conceivable. And films such as Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau) and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene) early on developed significant horror film motifs that are still used in films of the genre today.
But what actually constitutes a genre film?
Genre films can be understood as films that use the narrative strategies characteristic of a particular genre and thus further consolidate them. Broad genre classifications such as drama or comedy contrast with narratively and formally more narrowly defined film genres such as science fiction, fantasy or horror. The films function through recurring themes, motifs, narrative patterns or even character constellations as well as a conventionalised film language, for example with regard to image design, sound design or music. A genre is thus also a kind of agreement between filmmakers and the audience who go to the cinema with a specific set of expectations.
Whether action, science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, film noir or mystery – historically conditioned and structurally embedded to this day, German films that don’t comply with conventional narrative patterns and film funding guidelines and that cannot be easily integrated into established exploitation systems have a hard time. Despite the limited possibilities of financial support, German genre films have gained in importance, especially in recent years, not least internationally.
With our 2023 series, we would like to offer you a closer look at genre filmmaking in Germany. In addition to current titles, selected pioneering films will also be put in a new light. The Goethe on Demand annual series presents one film per month in four different genres, so that one genre can be discovered at a time in a three-month rhythm: science fiction, crime, road movie and horror.