The period that preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall had seen the exhaustion of the push given to German cinema, from the 1960s onwards, due to the filmmaking group of Junger Deutscher Film. The unification of the Germany has caused a certain creative and productive disorientation of both Eastern and Western cinematography. At the beginning of the third millennium, however, the film industry in Germany has set in motion huge investments, both public and private, as well as a synergy between television and cinematographic professionalism, and the cinemas have seen a revival of the public. Gradually a new generation of authors was formed who revitalized the imagination and also imposed themselves internationally.
Two lines emerged: on the one hand a critical reinterpretation of German history, both in its recent results and in its cultural roots, on the other an exploration of the everyday, obsessive and steeped in raw realism or shifted to comedy tones. Films such as Halbe Treppe (2002; Catastrophes of love) by Andreas Dresen belong to the latter trend, which photographs the dynamics of a couple crisis; Sehnsucht (2006; Desiderio) by Valeska Grisebach, an intimate elegy about an innocent and irregular love; Eden (2006) by Michael Hofmann, a weird portrait of a chef; while on the side of the anxieties of an everyday ‘anatomy’ we find films like Die grosse stille (2005; The great silence) and Die frau des polizisten (2013; The policeman’s wife) both by Philip Gröning, respectively on the life of Carthusians in the French Alps, and on the ordinary underground violence in the everyday life of a petty bourgeois family; Totem (2011) by Jessica Krummacher, a family interior with a disturbing guest in the Ruhr; Kreuzweg (2014) by Dietrich Brüggemann, on the family dilemma of a teenager oppressed by Catholic fundamentalism; Requiem (2006) and Was bleibt (2012) by Hans-Christian Schmid, portraits respectively of a young epileptic woman in the throes of hallucinations with a religious background, and of a family with a mother suffering from bipolar syndrome; Vier Minuten (2006; Four minutes) by Chris Kraus, on the relationship between two women: a piano teacher and a murderer, former child prodigy as a pianist, set in a women’s prison; Tom Tykwer’s Drei (2010), about a love triangle between a couple and the man they both fall in love with in today’s Berlin; Elementarteilchen (2006; Elementary particles) by Oskar Roehler, from the novel by Michel Houellebecq, about the anomalous sexuality of two half-brothers. Films such as Sophie Scholl (2005; The White Rose – Sophie Scholl) by Marc Rothemund, on the farce trial against a young anti-Nazi, belong to the line of revisiting the German past ; Die geliebten Schwestern (2014) by Dominik Graf, about Schiller’s fatal love with his sisters Caroline and Charlotte; Wir sind jung, wir sind stark (2014) by Burhan Qurbani, on the xenophobic fire in Rostock; Der Untergang (2004; The Fall – Hitler’s Last Days) by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who recounts the last days of Adolf Hitler’s life through the eyes of the secretary who stood beside him in the bunker of the ‘fall’ in Berlin; Die Fälscher (2007; The Forger – Operation Bernhard) by Stefan Ruzowitzky, the story of a Jewish artist-forger deported to a concentration camp; North Face (2008; North Face – A true story) by Philipp Stöltz, on the ascent of the Eiger of soldiers who become Nazi heroes in spite of themselves; Die Welle (2008; The Wave) by Dennis Gansel, in which a pedagogical experiment becomes a metaphor for the birth of totalitarianism; Séraphine (2008) by Martin Provost, on the life of a French painter; Die Päpstin (2009; La papessa) by Sönke Wortmann, on the imaginary medieval figure of Pope Joan; Hannah Arendt (2012) by Margarethe von Trotta, on the life of one of the greatest political philosophers of the 20th century; and the Oscar winner for best foreign film, Das Le-ben der anderen (2006; The Lives of Others) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, which makes emblematic in a society dominated by media ‘surveillance’ the story of a couple of Communist intellectuals spied on by the secret services of the Stasi in the years immediately preceding the fall of the Wall. A teacher like Edgar Reitz referred to the same years with Heimat 3 – Chronik einer Zeitenwende (2004), and then made a prequel to the saga with Die Andere Heimat. Chronik einer Sehnsucht (2013; L’altra Heimat – Chronicle of a dream), which returns to the nineteenth-century prodrome of the German ‘spirit’.
An important phenomenon was the development of a cinema born from the urban substratum of Turkish immigration in Germany, represented above all by Fatih Akin, author of films that have reaped awards at international festivals: Im Juli (2000), which adopts the formula of a trip from Hamburg, across Europe and to İstanbul by a teacher in love with a Turkish girl, Gegen die Wand (2004; The Turkish bride), about a marriage that saves the loneliness of two immigrants, an alcoholic and a girl who escaped suicide, Auf der anderen Seite (2007; At the Edge of Heaven), an ensemble film between Turkey and Germany, a crossroads of dramatic existences and mournful destinies that tells the difficult relationship between generations within the Turkish community, Soul Kitchen (2009), Special Jury Prize in Venice, on a restaurant managed among a thousand difficulties in the environment of immigrants, up to the international co-production of The cut (2014; The father), an odyssey of a man in search of his two daughters in Mesopotamia against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide.
Among the most representative authors of the Neu er Deutscher Film, Werner Herzog has continued, around the world and in the United States, an intense activity in which fiction and documentary mix or alternate according to his poetics as an investigator of places and of ‘extreme’ and singular humanity, as in Cave of forgotten dreams (2010), on the prehistoric Chauvet cave in France, or in Queen of the desert (2015) with Nicole Kidman, on the explorer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell. Wim Wenders also alternated documentary with fiction, taking up the themes of travel and the meaning of images in Palermo Shooting (2008), after having shot The Million Dollar Hotel (2000), Land of plenty in the United States.(2004; La terra dell’abbondanza), Don’t come knocking (2005; Don’t knock on my door), as many variations on his obsession with American myth, up to Every thing will be fine (2015), on the accidental death of a a child who becomes a sense of guilt for an entire family, not without experiencing 3D with Il volo (2009), shot in Calabria on a community of Kurdish refugees, and with Pina (2011), dedicated to the memory of the great choreographer Pina Bausch, as well as paying homage to the great photographer Sebastião Salgado with The salt of the earth (2014; Il sale della terra). Hans Jurgen Sybeberg and Alexander Kluge instead dedicated themselves to radical video and television experimentation, while away from Germany they shot their films Volker Schlondorff (La mer à l’aube, 2011, about a Nazi massacre in occupied France, and Ulzhan, 2007, trip to Kazakhstan in the company of a shaman and a mysterious woman) and Werner Schroeter who set his farewell film Nuit de chien (2008) in Portugal, a story of amour fou with surreal and desperate tones.
In these first years of the new millennium there has also been a notable revival of auteur cinema which has rediscovered a vein of linguistic research that seemed partly lost: thus Romuald Karmakar has constructed a form of radical political documentary with Angriff auf die Demokratie – Eine Intervention (2012) and Die Herde des Hern (2011), and produced Deutschland 09 (2009), a collection of short films by young German directors to tell the contradictions of contemporary Germany; while Fred Kelemen has made films mysteriously suspended in space and time (similar to those of the Hungarian Bela Tarr, of which he was the operator), such as Abendland (1999) and Krisana (2005); and finally Christian Petzold offered notable female portraits in Phoenix (2014; The secret of her face), about a woman with a double identity in post-war Germany, Barbara (2012; Barbara’s choice), about a woman fleeing East Germany, or he was inspired by the classic American melodrama of the 1940s and 1950s in Jerichow (2008).