Representation of teenage identity in DEFA films of the eighties and early nineties
This thesis examines the filmic representation of teenage identity in East German
films which were produced in the late eighties and early nineties.
Questions of 'identity' assumed a prominent position within the political and
cultural discourses at the time of the Wende when the structures within East
German society changed dramatically. Academic and public interest in the
attitudes, values and the state of mind of the young generation in East Germany
was immense because the analysis of the position of the young generation always
reveals important facts about relations of power, ideological formations, and
This thesis looks at 10 films (many of which have not been the subject of
academic study before) which have teenage protagonists at the centre of their
narratives. It explores ways in which these films represented the young generation
of the former GDR and, as cultural products, contributed to the construct of 'East
German youth' within the public discourse.
To provide the contextual framework for the analysis, the discourses on East
German youth, DEFA, and GDR identity, are reviewed and developments within
DEF A with regard to the production of films for a young audience are discussed.
The close textual study analyses the representation of identification processes
which are typical for teenagers, identifies and discusses salient motifs, themes,
narrative devices, and stylistic choices. Common features, in particular the
metonymic use of the concept of 'family', narrative perspective with regard to the
target audience, and the film texts' interpretation of contemporary social
developments are explored in detail and discussed within the context of the
competing discourses at the time of the films' release.
The analysis shows that the films captured key elements of the social and political
transition in East Germany. It helps to trace shifts in the cultural discourse at an
important juncture in recent German history and to put myths and simplifications
about this period into context.