Christian Petzold’s Visions of a Divided Germany

One of contemporary world cinema’s most exciting filmmakers, Christian Petzold has, over the past two decades, built up a spellbinding body of work that grapples with his native Germany’s turbulent recent history, and its traumatic aftershocks. Now on the Criterion Channel, we’re presenting four of the films that best exemplify Petzold’s careful attention to socioeconomic detail and deft reworking of generic forms, from the pared-down eurozone noir of his international breakout, Jerichow (2008), to the Hitchcockian poise of his World War II mystery Phoenix (2014). Included alongside the films—all of which star the powerhouse Nina Hoss—is an introduction by critic Girish Shambu. In the above clip from the piece, he discusses the roots of the so-called Berlin School, the group of politically committed, New German Cinema–inspired filmmakers with which Petzold is frequently associated. Here, Shambu also notes the prominent role that Germany’s East/West division plays in Petzold’s films, whether they’re set before reunification (like the tense Cold War–era drama Barbara) or after it (like the stylish psychological horror film Yella). To see the rest of the enlightening intro, and to watch these riveting films for yourself, make your way to the Channel.

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