Science Fiction Film & Television

From stressed utopias to pervasive anxiety

Post-catastrophic dystopia in 1970s West German television

Science Fiction Film & Television (2020), 13, (3), 323–339.

Abstract

Three films imagining post-apocalyptic dystopias - Smog (Petersen Germany 1973), Operation Ganymed (Erler Germany 1977) and Die Hamburger Krankheit (Fleischmann Germany 1979) - concretise and dramatise environmental, political and social stresses on the West German national imaginary during the 1970s. Articulating cultural motifs hitherto associated with national success within the conventions of the disaster film, the films would exacerbate cultural stress throughout the decade by gradually uncoupling it from its historically specific sources and rendering it as a diffuse yet inescapable national mood. Taken together and read in sequence, the three films show how dystopian thinking takes hold while its specific causes grow less clear and obvious, expressing fundamental doubts about ‘post-war’ utopian aspirations.

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Works cited

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Smog. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Written and produced by Wolfgang Menge. Perf. Marie-Luise Marjan, Heinz Schacht and Hans Schulze. WDR, 1973. Google Scholar

Stableford, Brian. ‘Science Fiction and Ecology’. A Companion to Science Fiction. Ed. David Seed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 127-41. Google Scholar

Biess, Frank. Republik der Angst: Eine Andere Geschichte der Bundesrepublik. Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2019. Google Scholar

Die Grünen. ‘Grüne Geschichte’. https://www.gruene.de/unsere-gruene-geschichte. Accessed 1 Sep 2020. Google Scholar

Die Hamburger Krankheit. The Hamburg Syndrome. Germany, 1979. Google Scholar

Hantke, Steffen. ‘Raumpatrouille: The Cold War, the “Citizen in Uniform”, and West German Television’. Science Fiction Studies 31.1 (2004): 63-81. Google Scholar

Hickethier, Knut. Geschichte des Deutschen Fernsehens. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1998. Google Scholar

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Penguin, 2007. Google Scholar

Murphy, Graham J. ‘Dystopia’. The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. Ed. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. London: Routledge, 2009. 473-7. Google Scholar

Reimer, Robert C. ‘Picture Perfect War: An Analysis of Joseph Vilsmaier’s Stalingrad (1993)’. Light Motives: German Popular Film in Perspective. Ed. Randall Halle and Margaret McCarthy. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2003. 304-25. Google Scholar

Schweiger, Stefan. ‘Deutschland - deine Rezessionen’. Süddeutsche Zeitung (17 May 2010). https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/konjunktur-deutschland-deine-rezessionen-1.521518. Accessed 16 May 2020. Google Scholar

Smog. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Written and produced by Wolfgang Menge. Perf. Marie-Luise Marjan, Heinz Schacht and Hans Schulze. WDR, 1973. Google Scholar

Stableford, Brian. ‘Science Fiction and Ecology’. A Companion to Science Fiction. Ed. David Seed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 127-41. Google Scholar

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Details

Author details

Hantke, Steffen