The Image of Femme Fatale in German Films of the 1920s as Evidence of the Process of Society Renewal

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The article deals with representation of female characters in the German cinema of the 1920s focusing on the femme fatale as the exponent of the spirit of the age and its numerous inner problems. Then and there, the femme fatale appears as a revolutionary image challenging the traditional life style. tte author analyses the most exemplary films with such a heroine: ‘Genuine, die Tragödie eines seltsamen Hauses’, ‘Dirnentragödie’ and ‘Asphalt’.

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 Abstract: Novel representations of female characters have always certified highly significant historical changes. These images tend to become crucial for understanding a certain epoch. In the German cinema of the 1920s, one of such images signifying the essence of the epoch and many of its historic problems is the character of Femme fatale, which substitutes the images of the 19th-century romantic woman craving for male defense and support and stimulating male creativity with her fragility and “sterile” beauty. Cinema was able to represent the concept of “the new woman” which was evolving in Western society at the end of the 19th century and at the dawn of the 20th century and signified a cardinal change in her socio-cultural status. A large number of films incorporate the image of Femme fatale — frequently a prostitute contrasting her immoral behavior with the mothers and wives of the patriarchal society and, therefore, challenging the traditional morals, putting it in jeopardy of destruction, which means inevitable renewal.

The essay’s author analyses the most representative films of this tendency: Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire; Tragedy of the Street, and Asphalt. Analysis of the claimed pictures allows us to see the changes taking place in the representation of this image: as from the semi-mythical demonic creature (vampire), the heroine is transformed into a real woman with a clear vital position. As the myth of the "new woman" in the German cinema of the 1920s, revealing the situation of the gender crisis of the early 20th century, it acquires a program character, where the idea of the renewal of society and the harmonization of the world is behind the concept of gender equality.

About the authors

Svetlana A Smagina


Author for correspondence.

Russian Federation, Moscow

PhD (Arts), Senior researcher, Institute of film Art


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Abstract - 71

PDF (Russian) - 33





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