Deutschland bleiche Mutter (Germany, Pale Mother [director’s cut]). 1980. West Germany. Written and directed by Helma Sanders-Brahms. In German; English subtitles. 151 min.
With Eva Mattes, Ernst Jacobi, Elisabeth Stepanek, Anna Sanders. One of the New German Cinema’s fiercest political voices, Helma Sanders-Brahms deserves the recognition that has been accorded her male counterparts Fassbinder, Herzog, Schlöndorff, and Wenders. The director’s cut of her magnum opus, Germany, Pale Mother, restores 30 minutes that were excised following an incendiary premiere at the 1980 Berlin Film Festival, where Sanders-Brahms’s unflinchingly feminist confrontation with the nation’s past (and present) proved too much for German critics to bear. After taking on exploited workers and disillusioned artists as the subjects of her previous films, often by mixing documentary realism, melodrama, and Brechtian alienation effects, Sanders-Brahms turned her attention in Germany, Pale Mother to dramatic conflict of a more familial and autobiographical sort. Narrated by the director herself and presented, in mesmerizingly kaleidoscopic fashion, across different time periods and perspectives—with jarring juxtapositions of newsreel footage and macabre fantasy—the film is a self-described “homage to a mother from her daughter, and from a mother to her daughter,” a portrait of three generations of women within a family born of wartime horror and postwar guilt. Restored digitally by Deutsche Kinemathek in cooperation with Bundesarchiv.