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Publication Detail
'However sick a joke…': On Comedy, the Representation of Suffering, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Melodrama and Volker Koepp's Melancholy
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Bird SR
  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date:
  • Place of publication:
  • Pagination:
    253, 282
  • Chapter number:
  • Series:
    European History
  • Editors:
    Bird S,Fulbrook M,Wagner J,Wienand C
  • ISBN-13:
  • Status:
  • Book title:
    Reverberations of Nazi Violence in Germany and Beyond: Disturbing Pasts
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    Fassbinder, Volker Kopp, Melancholy, Melodrama, Ostgebiete, Germany, Comedy, German suffering
The chapter analyses the function of comedy in Fassbinder's feature films and Koepp's documentary films. Both directors' films are centrally concerned with the legacy of suffering caused by the Second World War and the Holocaust but they assimilate a comic aesthetic with other representational strategies. The inclusion of comedy crystallizes the question of how we may enjoy portrayals of suffering, for by integrating comedy into texts that are predominantly concerned with the legacy of suffering, anxiety arising over the pleasure at others’ pain is not contained by conventions of genre or form. The incorporation of a comic aesthetic can function to disturb the values that commonly attend particular artistic forms and representational modes, not least melodrama and melancholy. Furthermore, consideration of the ways in which comic devices are deployed helps illuminate how empathy and identification are constructed to sustain particular identities and moral positions, thereby unsettling those positions: Fassbinder tempers melodrama with comedy in the context of West Germany of the economic miracle, and Koepp gives his melancholic vision a comic edge in his documentary explorations of the post-1989 Ostgebiete.
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