Reel Socialism : Making sense of history in Czech and German cinema since 1989

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis is a comparative study of the communist past as depicted in Czech and German feature films since 1989, or ‘reel socialism’. It is the first detailed study of post-1989 Czech history films and the first comparative study of German post-reunification cinema. It demonstrates that cinema has been a vehicle of similar sense-making processes in the two history cultures. Much of the research on cinema in Germany has treated the subject in isolation, blind to the commonalities it shares with other post-communist countries, while Czech post-communist history culture and cinema has been overlooked. The thesis employs three methods: economic analyses of the two film industries, looking at the potential for the production of historical films; meticulous neo-formalist studies of historical narration in dozens of feature films about the communist past; and genealogical studies of how certain aspects of the communist past are foregrounded and presented to contemporary audiences in feature films. The study draws on a range of media sources associated with the films (reviews, press books, posters, online discussion forums) to understand how the reception of filmic narratives has been channelled. Three themes in the production of ‘reel socialism’ are identified: the revolutions of 1989; the waves of post-communist nostalgia; and the process of coming to terms with the darker aspects of the communist past. Despite unified Germany’s supposedly unique status in the post-communist camp, the thesis concludes that the debates and sense-making processes surrounding ‘reel socialism’ have often been analogous and synchronous with the Czech case.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • History
  • Karlsson, Klas-Göran, Supervisor
Award date2015 May 22
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2015-05-22
Time: 10:15
Place: Sal C126, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Hames, Peter
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Staffordshire University, England


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • History

Free keywords

  • Socialism
  • cinema
  • communism
  • history culture
  • film
  • memory
  • Germany
  • Czech Republic
  • East Germany
  • Czechoslovakia
  • 1989
  • revolution
  • retro
  • nostalgia
  • Ostalgie
  • coming to terms with the past


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