Where is the legacy of the cinema verite moment of documentary filmmaking to found now. Your response must make detailed reference to at least two film or tv examples

Essay, 2003

15 Pages, Grade: D (1,5)


Index of Content

Index of Pictures


1. Introduction

2. Reforms of the German “Cinema vérité” in the 60’s

3. Examples
3.1. Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?
3.2. Der dritte Weltkrieg
3.3. Napoleon

4. The Term Authenticity

5. Conclusion




I. Index of Pictures

Picture 1: Erika Runge 12

Picture 2: Opening Screen "Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?" 12

Picture 3: First scene "Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?" 12

Picture 4: Daily work of "Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?" 13

Picture 5: Typical scene "Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?" 13

Picture 6: Example for close ups "Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?" 13

Picture 7: Final face close-up "Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?" 13

Picture 8: DVD-Cover Napoleon 14

II. Abbreviations

Cf. Compare (from Latin confer)

e.g. Example given

ff. Following

p. Page

SBS Special Broadcasting System

TV Television

US United States

USA United States of America

1. Introduction

This essay will treat the “Cinema verite”[1] and its development until today. As the development in Europe and in the USA had been similar, I will choice to describe the German development and emphasis an example from the 60’s and two from today.

The movie from the 60’s is the German documentary “Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?”[2] by Erika Runge, made in 1968, the actual examples are: “Der 3. Weltkrieg”[3] by Robert Stone, made in 1998, and “Napoleon”[4] by David Grubin, made in 2003. The stretch will lie on the first movie. It is a perfect example for the “cinema vérité”.

I will give you a short overview about the movies, explain the term authenticity and give a conclusion. And during the essay you will see differences and similarities between a motion picture and a documentary movie.

You will see that today documentaries could better be called infotainment and the documentaries during the 60’s could better be called portrait. While the innovation in the late 60’s was, to show the normal life (before documentaries dealt with famous persons/situations), today normal and special events are shown in a mix of movie and documentary.

2. Reforms of the German “Cinema vérité” in the 60’s

While in the beginning journalistic and portrait movies mainly dealt with prominent figures in TV, in the middle of the 60’s “normal” persons where profiled.

The biographical movie, that declares itself to the proletarian tradition, is one of the most important documentaries at the end of the 60’s that tried to combine private sphere and social reality.[5] The source of this lies in the USA. The base was a row of experiments to find a new concept. Instead of making a pictured “lecture” something new was tried.

The increasing imprecise use of the word “documentarily” led therefore to different groups not wanting to use this term anymore; in the USA the new documentarily movement called itself direct cinema. Aim was to reflect the real life with a maximum authenticity possible.

Frank Unger explains in his book “Die Anfänge des Direct Cinema” that it was tried to use original sounds with the pictures instead of overlaying it with an omnipotent narrator. Result was a unique filmic document about political culture in America, more realistic and more authentic than anything else, shown before. The Direct Cinema was now on its way and soon also spread out to Germany. It tried to reduce the presence of the camera as far as possible. The ideal would be a hidden camera. Because of the technical and legal problems, the second best solution was chosen: the all-present camera, to which the filmed persons could get used until they didn’t realise it anymore. After the shooting, everything was put in a chronological order and, where possible, edited with out adding music or Off-Speakers[6].

If one first orientates himself at the phenomenological object, than the theoretical occupation with the documentarily movie depends on the idea, that it can bee noticed as something different from the motion pictures and can be promoted as something different.[7]

Siegfried Krakauer[8], who devoted himself since the mid 40’s to historic-philosophic studies, developed a theory of the movie, simply differentiating played movie and movie without a play. The definition through the play[9] is a problem, because the staging for a motion picture (or played movie) also takes place in some documentarily movies. A lot of the documentarily movies, e.g. the ones from John Grierson[10], where set up to the smallest detail, arranged for the camera and built along narrative principles. Grieson and others tried to put the movie into an aesthetic form.

The new age of documentary filming or direct cinema (mainly through using original sounds), didn’t mean a total change of this modus, it only meant an establishment of new conventions for the way of narrating and “acting”.

Those conventions are not valid today anymore. Today’s documentaries could easily be mistaken for motion pictures, as you will see later on.

3. Examples

3.1. Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?

Erika Runge and her social reports and prose texts are central representatives of the German documentarily literature in the 60’s and 70’s. After graduation in expressionism in the year 1962 she quickly became a producer and author. Her most famous work was the film documentary “Warum ist Frau B. glücklich?”.

In 1968 she used the form of “oral history”[11] to question people from the “Ruhrgebiet”[12] which social class is mainly represented through manual labourers. This is the base for the movie.

Maria B. tells her story – the story about the wife of a coalminer in the “Ruhrgebiet”, which coincidentally includes 40 years of working life in Germany. It rebuilds the biography of the cleaning woman Maria B., by putting together work and private life, present and past with the main periods of the German history. So it achieves an example meaning. Its strengths is that he woman is not just postulated as victim of the circumstances, as some movies of the women emancipation used to do, but instead shows the strength and the will of this woman. The life of Maria B. is a social-historical example for the situations of women, which lived in minimum subsistence level, defied hard work. Stylistically this is forced through the point of the anonym name. The real name is Frau Bürger, in the movie she is just called Frau B. So it can be transferred to different destinies.

It demonstrates the unbroken existence bravery of a working class woman, which fought herself with her kids and her husband through the third Reich, the world war, the post war time and the mining crises. Than first her oldest son dies, followed by her husband (because of the mining dust). In a monologue, Frau B. reflects the numerous facets of her life, discusses her thinking about the existence and lines out important passages in anecdotes.


[1] French for “true movie“, from now on called direct cinema.

[2] “Why is Miss B. happy?“

[3] “World War III“

[4] Shown at SBS at the moment.

[5] Cf. ff. Unger: Die Anfänge des Direct Cinema, p. 92.

[6] Off = Voice from the outside.

[7] Cf. Hohenberger: Dokumentarfilmtheorie, p. 9.

[8] 1899 – 1966; author, publisher, sociologist, architect.

[9] Motion picture is called “Spielfilm” in German, which means played film or played movie.

[10] 1898 – 1979; one of the most influential early documentary filmmakers.

[11] Method already used during the antic Greece. Herodot questioned witnesses about special events and draw a timeline from the answers.

[12] Former main coal mining area in Germany between Cologne and Dortmund.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Where is the legacy of the cinema verite moment of documentary filmmaking to found now. Your response must make detailed reference to at least two film or tv examples
Macquarie University  (Media Department)
Introduction to the Cinema
D (1,5)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
624 KB
Documentary Filmmaking in the past and present. References to literature. Examples used: Napoleon, Frau B. and Der Dritte Weltkrieg
Where, Your, Introduction, Cinema
Quote paper
Sebastian Geipel (Author), 2003, Where is the legacy of the cinema verite moment of documentary filmmaking to found now. Your response must make detailed reference to at least two film or tv examples, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/22225


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Where is the legacy of the cinema verite moment of documentary filmmaking to found now. Your response must make detailed reference to at least two film or tv examples

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free