Launched in 1998 on the eve of the eighth Day of German Unity, the Denk ich an Deutschland television film series was intended to reframe discourses on national identity formation in a positive light through documentaries focused on the present rather than on the dark German past. While Andreas Kleinert's Niemandsland (No Man's Land, 1998) and Andreas Dresen's Herr Wichmann von der CDU (Vote for Henryk!, 2003), the first and last films televised, do center on the present, they highlight dissonances between personal and national concerns. Still, Kleinert deconstructs the dissonances and artificial syntheses he himself invents in order to reveal them as constructs to be reconfigured by viewers. By showing the inability of politicians to bridge the gap between personal and national concerns due to the erosion of their private identities, Dresen also appeals to viewers to initiate needed societal changes themselves.
Intended to provoke contemplation and discussion about collective
identity in unified Germany, the Denk ich an Deutschland (When I think
about Germany) television film series was commissioned by Bayerischer
Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting, BR) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk
(West German Broadcasting, WDR) and was produced from 1997 to 2004
by megaherz gmbh. The complete series consists of twelve documentary
films ranging from forty-five to sixty minutes1 with the first five (see
Table 2) having been launched on BR and WDR as a set in October 1998.
Dominik Graf's Wispern im Berg der Dinge (A Whispering in the Mountain of Things) was the second film televised in the twelve-part Denk ich an Deutschland-documentary series launched on the eve of Germany's eighth Day of Unity (October 1998). Though Graf does not refer directly to Heinrich Heine, he clearly takes Heine's mode of thinking about Germany seriously—that is, he resolutely focuses on ruptures, which characterize Heine and his writings, and on the tensions provoked by the interplay of opposites evident in Heine's poem Nachtgedanken (1843), the source of the Denk ich an Deutschland-phrase. In Graf's documentary, Heine's ruptures turn into ruptures between his father's excessively silent war generation and his own unanchored post 1968 generation. The tensions, on the other hand, are evoked by the filmic medium—in particular, between verbal and iconic images. Thinking about film when he thinks about Germany, Graf examines his deceased father's many roles in the West German films of the 1950s and 1960s—roles that had turned him into the representative of the damaged war generation. Faulting the purely verbal in a medium intended to give concrete, visual form to reality, Graf attempts to harness the powers of both verbal and iconic images in the service of identity formation, yet grants the edge to the iconic, as well as to the fictional rather than the factual.