North-South, East-West: Mapping German Identities in Cinematic and Literary Versions of Doris Dörrie's "Bin ich schön?"

by Peter M. McIsaac
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Title:
North-South, East-West: Mapping German Identities in Cinematic and Literary Versions of Doris Dörrie's "Bin ich schön?"
Author:
Peter M. McIsaac
Year: 
2004
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The German Quarterly
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77
Issue: 
3
Start Page: 
340
End Page: 
362
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Language: 
English
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Abstract:

PETER M. McIsAAC

Duke University

North-South, East-West: Mapping German Identities in Cinematic and Literary Versions of Doris Dorrie's Bin ich schon 1

ThemultifacetedartistryofDorisDorrieinthe 1990silluminatessomeofthe prevailing possibilities and pitfalls of writing and filmmaking in post-Wfnde Germany.Aligning Dorrie'sliterarywritings,in particularherbooksFur immer und ewig: eine Art Reigen (1991) and Bin ich schon? (1994) with her later film Bin ich schon?(1998)allowsforaproductiveanalysisofthe differences betweenthe two modesofpresentationratherthan a privilegingofliteratureoverfilmorviceversa. Suchan analysis makesclearthat Dorrie'sbooksand filmariseindistinctcontexts andare designed toreachdifferentaudiences. AsIwillargueinpartI,forDorrie, the productionofliterarytextsisintegralto herapproachto culturalproductionin generalandtofilmmakinginparticular. Inbothfilmandliterature,Dorriestrives to achieve an aesthetic that she describes as ambivalence. As a comparison between corresponding scenes from the bookand the filmwill show differences betweenthemedialeadDorrietoadoptstrategiesthat oftenresultinthe "removal" ofcertaincontroversialaspectsofashortstoryonceitismadeintoa film. Itbecomesevidentthat Dorrie'sconceptionsofproseandfilmessentiallyrationalize her acceptingcommercial pressures on her filmmaking. Because this realization onlycapturesonefacetofDorrie'sartisticproduction, partIIexaminesthechange oflocationfromthe USandGermanyinthe printversionto Spaininthe celluloid version. This sectionreadsthefilmasa vehicle forcritically probingthe usescontemporaryGermansmakeofsouthern climes, especiallySpanish-speakingregions and cultures, in constructing their identities and transforming their lives. To deepen our insights into how the film contributes to the German tradition of north-south identity discourses, my argumentwill then movefromananalysis of theestablishingsequenceofthefilminpartIIIto specific sectionsofthebookin part ~ before returningto salientmomentsinthe film'sconcluding sequencesin PartVAlongthe way,IwillspeakofDorrie'sliteraturemovingalongan east-west axiswith GermanyandCaliforniaasrespectiveendpoints,andherfilm'snorthsouthaxisthat runsprimarilybetweenGermanyandsouthernSpainbutwithan imaginarystretchingasfarasPanamaandArgentina. Bytheendofmy essay, Iwill haveestablishedthat Dorrie'sartisticproductionconformstoaculturaldivisionof labor in which "serious issues" are deemed more appropriate for literary forms,

The German Quarterly 77.3 (Summer 2004) 340

withoutlosingsightofthefactthat herfilmmaking succeedsinofferingnon-trivialinsightsinto Germannationalidentityinspiteofitscommercialorientation.

I

With the 1985 breakthroughfilmManner, DorisDorriewas catapultedinto cultural prominence. Heralding a new generationof filmmakers and offering an accessibilityoftenscornedby figures oftheNewGermanCinema,Dorrie'scomedy is often considered to have initiated the wave of 1990s Beziehungskomodien such as Abgeschminkt (1993), Der bewegte Mann(1994), and Stadtgesprdch' (1995, Coury360). Dorriehasnot surpassed thecommercial successofManner, with over five millionadmissionsarguablyoneofthemost successfulpostwarGermanfilms ever, but shehastodatecreatedsome20-plus films that offerperspectiveson German societyfromthe pointofviewofwomen (Bin ich schoni;Keiner liebt mich, 1994;Manner), minorities (Happy Birthday, Turke, 1991; Keiner liebt mich) andother marginalpositions (Hake174).Yetdespitehernumerousmotionpictures,itistoo simpletoviewDorrieonlyasa filmmaker. Since Manner, Dorriehas workedas a film professor in Munich, been engaged as a professor of creative writing in the UnitedStates,andincreasingly received recognition asawriterofshortproseand novels. With the positive critical reception of the story collections Fur immer und ewig: eineArt Reigen in 1991 andBin ich schon? in 1994, it became clearthat Dorrie's publishedwritingsdeservedattention intheirownright.Shehasbeencalled"die besteKurzgeschichtenerzahlerinihrerGeneration" (Dorrie,Interviewwith Weingarten and Hobel, 206) and thoughtful comparisons to writers such as Arthur Schnitzlerhavesurfaced amongcritics.1The success ofherliteraryendeavors has helpedshedlightonthefactthat filmandliteratureareproductivelyintertwined inDorrie'sartisticoeuvre. AlthoughDorrieclaimstheBin ich schon?bookwasconceivedwithoutafilminmind(Interviewwith Jasper 1),evenoneofherharsher critics noted its filmic possibilities (Kilb 46). Dorrieadmits that a filmmaker's perspectiveinformsmuchofherwriting(Interviewwith Jasper 1).Atthesametime, draftsofshortstoriesthat sometimesneverseepublicationoftenaidintheconstruction of her screenplays (Hacker 2).

Dorriehas specificgoalsandexpectationsthat governhowsheworksineach mediuminorderto keepthem from collapsing into eachother.Incontrast to her written works,Dorriecraftsher filmswith thegoalofsendingviewersoutofthe theaterhappierthanwhen theyentered(Interviewwith Prott1).2Dorriepointsto genre-specific differences in the two mediaasan explanation. AssheoncetoldDirk Jasper,

In der Prosa kann ich leicht etwas Negatives und sehr Hartes mit einem Satz wieder auffangen, es sogar umdrehen. Das geht sehr leicht und schnell. Film ist im Vergleich dazu sehr trage. Wenn man im Film mal jemand blod findet oder gar ekelhaft, ist es sehr schwer, fur diese Figur wieder andere Cefuhle zu erzeugen.

Der Film mag die Ambivalenz nicht so gerne. Da die Ambivalenz aber genau die Dinge des Lebens am besten kennzeichnet -dass wir in einem Moment himmelhochjauchzend und im nachsten zu Tode betrubt sein konnen und nicht wissen, wie das passieren kann-versuche ich das im Film mit etwas sanfteren Mitteln als in der Prosa darzustellen (1).

While Dorrie's claim sounds plausible, it remains unclear whether the less ambiguous quality of her film results solely from genre limitations. Dorrie's cinematic transformationof theshortstory"Kaschmir" from Binich schon 7,a narrative of a once overweight woman whose eating disorder makes her thin as her partner increasingly gains weight, can aid us in probing this point. In the text, the notion of ambivalence is evident in the first-person narrative perspective of Rita which filters outside information in such a way as to alert the reader to the subjectivity of her position, as when Rita reports and immediately rejects her partner Fred's view that she has become "magersuchtig" (162). Grammatical elements in the story also contribute to its ambivalence, for instance in the substitution of a particular sweater for Fred that takes place through a play on pronouns. The text begins with the statement "Fruher hater mir neue Kleider gekauft" (161; original emphasis), in which the lover is unambiguously identified as male. Importantly, when the cashmere sweater is introduced, its amorous function is made explicit: "Kaschmir ist wie eine Droge, sagt die Verkauferin und streicht tiber den sandfarbenen Kaschmirpullover wie tiber die Haut eines Geliebten" (161). This stroking movement unmistakably establishes an analogy between the garment and the skin of a lover. With the next mention of the sweater, its grammatical gender governs the personal pronoun that is used to replace it: "Der Kaschmirpullover fallt mit sanftem Streicheln tiber meine jetzt eher kleinen Bruste, er schmeichelt mir, la~t mein Gesicht weicher erscheinen, meine Figur weniger eckig" (162; my emphasis). After confirming the intimacy of the sweater's stroking, the sentence plays on the grammatical ambiguity and the selected verbs: "er schmeichelt" means of course "it flatters" and "he flatters." Significantly, this confirmationofher self-worthwas once what Fredalone could provide (164), but as Fred has gained weight, his attentions have proven to be less fulfilling than those she receives from clothing. The chiastic progression from human being to talismanic object culminates when the sweater seductively addresses Rita: "Sieh dich an, sagt er,ich mache eine attraktive Frau aus dir, einen neuen Menschen ...n (162; ellipsis original). Complicating the sense that purchasing her own clothes might represent Rita's empowerment, the grammar reveals that Rita lets the clothes shape her impressions of her body and soothe her anxieties about her physical appearance. The play on pronouns offers the reader insights (e.g.,clothes make the woman) that Rita does not necessarily share. Therefore, readers can link the emotional high which she experiences from wearing flattering clothing to her deep-seated fears which nearly deaden her to the intimacy that can be expressed through sex, as when Rita tries to

rushFredtoclimaxinordertogetbacktothe storeintimetobuyhersweater, all the while mentally reviewing her calorie intake of the day (166-71). Dorrie's notion of ambivalence can therefore be linked to a certain type of dramaticirony,inwhich the privilegedreadergraspsthesignificanceofaparticularpieceofinformationwhilethenarratororothercharactersdonot (ormight not wish to do so).

In the corresponding filmsequence ofBin ich schonl, the grammaticalgenderof the sweaterin the text isindicatedbythe malevoice-overinthedressing room. Thegenderedvoice-over techniqueisalsousedto provide access to Rita'sinternal recital ofhercaloriecountintheinitialpartofthesexsceneandassuchisoneway the filmreplicates the interiorityofthe first-person narrativein the short story. Anotherrepresentationofinteriorityisthe flashbackinthesexscene, whichisencodedassubjectiveby focusingonRita'sface beforethecut.On thebasisofconventionsestablished earlieroninthe film, thisgrainysuper-8footagerepresents images that are"past"and "remembered."Throughthe flashbackimageswelearn that thecouple'spastwasonceblissfuL Importantly; though,theseflashbacksare onlyvaguelyrelatedtotheeffectofbuyingclothes, Rita'sissueswith bodyfat,and her fears of emptiness and void. In the film, Rita claims that as an overweight women, she "sah aus wie ein Monster" until eight months prior to buying her sweater, yet in the flashback she appears no heavier than in other scenes in the film'AndthoughRitaexpresses concernsaboutherweightandattractiveness in thefilm, themagnitudeofher crisesisdiminishedbyhavingherconcernsarticulatedinambiguous, everydaycontextsandnotinprobingtherapysessions, which thebookpresentsinorderto reveal therelationshipofRita'sappetitestoherfearof deathandemptiness (167-68, 170).ThesubtextonthefetishfunctionsofRita's sweater(comprehensibleinbothMarxianandpsychoanalytic senses) istherefore not presentedclearly; and,indistinctcontrasttothe book, Rita'sconcernsareassuaged bywearingthesweaterand Fred's platitudesabout lovinghernomatter what shelookslike(inthe film, the sweaterand Fred work together). Ambivalence ismuchhardertodetectinthefilmscenethanintheshort story. ButsinceRita's dramaticweightlossandemotionalcrisescouldbeportrayedinthe film, itseems moreplausible to think that Dorrie'sdecision torepresentRitaand Fredinahopefulmannerhasdeterminedheruseofthe genre-specific possibilities morethan vice versa (the literary text does not end hopefully; to say the least). In this vein, Dorrie'sglobalclaims forthegenrefilm ("DerFilmmagdieAmbivalenznichtso gerne") wouldseemto describelessanabsolutelimitationofthemediumthan the optionslefttoafilmmakerifsheaccepts that achievingaudienceappealrequires curtailingthe useofpotentiallytroublingorcontroversial elements.

It is hard to dispute that Dorrie accepts the conditions under which the chancesforcommercial successofafilmincrease. Herawarenessofhowthecharacters'imageswillappealtoandaffecttheviewerhasbeenconfirmed inaninterview(Eichinger, Interviewwith Jasper, 1). Inaddition,thecastinglistof Bin ich schon?readslikea"who'swho"ofcontemporaryGermancinema, makingthefilm appearto tradeonstar appeal. Thislistofprominentactorsandactresses includes Uwe Ochsenknecht, Joachim Krol,Franka Potente, Heike Makatsch, Steffen Wink, Maria Schrader, Anica Dobra, Nina Petri, Otto Sander, Iris Berben and Dietmar Schonherr, offeringa familiar and attractive set of faces to German audiences. Dorrie'sproducerBernd EichingerexpressedhisesteemforDorrieinprecisely these terms when he said, "[da] weiss Doris auch genau, dass man einen Filmimmersexybesetzenmuss.Man mussdenLeutenaufderLeinwandanderthalbStunden langgernezuschauenwollen...DerHeldkann dreckig und heruntergekommensein,aberniedarferunsexy seinl!" (Eichinger,InterviewwithJasper, 1) This dictate of "sexiness" is probably responsible for never depicting the characterofRitainanoverweightstateorwithapronouncedeatingdisorder (in linewith dominant genderstereotypes, Fredcanbeoverweight). Inthisfilmaesthetic,whatevercriticalpossibilities areavailable haveto be reconciled with the need to deliver viewer pleasure. The following detailed analysis of another sequenceofthe filmBin ichschont,which isbasedon the short story "Schickse" in the storycollection ofthe sametitle,supports thisclaim. Aligning the short storywith the film sequence of Tamaraand Vera clearly shows that the book treats many of the controversialaspectsofcontemporaryGermanlifeinsightfullywhilethe film avoidsthem.ApartiallistoftheseaspectswouldincludeWestGermanexperiences of and with foreigners; opportunistic West German treatment of East Germans; homosexualandhomoeroticattractions;andfemale sexualviolenceagainstmen.

Like many otherofthechanceencountersinDorrie'sfilmwhoseresemblance to RobertAltman's Short Cuts isoftenmentioned,thechancemeetingoftwo Germanwomen, VeraandTamara, intheparkinglotof Seville'sairportreveals unsuspectedandmeaningfulconnectionsbetweenutter strangers. WhileTamaraisable toconvincehercountryvvomanVerathat herSpanishboyfriendFelipe,whoislyingunconsciousonthepavement,isnot seriouslyinjured,shecannot beso reassuringwhenitcomesto Vera'slongingtoknowthat herrelationshipto Felipewill lastforever. Tamaradoesnot somuchdisabuse Veraofherillusionsasleaveittoher (andthe viewer) toponderjustwhat drivesVera'scaptivationwith Felipeandher fearoflosinghim.Nearlyat alosstoarticulatejustwhatabouthim puts sucha powerfulspellonher,alltheblondeVeracandoispointtohisthick,blackhair, the emblemofallthat makeshimirresistiblyexoticandbeautiful."Erhatsoschone Haare," Vera sighs helplessly; "furchtbar schone Haare." But with her jarringly matter-of-factretort, "diewerdenihmausfallen,"TamaraconfrontsVerawiththe prospect that life might get a whole lot messier than Vera might desire. For as Tamarahaslearnedfromherown experiencewithamanoncesimilarly beguiling, attractions to surfacebeautymight partiallyresultfromimpulsesto escapeorat leastmaskhard realities. AsTamaraexplains ofheroncedark-and long-haired husband,"vordreiJahrenisterstiftengegangen, ein kahler; hasslicher, alterMann mit einem hubschen jungen Huhn von dreiundzwanzig [ahren, Er hat 10 Kilo abgenommen, in weniger als sechs Wochen, und hat mein'n Deostift benutzt. Da wufste ich Bescheid."

Thebasisforthissceneisthe printedstory"DieSchickse"inDorrie'sbook Bin ich schon], where the setting is not Spain but the United States. In print, Tamara is not German, but in fact an American-Jewish woman reluctant to spell out her having seen right through the dynamic between the young German Unna and her American boyfriend Dave, the son of German-Jewish Holocaust survivors living onLongIsland. Thenearlyidenticalkeypassagesinthe filmleavelittle doubt that the story served as the basis for the exchange we have been examining. In the discussion of Unna's attraction to Dave, we read, "Er hat so schone Haare, sagte Unna, so schrecklich schone Haare. / Sie werden ihm ausfallen, sagte Tamara trocken" (127). Recounting her own experience, Tamara explains:

Vor funf Jahren ist er stiftengegangen, sagte Tamara, ein kahler, hasslicher alter

Mann mit einem hubschen jungen Huhn von dreiundzwanzig Jahren. Siegrunz

te verachtlich, und die Rosen auf ihrem Bademantel bebten, als fuhre ein Sturm

durch sie hindurch.

Er nahm 20 Kilo ab, in weniger als sechs Wochen, er farbte sich den Schnurr

bart schwarz und kaufte sich ein Deodorant. Da wufste ich Bescheid (128-29).

Despite the striking correspondence between the two sets of dialogue, the more crucial observation is that Tamara's character has been radically transformed from the printed to the film version. Tamara's noisy, obese and harddrinking physicality punctuate her statements in the text, but all this has disappeared in the film. The celluloid Tamara is a thin, tall, blond German woman exhibiting no tell-tale signs of Jewish identity and no traces of bodily excess. In facing the wreckage of her marriage, she is downtrodden, but not unattractive, grotesque or disgusting. With dialogue stemming at such length from "Die Schickse," and with such a careful recrafting of the role of Tamara, the screenwriting team had to have been aware of the elements they were purging.Oneofthese wasthelinkageof theyoungUnna'ssearchfor male lovers with an unwitting desire to escape from the legacy of the Holocaust. The decision to drop these elements might well have been agonizing. Yet it is hard to escape the impression that leaving them in would have decreased the film's appeal among German spectators used to, on the one hand, Hollywood genre films and, on the other hand, German comedies offering uplifting, conventional story lines.

On the face of it, Dorrie's transformation of her literary text into film would seem to support Sabine Hake's insight that when contemporary German culture confronts thorny issues, literature serves this purpose far more readily than cinema does (182).4 Perhapsevenmoredamning, the filmwouldseemtoconfirmEric Rentschler's argument that in the post-Wallera, "difficult films that explore the darkersidesofGermanrealityrarelyareproduced"and hisview thatDorrieinparticular is content to "engross and accommodate" German audiences (267, 264). Dorrie's producer Eichinger, whose commercial successislegendary in recent German film, unapologetically voiceshis conviction that all films should recoup their

expenses(InterviewwithNaumann3; Elsaesser4).Headmitsthat subsidiesare typicallynecessarytogetfilmsinto productioninGerman)', but herejectsthenotionthat theyshouldultimatelybeallowedtosubstituteforaudience(Interview with Naumann 3). 5 Accordingly; Eichinger calls into question distinctions between "mainstream"and "counter"or"art"cinema,and assertsinsteadthe primacyofachievingashighaqualityaspossiblewithin theconstraintsofafilm'spotentialmarket (Eichinger,Interviewwith Jasper, 1,5;Dorrieund Eichinger16).6As Rentschlerand Hake respectively demonstrate, the emergence of this position is part of a largertransformation in how filmsare subsidized in German)', with one consequence being that questions of commercial potential typically outweigh most other considerations (Rentschler 267; Hake 180-82).7 For these reasons, a viewthat Dorrie'sfilmcanbepositionedwithin whatRentschlercallsa"post-Wall cinema of consensus" would have at least some justification (264).

II

Tobesatisfiedwiththeconclusionthat Dorrie'sfilmonly seeksaccommodationwouldblindusto muchofthecomplexityofDorrie'sworkand theinfluence she wields in the filmmaking process. One recent study devoted to diagnosing problemareasofEuropeanfilmmakingarguedthat producersandespecially directorstoooften lackedtheinterestand/orthetrainingthat wouldenablethemtobe involved and knowledgeable about the funding intricacies at each stage of their projects (Finney4-5).8The merits of the study's recommendation that a key to improvingthe overall qualityofEuropeanfilmliesin identifyingand supporting producerswithkeenfinancial anddevelopmentsavvycanbedebated,sinceitisdirectedsomewhat polemicallyagainstauteuristtraditions(6,10-11).Importantis that Eichinger isheldup asthe exemplaryproducerforthe futureofEuropeanfilm: alltoorareareproducerslikehimwho combinekeenfinancial savvyandconsiderableresourceswithatrackrecordofknowingwhen andhowtogetinvolvedinthe creativeprocess (10-11). Iinterpretthe levelofsupportDorriegarneredfromthe formidable Eichinger as an expression of the unique experience and ability she bringstofilmmaking. Dorrie'sfacilityforcommunicatingwith Eichingerinhisidiomof "sexiness" might,inotherwords,becomprehendedaspartofalargerstrategythat addressesEichinger'sconcernsat thesametimeasitadvancescertainof Dorrie's artistic goals.

Itisotherwisehardtoimaginethat aproducerofEichinger'sstaturewould takesuch risk, letalonecommit adisproportionatelylargebudget,ifhisdirector lacked experience and the ideas to carry them out with an artistic vision. We shouldrecallthat moststudioshadgravedoubtswhenDorriepitchedthe Bin ich schon? projectduetoitslackofaconventionalplotstructure (Dorrie,Interview with Jasper, 1; see also Lenz 43). Moreover, enlisting so many prominent actors andactresses causedthe budgettoswelltoover10millionmarks,acomparatively highfigure forafilmtargetedprimarilyforaGermanaudience, forwhichthe averagebudgetmoretypicallyrunsat 2-3 million marks(Ilott 102). According toAngusFinney; abudgetof10millionmarksisaconsiderablepartofthetotalbudgetof Eichinger's productionfirmNeue Constantin (70).9 Atthe sametime,Dorrie'scasting of experienced professionals might be regarded both as an attempt to elevate thelevelofperformanceinthefilmandasastrategyto reachGermanaudiences throughhighqualityperformances. As Elsaesserremindsus,insistingon professionalstandardsandhighproductionvalues "isnot necessarilythesameasbeing 'commercial" for many directors in the 1990s (11). Moreover, the relative complexityof Bin ich schon?might have led Dorrie to desire or at least benefit from workingwith accomplishedactorsand actressesinorderto increasetheproject's feasibility. In one press release, Dorrie said she hadroughly two days to work with eachactor beforethenextwould arrive, soprofessionalismwasparamount (Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica, left column). Such a schedule alsomakesclearthat basingtheproductionintheUnitedStatesand Germany; as following the book closely would have required, would have driven costs still higher, sinceintercontinentaltraveland logisticswouldhaveprovenmuchmore complicated to arrange. Withsomanyactorsinhighdemand,Spainbecame alocationthat wasbothfinanciallyandlogisticallyattractive,asactorscouldshuttlein and out with relative ease. It is possible to speculate about the kind of film that might have been made had Dorrie had no financial and logistical constraints. However, we shouldnot rush to the conclusion that Dorrie'swillingness to accept commercialpressuresmeansthat shecompromisedontheconceptualthorough

ness or the creative engagement in her film.

Crucially; thedecisiontoshootinSpaintestifiestomorethanDorrie'sability to tackleproduction-related risks. Whateverits shortcomings, Dorrie'stransformation ofthe book'sprimaryeast-westaxisinto the film'snorth-south axismade the mostofherSpanishlocationintellectually: AsIwillargueinthe remainderof thisessay; both theliteraryandfilmversions ofBin ich schon?aredevotedto promotingdifferentbut non-trivialinsightsintoquestionsofpersonalandnational identity:In fact,Dorriehasoftenexpressedherinterestinthesequestions, particularlywith regardtothe reasonsforthewaytoday'sGermansliveandact.AsMargaretMcCarthypointsout inherdiscussion ofDorrie's1994filmKeiner liebt mich, partofwhatwentintothat film'scharacterconstellationofOrfeodeAltamar (PierreSansoussi-Bliss)andFannyFink(MariaSchrader) stemmedfromexperiences DorriehadinSouth Africa, offeringhernewandcritical perspectives ontoday's Germans and their relationships to minorities in Germany (180). Importantly; Dorrie once answered the question from Stern magazine, "Was ist an Ihnen typischdeutsch?"with, "MeineSehnsucht,undeutschzu sein" (268).Althoughit is possible to imagine many differentways of expressing such a yearning, physicallyormentallyleaving the countrywouldseemto bea powerfulifnot novelway ofrepresentingorrealizingthequestforbeing"un-Cerman."Afterall, aspectsof both the USandSpaintodayoccupyprivileged places inthe Germanimaginary and in tourist itineraries, and have long served as tropes for issues of identity in GermanandAustrian film andliterature. The respective settingsofthefilmandthe book, whichIwill takeupin partsIIIandN before returningto the filminpartV, offercomplementary diagnoses ofidentityconstructed throughthe"detour"of"other" geographies. I will beginwith the openingsequences ofthe film, which seemto transport the viewer far away from anything that might be found in Germany.

III

Atfirstglance, thevisualandsonicexoticnessofsouthernSpainintheopening sequenceswouldappeartoindicateafilmdesigned toofferunabashedescapism. As the overhead perspective passes quickly over carefully selected segments of clearly un-Germanlandscape, ourfirstsensationisoneofmovementwithout a clearlydiscernibleframeofreference. Thetight,aestheticizedcroppingofthelandscapebetraysasensethat potentiallyimportantvisualmaterial liesjustoutside the frame, while the directional senseof this long, continuous take transmits a one-way sense of movement into the unknown. As the chimes of the opening soundmontageindicate, viewersareperhapsholdingtheirbreathinameditative state,lookingtoseehowfartheycangoandwhat theywill find. As if emerging from a tunnel, the film then slowly transports them into more familiar spaces with increasinglyrecognizablepointsoforientation.Theorthographyofthetitle and the flamenco musicaltheme that threads its way through the film (particularlytherefrainoftheSpanishsong"green,howIloveyou green")signalsthat this is Spain. As the camera descends over a highway and we enter the confines of a road movie (Hake 174; Lenz 43; Ravaschino 1), the sound montage cuts to the voice-over narrationofkeyphrases fromJanosch'schildren's story "0h,wieschon ist Panama," which are the first German words we hear in this film. The subsequent shift from extradiegetic to intradiegetic source of sound, that is, from voice-overtothecassetterecorderinsidethe car, ultimatelysituatesuswith atypicalGermantourist family; completewithsquabblingchildrenandacarpackedfull oftoysand luggage. Intheopeningfewminutes,thefilmhasmovedusfromthe abstractandexotictothe ubiquitouslyandfamiliarlyGerman.Thisisa paradigmatic and often-repeated movement within the film.

Iwant todistinguishfourfeaturesinthisinitialsequencethatunderscorethe film'smodeofoperationandat the sametimecomplicate the blatant escapism it mightseemtorepresent. Allfour involve thetranspositionofGermanquestions into broadlySpanishand/or Hispanic representation, and reveal an inscriptionof the"outside"with aninternalGermanreferentialityOurfirstcuetothisoperation occursinthetitlecredit, inwhichGermanwordsareframedbySpanishorthography:zBinichschon7Thesecondcue occurswith theGermannarrationofthe [anoschbook"Oh,wieschonist Panama."Byvirtueofbeingachildren's story; this crucial intertext associates things "German" with childhood and growingup German.Thisisparticularlytrue forthissequenceinthe filmsincethewrittensource text, "DieHandtasche"of Fur immer undewig, usesthe English book"Mikeand the Bear." The Janoschstory,which thematizesadeepfascinationforthe faraway and exotic while simultaneously affirming the home (its characters, while believing that they aretravelingto exotic Panama, inrealityneverleavetheirhome area), likewiseregistersthe(imaginary) polesbetweenwhichthecharactersmoveinthe film.10Asanextradiegetic voice-over, itintroducesthe Germanlanguageanda kind of interiority into the Spanish surroundings. The German view of warm, Spanish-speakingclimes(andthe South moregenerally) which the Janoschstory fostersshouldnot be overlooked.WhereasPanamaisemphatically"schon"inthe children'sstory (Ianosch45),bothLucy(themotherdrivingthe Volvostation wagon) and the caricatureof the German salesmandrivingthe Volkswagen that eventuallypicksLindaup,ardentlycomment onhow "schon"the Spanishlandscapeis.Panamaand Spainareundifferentiatedin this view, obscuringthe very realculturaldifferences--<lifferences informednot leastbya past colonial relationship-betweenthe two countries.With thecorrespondenceofPanamaandSpain occurringonlyin the broadestterms, this deploymentofthe children'sbookseems topointtothekindofmisprisionthat caninheretotheGerman(northern)viewof

the exotic (south).

We see the third feature when the storyline transfers to actress Franka Potente'scharacter, Linda. Hernamecarries the title'squeryinto the bodyofthe film, promptingusagainandagaintoaskwhatliesbehindthequesttoseekbeauty in oneselfand others, and at what cost it can be satisfied. This becomes more apparentwhen consideringthe titlechosenforthefilm's releaseinArgetina: "~Soy Linda?" (Ravaschino 1). In South-American Spanish, this question means '~ I beautiful?"at the sametimeasit means, '~I Linda?" (it is perhaps another instanceofmisprisionthat thedoublemeaningof "~Soy Linda?" is not present in IberianSpanish).'!Asaquerythat capturestheuncertain,self-questioningstance of the FrankaPotentecharacter, it resonateswith the stark loneliness and isolation we perceiveatourfirstviewof her, aswellasthedefininggestureofhertossinga purseout ofamovingcarwithallofficialmarkersofheridentityandacopyof"Oh, wieschonistPanama" inside.AsLindaexplainsto Klausattheendofthefilm, 'Ach,ichhabe [dieTasche] einfachausdemFenstergeschmissen. Ichdachte,ich ware eine andere Person, wenn mir nichts mehr gehort." Between these two points,Lindaadvancesthrough the filmasanembodiedLeitmoti~ trying on different identitiesthroughfictionalpersonaeinordertoattain atypeofhappinessthat, notably; seemsinconceivableforheroutsideofaheterosexualrelationship. Thus wheneverthe filmreturns toLindaitreturns to itsinterrogativetitle,andin followingher,thefilmoffersamovementthat providesfortheeventualrecoveryof herbag,heracceptanceofheroriginsafterthedetourthrough theexoticandthe south,andtheconversionofthequestionintoanaffirmativestatement, "'ichbin schonl'"(Oehmann 1).Accordingly; sheand Klausendupreadinghercopyof"Oh, wieschonistPanama" at preciselythesamespotwhereherbaglanded.Thus the filmneatlycomesfullcircleinawaythat recalls,amongotherthings,thestructure ofSchnitzler'sReigen and the coremovementofthe Janoschtext, inwhich the adventuresofthelittletigerandthelittlebearleadthem toviewtheirhomelandina newway,indeedasthelandoftheirdreams(40-48). Inhindsight,itisalsonearly propheticwhen the salesmanwho offers Linda a ride observes, "Sind Sie Deutsche?DasseheichanIhrenSchuhen, ichwarnamlichmalSchuhvertreter," pointingtotheelementsofidentitythat lingerandbetraydespiteattempts toeraseor flee them. (This linkageofshoesandidentityexplainstheshotof Linda'sshoes that appearswhenshestandsoutsideBodo'sroom,thehusbandandfatherofthe familyweencounterintheopeningshotofthe film. Wecanconsequentlycomprehendthat oneofthereasonswhyLinda'saffairwith Bodowillfail toequipher with anewidentityandhappinessforverylongis becausehersubterfugecan neversucceedinmaskingcoreelementsofher existence: hersun-tannedbodyrevealsthat shehasnotbeeninahospitalwithaterminalillness,asshehasclaimed. Thisisarguablythe significanceofthelittleangelthat sitsoppositeLindainthe roomonceBodohasrealizedthat thestoryshehasfedhim failstocorrespondwith who sheis.CodedastheyoungLinda througha voice-overtoaflashback segment -throughoutthefilmsuchsegmentsaregrainysuper-8footage-the angel'sappearancerepresentsthenotionthat Linda'schildhoodisalwayswith herandcannot be escaped).

A final fourth element from the opening sequence becomes overlaid with a meaninglaterinthefilmthat againconfirmsthenotionthat identitycannotsimplybeescaped. Whiletryingto finda placewherehismobilephone signalwillget picked up,Klaus stumblesonLinda'spurseandalsoanoldSpaniard. Intheirconversation,the Spaniarddisplaysthe ashesofhisrecently deceased wife,aGermanlivinginSpainforwhom "dasCrunundder Regen"werelacking"wieein Mensch." The two men beginto recite, in Spanishand German,the openingfrom the Federico Garcia-Lorca poem, "Somnambulistic Romance": "green, how I love yougreen," whichthen givesway totheflamenco songwefirstheardintheopeningsequence. Inthisway,rain,thecolorgreenandthesongbecomeinscribedwith Germanidentityandaconnectionwith death,evenastheyareinvokedina carefullyselected southernSpanishsettingthat infactdoesnotadequatelyrepresent thediversityofSpain'scountryside. Indeed, northernSpaincandiffergreatlyfrom the area around Seville where Bin ich schon? was filmed, and in many places is exceedingly green, denselyforested, and rainy. The selection of a not necessarily typicallySpanishlandscapecanbeviewed, asitwere,asaconsciouswithholding ofcertaininformationfromthe visibleframe, similartotheopeningsequence,and assuchhighlights theissueofdefining"other"space. Atthe sametime,the subsequent actionoftheSpaniardwho takeshiswife'sashesto Germanyforburialina downpourunderanoaktreetestifiestothenotionthat certainaspectsofidentity, inthis case,nationalorigin,areretaineddespiteattempts toseparatefromthem. That Dorriebegins thefilm'ssustainedmeditationondeathat thesametimeas theline"green,howIloveyou green"isre-inscribedwith Germanmeaningmakes thepointthat anoutrightdenialofone'soriginsisjustasimpossibleaspreventing death by denying one's mortality? A corollary to Dorrie's comment that what madehertypicallyGermanwasheryearningto beun-German (Interviewwith Stern 268)mightthusreadthat nomatterhowpassionateor sincerethatyearning maybe,it cannot negateGermanness. Whatevertransformationsinlifearepossible-and Dorrieseemsto believe someare (Interviewwith Weingarten and Hobel 204)----eanonlytakeplacewith respecttothetrajectoryonwhichonehasthusfar traveled and by accepting where that trajectory must ultimately lead. In this sense, the filmsetsupaparticularvisionofSpainasan"otherspace"thatallows Germansto explorewaysinwhichtheir lives mightbechanged. AsDorrieputsit, "WirDeutschen haben seitJahrhunderten dieSehnsucht,jemandanderszu werden,unddasineinemsudlichen, warmen Land, inItalienoderSpanien. Wennwir jemandanderswerdenwollen,fahrenwirersteinmalinden Suden" (Interview with WeingartenandHobeI204). Yetalreadyfromtheopeningminutesofthefilm

itisclearthat eveninthebestcasehercharacters willdiscovernotsomuch different waysofbeingasdifferentwaysof being German.

IV

Dorrie'sfilmparticipatesinandcontributesto alongtraditionofnorth-south identity discourses ofthe kindat work,forinstance,in Goethe'sItalienische Reise or Thomas Mann's TOnia Kroger.13Yet, theliteraryworksonwhichthefilmisbased paradoxically do not cast German identity in terms of a north-south divide. Instead,aneast-westaxisispredominantinthe booksFur immer undewig and Bin ich schon? Working with distinct articulations of difference that contrast with the film, thebooksutilizeoutsidersinWestGermany (EastGermans,foreignersand "guestworkers"fromamyriadofcountries), aswellascharactersinandfromthe UnitedStates,in orderto shedlighton evasions and silences characteristic ofsome Germans'identities. Aswe have seen, oneofthe morestriking figures in Bin ich schon? is the character Unna, who, in the stories "Die Schickse" and "Montagspumpernickel,"movespreciselyeast-west fromGermanytoCaliforniaand back, with New Yorkasanintermediatepoint."DieSchickse"startsasapassionatelove affairbetweenmelancholyoutsidersin cheery; sunny California. Itisthe lovers' senseofestrangementthat promptsthemtoheadbackeast:"InNew Yorksinddie Menschen depressiv, aggressiv und gemein, seufzte Dave voller Heimweh. / Da mochteichhin,sagteUnna" (104). TotheextenttowhichcertainstrainsofGerman culture can also be described as "depressiv aggressiv and gemein.I'" Unna would perceive NewYorkascloser tohomeemotionallyaswellasgeographically. Thus,Americansocialcharacteristicsandbehaviors functionasastand-inforGermanones.Onanindividual level,thismeansthat theAmericanDavearticulates certain of Unna's emotions in her stead.

The sense that Unna is returning to Germany is heightened when the trip to New York unexpectedly reveals dimensions of her relationship and her national identity that Unna had failed to consider fully. During their dinner at Dave's parents' house, Dave argues with his father about his departure from California and his educational future:

Und7fragteHerrGoldman...welchesFachdarf's denndiesmalsein?Linguistik, sagte Dave. Sein Vater sah ihn lange und stumm an, dann langte er tiber den Tisch nach dem Salz. Unna sah die KZ-Nummer auf seinem Unterarm. Voller Entsetzen fielihrein,dasssiesichalsSchulmadchenTelefonnummernvon moglichenLiebhabernmit Kuli an diegleicheStellegeschriebenhatte, weit genugunter dem Armel, dass niemand sie sehen konnte. (105-06)

As for instance in Uwe Johnson'sjahrestage, New York serves as a place of belated encounter between a German and Holocaust survivors. In an instant, Unna is forced to reckon with implications of the German past that, so it seems, she had previously been incapable of relating to her own life and her own actions. Yet unlikejahrestage, where the encounter can be read as precipitating a severe crisis of masculinity due to the author's inability to dissociate himselffrom theperpetratorsociety(Hell 17-19),whatevercrisesUnnaexperiences do not become fully manifest and as such are in line with Dorrie's stated aesthetic of ambivalence. Indeed, without explaining her horror, the sight of the tattooed forearm triggers a memory that strongly associates her search for a lover with desires she perceives at some level to be inappropriate to express or display openly in post-Holocaust German society. The symbolism of Unna's girlish inscription of her own arm is complex and her identification with the victims of genocide could well be superficial or conflicted. Nevertheless, her willingness to submit to Dave's ambivalent, alternating acceptance and punishment of her in their relationship makes it plausible that part of what she desires entails her assuming a position of relative powerlessness, that is to say, an avoidance of a situation in which she would have power over another.P

Though traditional gender roles might partially account for such a proclivity; there are indications that Unna's peculiar tendency to passivity may also be a symptom of growing up in postwar Germany. As the story develops, evidence mounts that Dave and Unna's attachment to each other serves as a vehicle for both to evade their respective contexts, uniting the two in a fraught and negatively determined relation. In Dorrie's text, the character of Tamara is the only one who fully comprehends and who articulates the dynamic at work for the reader. Tamara'sdiagnosisofthe situationis thatUnnaisa Schickse, which isexplained as a Yiddish term for a Christian woman who helps Jews escape their heritage. This insight positions the readerto seethe overdeterminedmirror natureofDave'sand Unna's affinity for each other. Dave obliquely reveals this when Unna subsequently asks Dave to explain what a Schickse is:

"Dave, was ist eine Schickse?"

"Hor auf mit dem Scheifs, ... meine Eltern haben nichts gegen dich ... "

"Aberich weiss nicht, was es genau bedeutet," sagte Unna....

Dave betrachtete sie mifstrauisch. "Auf Jiddisch heisst es nichts weiter als

nichtjudisches Madchen," sagte er schliesslich kuhl.

"Ich habe vor dir keinen einzigen [uden gekannt," sagte Unna.

"Sie sind in Deutschland wohl ziemlich schwer zu finden," lachte Dave. "Und?

Kommst du dir jetzt schon exotisch vor? Eine Deutsche mit einem judischen

Freund'? Hast du es schon nach Hause geschrieben?" (118-19).

Perhaps not realizing that the sharing of words between German and Yiddish does not provide Germans with ready comprehension of the cultural rootedness of particular Yiddish expressions, Dave has difficulty recognizing that Unna's question is in fact not rhetorical (Unna later has to explain that she understands the word to mean, "ein leichtes Madchen, Nutte, zu stark geschminkt," 118). Yet, Dave's full familiarity with the Schickse dynamic is betrayed through his neat inversion that casts him as a male antidote to Unna's German heritage. In making his accusation, he is in essence speaking for both parties. Just as he offers Unna an affiliation outside the German norm, she likewise enables him to perceive himself as exotic (the son of Holocaust survivors with a German girlfriend), and his gesture of taking Unna to his parents' house is akin to her sending the news about their relationship home to Germany.ThusDave'simplicitaccusation thatUnna'slovefor himmighton one level figure as a philosemitic evasion of her German identity emerges as a parallel dynamic to that of the Jewish Schickse.

Crucially; the short exchange likewise indicates that he has spoken words whose significance and gravity Unna cannot, or will not, understand (ambivalenceisagainatwork), evenafterTamarahasspelled outwhatishappeningfora second time using the example of her husband running off with the Schickse of his youth (130-31). Indeed, as Tamara's analysis makes clear to the reader, that dynamic is so deeply imbedded in the structure of identity and desire that individual personality seems to matter little: for all intents and purposes, the 23-year-old womanheruns off withinmiddleageisthe same womanwhoresidesinhismemory.Tamara's husbandattacheshimselftoatype of womanwhoseprofileisdetermined not only by cultural coordinates but also by the point in life when the dynamic first surfaced. This is what permits Tamara's husband not only to disavow his Jewish heritage, but also to "return" to his youth when, so far as we know, the dynamic first surfaced, obscuring his sense of getting older and his mortality through a miraculous and yet precarious mechanism.

v

Despite the fact that dialogue from "Die Schickse"was cleansed of its specific German-Jewish subtexts, it nevertheless points out how powerfully "die grofsen

Cefuhle Liebe und verganglichkeit" (the film's "center" according to Dorrie, quoted fromLenz43)canbeintertwined. Following the dialogueanalyzedabove, Tamarareveals thatsomethingasseeminglyinnocuousaseyedropscanupsetrelationships when a fear of change and dying drives the attraction. A similarobject lessoncanbeseenintherevelationofVera'smotherthat Vera'sfatherhadanaffair with ayoungerwoman asan escapefrom his senseofaging("alterwerden ist beschissen, dasis'es").Andcrucially; thefilmleadsusto believethatlovehasasimilarly powerful hold on Vera, where, as we noted above, it is cast in terms of north-southoppositions.WeseethisintheMunichairport,when Vera's apparent dreamingof Felipeand Spaincoincideswithherstandingon thewrong sideofthe escalator. Compoundingoursensethatsheseemstoinhabitaspaceradically "elsewhere,"theharriedbusinessmanwho shovesheroutofthewayseesfittoremind her, "rechtsstehen,linksgehen,wirsindinDeutschland,jungeFrau!"Whatever the ultimate consequences of seekingto be somewhere else, the representation of herescapemechanismturns onthenotion thatthepeopleofSpainintheirwarm climate naturally have no need (unlikeGermans) for organization, rules, and uptight behaviordesigned to maximizeefficiency; mobilityand time-saving. Wecan likewise detect innumerable small clues in Vera's scenes such as hair color (the women are both blond, their men black-haired) and temperament (Felipe's emotionsarealmoststereotypicallyvolatileandunpredictable) that amplifythesymptomatic oppositionalityofthe Teutonicand Mediterraneanculturesin this northsouth dynamic.

Whiletheir precise meaningvarieswiththe individualcharacters, other variants of this northern invention of the south can be productivelyuncoveredin the film, evenandoftenpreciselyincommentsthatseemnottowarrantourscrutiny. Anutterance suchasKlaus's "OhMann, ganzSpanienisteineinzigesFunkloch" arisesnot onlyfromtheobviousfrustration thathisformergirlfriendFranziskaliterallyand figuratively remainsout ofhisreachbymobilephone,but alsofroma sensibilitythatforhimSpainseemstobealandwhereitisnot possibletomaintain the mechanizedand hyper-rationalized senseoftimeand modern sociabilitythat themobilephoneepitomizesintheGermanyofthe film.16Thus themobilephone figures as the modern-day update to the pocket watch that for Goethe distinguished an increasingly technical and alienated modern Germany from an Italy perceivedasstillbeingconnectedtoanorganic, natural rhythm(Italienische Reise 51-54;257,262, 831; Dainotto). But Klaus isultimatelyno moreableto losehimselfin the supposedlyimmediate, passionate,and spontaneous livingof southern Spainthan Goethewasinsouthern Italy (IR, 267-78,275, 392-93;Dainotto),even after he jettisons his mobile phone into the ocean and spends the night on the streetwithyoung,raucousSevillians. Hisactionaffectshimdeeplyandrepresents acrucialturning point,insofarashisexplorationsinSpainincreasinglyleadhimto try unfamiliarmodesofcommunication that promisemoredirect,embodiedexchangesthan those typicallypossible on a mobilephone (the signlanguagehe tries out afterfindingLinda'spurse,andtheconfrontation withtheSpanishwidower who refuses to tolerate Germans' interminable not knowing what to say in moments of loss). Assuch,embodiedcommunication pavesthe way forthe beginningofameaningfulrelationshipwith Linda,who,fittingly; dislikes thefactthat havingamobilephonemakesonereachablebut doesnot guaranteethatanyonewillcall.Yetwhateverprogressandpersonalgainsthetwo haverealizedin Spain, they are always propelled back to Germans and the German imaginary.

In particular, their achievementsstand in tension with the suspicious tidiness ofthefilm'sfinalsequence,inwhichLindarecovers herbagandreadsfrom"Oh, wieschonist Panama"whileKlausblowssoapbubbles. Onone level,returningto the site where she abandons her bag can be understood as presenting Linda's newlystabilizedidentity.Partlytheresultofherrelationshipwith Klaus (theyfind herbagquiteliterallybyrolling aroundon top ofeachother),17the suspensionof Linda'sself-questioninginvolvesacceptingher(German) originsasthebasisfor who shecan become. Herreadingfrom"Oh,wieschonistPanama," achildren's storyhailingfromtheGermanculturalimaginary; reinforcesthis sense. Indeed, wecannow seejusthow closelytheplotofthechildren'sstorymirrorshers.Like Janosch'slittletigerandlittle bear, whose journeyto the"Land [ihrer] Traume"recaststheirvisionoftheirformerhome (45), Linda's adventuresinSpainallowher to re-inhabitherprevious lifeand transform it into somethingseeminglybigger and morewonderful.Acertainsenseofthis personalprogress can beseenin that the extradiegetic, impersonalvoice-overoftheselinesfromthe beginningofthe filmnow modulatesintoLinda's voice, sothat the Panamastorybecomesoverlaid withher"mark"orsignature,makingit"herstory"attheoutset ofherrelationship withKlaus (seevanden Abbeele,130).JustasshesaysthatPanamais"schon,"so we could expect that she can also sa~ "I am beautiful'," thereby answering the probingquestionofthe film'stitleaffirmatively.

Butthereareotherdeliberatenotionsofcircularityinthereturn tothissitethat should not be overlooked. One kind of circularity flows from the preceding sequencethat depictsthe burialofthe deceased Germanwoman ina field undera Germantreein the rain.Followingthe burialofthe urn, the Spanishwidowerbeginstodance.Thankstothecross-cuttingof earlierflashbacks, wecanseethat he dancesaccordingtothechoreographyof memory; markinghisdeparturefromhis partnerwiththeimagesandmovementsfromtheirwedding.The notionsofreturn in this scene (his wife returned to Cermany; his remembrance of their betrothal)areexpressedinthe figures ofthedance,inwhichthedancersbringtheir armstogether,spinandtraceoutlargercircles, alternatelyapproachingandbackingaway fromeachother in a representationof someidealmarital relation.Across the following cut to the field in Spain, continuity is established musically; directionallyandcompositionally. Movingtothesamemusic, KlausandLindamark out a simplerbut unmistakable circle that carries forth the widower's danceand becauseofdirectionalsimilaritymarksthem asheirsto thelife-longbondsofthe Spanish-Germancouple.l''Thus the film portrays a cycle of renewal appropriate to theZennotionof"nobeginning, noend,"placingdeathandlifeonacontinuum better described with a circle than a line. Compositional elements also appear in bothfields thatmakeplaintheoppositionsthatbynowhavebecomefamiliar: the Germanoakiscounteredbythe Spanishbull,rain givesway to sun,dampgreen contrasts with axericbrown. Both polesof the oppositionarepresentedin reciprocal relation to each other, locating "origin" and llway station" in a way that llcorrects"theone-directional, escapistsenseofmovement fromthestart ofthe film. Thisresonateswith"Oh,wieschonistPanama,"atext presentingGermanidentity intermsofalongingforthe far-awaythatisrealizedinthesecurityofanenvironment closeto home.

Butforallthe"work"thefilmdoesintheseregisters, thereturn to"Oh,wie schonistPanama"isonanother levelareturn withoutadifference, thatis,atidy resolutionand a tying up oflooseends. Recalling the constructed circularityof works suchas Schnitzler's Reigen, thefirstspokenlinesofthefilmarerepeated. In closingthe filmwith this story and the effervescent soapbubblesthat escapethe frameandconcludenotonlythesequencebuttheentire film, thefilmwouldseem to suggestthat "happyendings"dependon havingrecourse to structuresand narrativesthat produceanimaginaryharmony.It isotherwisedifficultto reconcile the film'spleadingforthe acceptanceof pain,death, fearand fluxas the stuff oflife withanendingthatoffersa fulfilled loveplot,achildren'sstory;pleasingflamenco musicand the blowingofsoapbubbles. Thisisespeciallyimportantinlightofour havingsaidthat forthe Panamastory toalignwith Spain, acertainmisprisionis necessaryonthepartofthenorthernbeholder:that theword"Panama"isrepeated ten timesasthe FrankaPotentecharactersitsundertheemblematicSpanishbull shouldalertusto justhow engagedtheimaginaryishere(thelastutterancecoincideswith the pan to the skyand the rollofthe finalcredits,pointingto the film's own relationshipto the Germanimaginary).'? Moreover, ifit iscorrectto regard linda'svoicingthePanamastoryashermakingit "her/theirstory,"thenwehave not some "authentic" narrative wrung from personalexperience, but instead a return to a fictionaltext of projectedchildhoodinnocenceimported from Germany atextwhosenarrativearcvalorizes the pursuitofimaginedbeautyand the detour oftravelasameansbywhich to makethehomemoreattractiveandinhabitable (45--48).20 ItisonemoreindicationthatSpainfunctionsasawaystationon journeysthatleadboth Klaus andLindabacktoGermans(themselvesandeachother) and Germanimaginingsofthe south, ifnot immediatelybackto Germany.

On this level, the concludingsequenceconforms to and underscores the paradigmatic tendency in this film to turn the escapist movements of its characters into movement backtoward Germany.Here,asintheopeningsequences, thefilm investigates the sense of freedom that results from erecting a chain of substitutions (southernSpainforCermany;sun forcloudsand rain,desertforgreenforest andsoon)thatwould seeminglyplaceone"outside"ofprevailingsocietalandpersonal constraints and promise to produce personal experience. As the film progresses, however,it "reelsin"thesesubstitutions anditscharactersinvariousways, revealing that the outside is prone to be misunderstood and oftentimes is meaningfulonlyinrelationtowhatitopposes.That is,outsidesarerevealedtobeinsides andtherelationshipsofnorthern andsouthernextremesareconstructed accordingtotheneedsofnorthern agency. Inlightofthis,thefilmcanbeinterpretedas takingthe desire forescapeseriously, but drivinghomethe pointthat thenature of thequestissuchthat themessinessoflife(alienation, loss,andconfusion) cannot bereversed byimmersionin supposedlyimmediatemodesofliving(see Dainotto). Travelcanofferimportantexperiencesandeventhe exerciseoffantasy; but thereis atendencyforpersonalexperiencesto beaccessibleonlythrough themediationof culturallysharedconcepts,imagesandnarratives, orinthewordsof Georgesvan denAbbeele, throughdisplacementintodiscourse (xxi;seealsoDainotto).Linda's return tothePanamastorycanbeseenasdescribingthislossofexperienceto representation,andbecausethat momentalsohasstrongstructuralsignificanceforthe filmasawhole,thatdynamicalsoappliestoit.Thatisto say;ifthefilmcanberegardedasakindoftravelnarrative,thenanoutcomethat passeditselfoffastruly authentic experience, as something other than fiction, would be in bad faith. Whilethe filmclearlytradeson the allureofexoticimagesand the senseof (artificial) closure and effervescent jubilance with which it ends, potentially enabling viewerstoleavethecinemahappierthanwhen theyarrived,italsoseemstohope

that viewerswillbetterunderstandwhy theirconditionseemstohavechanged.

Thus the film can be seen as mobilizing cultural insights precisely at those points where it offersapparent escapismand mainstream conformity. This does not meanthat thecostsoffunctioningasahighlycommercialproductshouldnot beassessed. Ihaveattemptedtoconsidersomeofthesecosts.ThatDorriewasable to useSpainto meet financial andlogisticalgoalsand stillmanageto representsalient features of contemporary German identity is a testament to her skills as a filmmaker. Nevertheless,sheseemstopreferaliterarycontextandaudienceto treat topicssuchasthelegacyoftheHolocaustorthereasonsforeatingdisorders that seemcapableoflesseningthe "sexiness"andoptimismofthecharacterson the bigscreen. Thosewritingsare, moreover, emotionallymoreforceful than her film. The meritsofDorrie'sculturaldivisionoflaborbymediumcanbedebated, andacasecouldbemadeinparticularthat shesometimes sellsthe possibilitiesof filmshort.But the mutual dependenceofliteratureand filminherculturalproduction,togetherwithhersensitivitytomedium-specificaudienceresponse, makeus betterableto understandhertextsandthe insightsthey makeavailable in spiteof the confinesofthe culturalmainstream and the media.Dorrie'sBin ich schon? affordsustheopportunityto resetourcompasses andmoveinalldirectionsaswe explore the German cultural landscape.

Notes

1 See Hacker 216; Lenz 43; Kilb 45-46; Bauschinger 183; Althen 17; Hage 158.

2 Critics have noted this same tendency in the novel/film complex that Dorrie undertook following Binich schoni, namely Was machen wirjetzt? und Erleuchtung garan

tiert. The film offers the happy end of the novel. 3 The printed text explicitly mentions her viewing a fat woman in a polka-dot dress (Bin ich schon? 171).

4 In terms of their quality, Hake generally considers Dorrie's films to be somewhat of an exception, noting Dorrie's ability to "explore productive alliances between various others-women, gays, foreigners-while avoiding all too simplistic solutions to the central question of identityin a world of postmodern simulation" (174). This does not preclude Dorrie reserving certain topics for literary treatment, particularly in any one project such as Bin ich schon?

5 Terry Ilott discusses these issues in some detail for the general European context and cites statistics and evidence to back up the position that Eichinger maintains (3, 33).

6 Some film theorists might contest Eichinger's claims, for his assertion that filmmaking is first and foremost a business that requires a mass audience is a hallmark of mainstream film, as is the insistence on viewer pleasure. Departing from typical mainstream film, Bin ich schon? seems not to deny its fictionality (see Wollen 89-91; also Coury 366-68).

7 As factors, Rentschler cites the transformation of cultural subsidies into primarily economic ones, the heightened influence of television officials on film boards, the consolidation of film funding sources (public and private television and media initiatives such as the Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen), and the growing tendency of film academies to steer students into learning how to work in the industry mainstream. Hake concurs on these points, stressing also the impact of globalized markets (180-82). Elsaesser describes these tendencies under the rubric of Standort/Tatort filmmaking, although he also stresses that commercial is a term with multiple valences for 1990s filmmakers (11-15).

8 David N. Courymakes similarpointsin his analysis, quotingauteurist filmmaker Wim Wenders who admits that having to raise funds and otherwise operate effectively in today's filmmaking environment would be most unwelcome for a director accustomed to the conditions of the New German Cinema (364-65).

9 Finney states that Neue Constantin's total annual development budget was around 2m dollars in the mid-1990s, with development representing approximately 10%-200/0 of the total budget (70).

10 After discovering a banana crate with the suggestive word "Panama" on it, the characters depart on a journeyfor the land capable of producing such wonderful smells as bananas. Onlyable to imagine what and where Panama is, theywander in a large circle close to home, meeting new animals and making discoveries until they return again to their former home. Seeing it from outside, they fail to recognize it as their home and they renovate it, believing they have arrived in the land of their dreams. Beyond this powerful parallel, the story resonates with the film's view of interpersonal relationships in that it suggests that because they have a strong partnership, the little bear and little tiger have "nichts zu furchten" (4, 14, 23, 26, 39).

l1In Iberian Spanish, "zSoy Linda'?" would mean primarily "Am I Linda'?" Because Iberian Spanish expresses "Am I beautiful'?" with other phrases, an association with beautyis neither immediate norcommonplace. Onlyif the context isidentifiablyCentral or South American, for instance through the speaker's pronunciation, would the phrase also refer to beauty in Spain.

12 It was well publicized that Dorrie's husband, Helge Weindler, died while making the film. She dedicated it to him and another member of the film crew who died during production.

13 Dorrie's film is, to be sure, not the only one in the post-Wende era to use northsouth oppositions in order to comment on dimensions of today's German culture. Aside from the caricatures of German tourists in Man spricht Deutsch (1988) and Ballermann 6 (1997), films such as GoTrabi, Go (1991) and Bella Martha (2001) use the south and southerners to throw opposing features of Germanness into relief.

14 Both book and film version present some Germans who behave in this manner. In the film, this notion is represented when Vera returns to Munich and is standing on the wrong side of the escalator. The man who abruptly pushes her out of the way notes, "rechts stehen, links gehen, wir sind in Deutschland, junge Frau!" In the book, "Das Jenseits" ends with aSpiessbiirger couple blocking a woman's parked car so as to teach her that rules apply to her also (Bin ich schbn? 276). The woman observes, "Das gibt es nur in Deutschland. Nur in diesem verdammten Land passt man darauf auf, wie man parkt! ... Wie man parkt, wie mandenkt, lauter kleineAufpasser!" (Bin ich schon? 277).

15 This subtext is carried into the film under the sign of the tortured discipline and masochism exhibited by the salesman Werner. At the beginning of the film, lines that Tamara in the printed story "Die Schickse"uses to demonstrate the thoroughness of how Germans train dogs, among other things (113-14), are taken up by Werner to show his submission to his wife's commands.

16 Witness Bodo and Linda's conversation on the isolation and lack of "down-time" that cell phones promote, or the inauthentic quality of conversations between Klaus and Franziska in which the sound of the sea is blatantly faked.

17 For reasons of space I cannot delve into the gender dynamics at stake in Linda's quest. It would, however, be intriguing to pursue a reading of Linda's journey to a fulfilling heterosexual union in the context of Georges van den Abbeele's argument regarding the propensity of travel literature written by men to operate as what he calls, using Teresa de Lauretis's term, a "technology of gender" (xxv-xxvii). Such a reading would raise the question of whether details associated with Linda's "quest" (for instance her interruption of Klaus's sexual advances with the Panama story) can be read as a critical commentary on the tendency of classical male travel literature to assuage male anxieties with regard to the "unmasterability" of "woman" and to promote the construction of a unique male story, identity, and patrilineage (130).

18 They also recall the joyful dance of [anosch's little tiger and little bear upon returning home, "Tiger, wir sind in Panama! Im Land unserer Traume, oooh-komm her, wir tanzen vor Freude' / Und sie tanzten vor Freude hin und her und ringsherum" (43).

19 Were Linda in fact in Panama, then her affirma tion of identity expressed to locals ("iSoy Linda!") would also be understood as meaning both "I am Linda!" and "I am beautiful!" Only much farther away from Spain do the two meanings converge (see note 11). Additional details such as the fact that key Spaniards in the film are not played by Spaniards tend to strengthen this sense from the audience's perspective. Vera's"Spanish"boyfriendisinfactArgentine,while the"Spanish"widowerisplayed by German actor Dietmar Schonherr. A Spanish actress plays his German wife. In spite of the film foregrounding the northern tendency of misprision, it nevertheless seems to seriously downplay any possible negative consequences that might flow from Ger

man tourists misrecognizing and instrumentalizing their Spanish hosts (it is tempting

to wonder how the literary treatment might offer more critical insights). 20The characters only know Panama by its name and the smell of bananas that wafts from a crate floating by their house, so they do pursue an imagined land (10-11). Confirming that the journey to an imagined paradise is an essential and productive component of the story, the Janosch text informs the reader, "Du meinst, dann hatten sie doch gleich zu Hause bleiben konnen? 1Du meinst, dann hatten sie sich den weiten Weg gespart? 10 nein, denn sie hatten den Fuchs nicht getroffen und die Krahe nicht. Und sie hatten den Hasen und den Igel nicht getroffen und sie hatten nie erfahren, wie gemutlich so ein schones, weiches Sofa aus Plusch ist" (48).

Works Cited

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Altman, Robert, dir. Short Cuts. Perf. Andie MacDowell, Bruce Davison, Jack Lemmon, Lane Cassidy; Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Anne Archer, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Joseph C. Hopkins, Josette Maccario, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey [r., Madeleine Stowe. Avenue Pictures Productions, Fine Line Features, Spelling Entertainment,1993.

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338.

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Schnitzler, Arthur. "Reigen." Ausgewahlte werke 6. Ed. Heinz Ludwig Arnold. Frankfurt/ Main: Fischer, 2000. 139-218. Timm, Peter, dir. Go Irabi, Go. Perf. Wolfgang Stumph, ClaudiaSchmutzler, MarieGruber. Bavaria Film, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Saarlandischer Rundfunk, 1991. Vanden Abbeele, Georges. Travel asMetaphor. From Montaigne toRousseau.Minneapolis: U of Minnesota ~ 1992. Wollen, Peter. "Godard and Counter Cinema: ~nt d'Est" Readings and Writings: Semiotic Counter-Strategies. London: NLB, 1982. 79-91. Wortmann, Sonke, dir. Der bewegte Mann. Perf. Til Schweiger, Katja Riemann, Joachim Kr61. Live Entertainment, Neue Constantin, Olga Film, 1994.

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