“Which, then, are these rubble films (Trümmerfilme)?
…Shandley instead defines “rubble films” as a short-lived but important production “cycle.” It is recognizable in recurrent narrative and visual motifs of “the returning solider/coming home” theme and settings that register the aftermath of massive war: rubble-strewn streets, collapsed hotels, crumbling apartment houses (all usually studio-constructed sets, as Shandley reveals). He goes on to offer perceptive close readings of the chosen films’ “berubbled mise-en-scène,” casting, genre conventions, and character construction. One might quibble over the particular film selections or their parameters; for example, the strict and not fully justified insistence on 1949 as an end point precludes discussion of such a striking film as the 1951 German production Der Verlorene [The Lost One], directed by and starring Peter Lorre. But overall Shandley cogently argues the legitimacy and intellectual value of the “rubble film” category, taking thereby an approach that many instructors of German film and history may find a useful complement to other media research on the period (much of it available only in German.) Especially Shandley’s careful formal analysis of the films’ visual and audio construction adds a welcome and somewhat rare perspective to nationally-delineated cinema histories. He also provides some details about each film’s production and reception, essentially presenting the selected films as a series of historical/cultural case studies which, he argues, record rubble films’ “important role in the formation of a collective attitude toward the past, one that shaped many public debates in German in the decades thereafter (p. 4).”
Extraordinary footage of destroyed Berlin