The often bemoaned crisis of West German cinema in the 1980s coincided with a dramatic changing of the nation’s film critical guard. The symptomatic impetus that had figured so strongly during the postwar era gave way to the so-called new subjectivism of young critics like Michael Althen, Claudius Seidl, and Andreas Kilb. They looked askance at the formal complexity and political activism of most art house fare and above all found themselves smitten by mainstream American features. Taking their cue from Susan Sontag and her essay “Against Interpretation,” these postmodern existentialists cultivated a highly personalized, indeed rarefied form of poetic empiricism. This study analyzes their sensibility and rhetoric, their emphases and oversights. It focuses on Dominik Graf’s essay film, Was heißt hier Ende? (Then Is It the End?, 2015), a tribute to Althen and the cohort of young critics with whom he worked and interacted.

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