World War II irrevocably shaped culture–and much of cinema–in the 20th century, thanks to its devastating, global impact that changed the way we think about and portray war. This book focuses on European war films made about the war between 1945 and 1985 in countries that were occupied or invaded by the Nazis, such as Poland, France, Italy, the Soviet Union, and Germany itself. Many of these films were banned, censored, or sharply criticized at the time of their release for the radical ways they reframed the war and rejected the mythologizing of war experience as a heroic battle between the forces of good and evil.
The particular films examined, made by arthouse directors like Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Larisa Shepitko, among many more, deviate from mainstream cinematic depictions of the war and instead present viewpoints and experiences of WWII which are often controversial or transgressive. They explore the often-complicated ways that participation in war and genocide shapes national identity and the ways that we think about bodies and sexuality, trauma, violence, power, justice, and personal responsibility–themes that continue to resonate throughout culture and global politics.