Guten Tag! Wie geht's?
Production: Bayerischen Rundfunk, the Goethe-Institut
Size: 670 Mb
There may not be a finer series of films worth studying than the ‘Guten Tag’ and ‘Guten Tag wie geht’s’ series, produced by Bayerischen Rundfunk and the Goethe Institut, in 1964-65, and 1966 respectively. Each series consisted of twenty six fifteen-minute films, was witty, charming, and consisted of funny mini-dramas embracing multi-ethnic and multi-cultural values. Entertaining, charming, funny, and occasionally thought-provoking, the films contained embedded socio-cultural messages that clashed with prejudices many North Americans still harbored toward Germans, nearly one generation after the second world war. The Germany of the mid-1960s, in the minds of many U.S. students, was eternally at the wrong end of gun-barrels, bomb-sights, and war-trials.
To many Americans of the era, the German archetype was cold, inhuman, devoid of humor, and heavily prejudiced against people of other races and ethnic origins. In essence the Nazi and the German were one and the same. This presents a marketing problem for any company selling German language instruction films in the U.S. If Germans aren’t seen as being fun and socially progressive, people may not want to study the language, as they probably won’t be traveling to Germany on vacation. Therefore, distribution figures will be so low, that the films won’t make a profit.
Clearly, in both ‘Guten Tag’ series, the Goethe Institut had a social agenda that went far beyond creating a simple series of language instruction films, and, as such, they are worthy of further study. On one hand, they can be cynically perceived as being successors to the successful propaganda films of the Third Reich. On the other, with their reappearing themes of humor and racial and generational co-existence, they perhaps seek to define a new reality, as Germany strove to remake itself internally, and redefine itself externally. This new Germany, it was hoped, would be perceived as a radically different one than the uncredited executive producers knew North American students would most often have otherwise seen, from a cinematic and television perspective.
The films on tonight’s program make the case that a language film is more than just that. It serves as an introduction to the people speaking the language, and provides insight to the culture. I suspect the executive producers knew they had a big job at hand. You’ll have to judge their relative success yourself. The films are, unfortunately, out of distribution. Although widely distributed, and shown as a staple on NET (the precursor to PBS), their production values are somewhat dated. The workbooks, which at one time were easy to come by have been out-of-print for years, and can only be found with great difficulty in the most arcane of used bookshops.
These films should be seen again, not only for their cultural merit and their socio-political orientation, but also because they’re damn fine language instruction films, with a wit and charm all their own.
1. Kennen Sie Meinen Sohn?
2. Wetten Ist Ehrensache
3. Damit Spielen Kinder und Erwachsene
4. Am Strand ist Eine Perucke Sehr Praktische
5. So Etwas Muß Man Mit Gefühl Machen
7. Das Feuer ist das Wichtigste
9. Nero Versteht Etwas von Kunst
10. Dirndl sprechen Bayerisch
11. Die Trauung beginnt um dreiviertel elf
12. Und weit und breit keine Tankstelle
13. Das Ziel unserer Reise ist ein Schloss
14. Vielleicht versuchen wir's einmal mit Studenten
15. Gesunder Schlaf und viel Bewegung in der frischen Luft
17. Die Mosel im Wandel der Jahrhunderte