The Representation of Women in Contemporary European Cinema


The 21st century has opened new challenges for developing new trends and objectives within the European cinematography. They have been concerned with promoting the multicultural and language diversity that are now prominent features of the European Union and have a major relation to the height of the immigration. Accordingly, people from developing countries tend to influence the growth of the multinational determinants within the EU affairs. In this relation, multiculturalism and feminism have been on the rise, whaterver they bring to big EU family. Problems on this matter are vivid, when they are expressed in cinema images.

Get a free price quote

1st time order 15% OFF
Order for: 00.00 / 00.00

Cinematography, by the way, has assisted to solve the problem of a female depiction in a unique way: since women vary by means of a received education, cultural values, religion, economic status, they should be rendered in a distinct manner, therefore, it is natural for the variety of film genres to serve as an illustration of the genuine diversity of female characters. Women characters are laughing in a comedy, crying and reliving moments in a soap opera, screaming in horror films and they are actively participating in each of those, thus, being depicted as active and responsible for their families and for the surrounding society. As an example of such a film serves the work Goodbye Lenin! by Wolfgang Becker. It introduces the fall of a totalitarian regime within historically significant events prior to the communist epoch collapse in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the 1990. This art work, by the way, underlines the popular thinking that women are being victimised by the socialist order, whilst they attempt to preserve their family values on the verge of a crisis between the moral obligations and the socialist life standards. The image of victimized women is a good property for contemporary EU cinema, however, being victimized, women tend to win a good part in contemporary EU cinema, where they are represented strong and dedicated to humanistic values.

EU Environment for Cinematography Development

Contemporary European cinema has developed within the framework of the EU social, economic and cultural processes, and globalization. Therefore, the modernity provides the cinema industry with the new directions, such as the challenges of feminism, gender identity, the distribution of the roles of cultural, lingual, ethnic, racial, sexual minorities as formations of high value and presence in a modern European diverse family. Correspondingly, the notion about the EU striving to stay in the so-called Old World gives a false impression, for modernity expresses itself within the EU to a significant extent.

In particular, the representation of women in the cinema in the existent context presents a high interest for the researchers who have been interested in an elaboration of the new values and a place for women that exceeds the standards of common family practices. The feminine borders established in the EU society are being demolished as well as the economic standards are being elevated to meet the new objectives that should allow women the equality for which they have been struggling. However, some of them have already overcome the barriers of expressing themselves or searching for their gender identity and maintain a prominent position in the social order.

Post-Socialist Ostalgia in German Cinema

German cinema on the edge of the 21st century has embraced the new ways of dealing with occurring trends, particularly related to the notions of the nostalgia for aspects of life in East Germany. The so-called post-Soviet Ostalgie bears a conception of the shortfall of benefits that have arisen in the German cinematography as opposed to the Hollywood consumerism. Firstly, the influence made by Four Weddings and a Funeral or Pretty Woman has led the EU and the world audience to the ideas of marketing values that counteract family values and disrupt the behaviour from the perspective of common sense. Afterwards, German cinema has been able to deliver the worth of family matters otherwise, by means of introducing godmothers acting as social activists, while children and fathers become caring and morally obliged to the rest of family members.

All in all, analysing the role of culture and nationality within the contemporary EU cinema, the problem of nationality has made a minor impact within academic film studies, compared to the question of authorship and genre, semiology, as the researchers have expressed a major interest in the ‘psychoanalytic-linguistic turn in film theory, and the rise of cine-feminism’. It reveals the new ways of comprehending the approaches to the controversial aspects in gender segregation: whereas the role of women in the EU has increased, the family values have declined under the weight of the opposition of hard work and high social activity.

Contemporary EU Cinematography Drama Goodbye Lenin! Feminist Perspective

A striking example of feminist behaviour is observed in the character of Christina from Goodbye Lenin! by Wolfgang Becker. The tragedy of her part is being an inspired party follower in the Eastern Berlin in the times of the DDR. She supports the communist ideology and strives to build a socialist future while helping others and raising children within the spirit of Leninist values. At first, she is making every effort to succeed in her career as well as in family life, however, her husband, not being a member of the Communist Party, does not share her beliefs, instead, due to a high pressure on behalf of the Central Committee, he leaves for the Western Berlin. Respectively, Christina does not support his decision as it intervenes with the party policy and may result badly for the future of their family. By June 1990, when borders within Berlin became meaningless, Christina is found in a coma state as a result of a stress she had undergone when her son Alex Kerner was arrested as a supporter of a Berlin wall fall. The effect produced by the vision of the broken family trying to reunite around their loving mother in their efforts to compel her that communism still stands is truly inspiring. It is even more astonishing to observe Alex trying to hide the truth about the wall fall in order to stabilise her medical conditions. He has even manufactured own socialist videos to present as news, exclusively for the mother, as Alex and his sister fear Christina will not survive knowing that GDR does not exist anymore. Even when Alex falls asleep after the game with his niece Paula, cluelessly Christina goes for walk to the open-street of Berlin and sees a show of Lenin demounting in the air, Alex still succeeds in maintaining her calm with his manufactured news and an appropriate explanation.

Nevertheless, Christina is not the only tragical role, as Alex’s sister has been suffering from not being able to stabilize her own family life with a new boyfriend. Moreover, Alex’s girlfriend Lara, who is a hard-working medical sister, is trying to support Alex is his search for the father’s residence. As the matter stands, the Christina’s last wish to see her husband has been satisfied by the same means as her other wishes, in particular, by a video show from the improvised news broadcast. Nor is she aware of the true circumstances of the Berlin wall fall, neither she will ever know that it had truly happened. Children love and care about her to such extent that they do not allow her to get worried about the issue, letting the socialist paradise to be the only thing that remains unchanged for her until she dies in peace.

In the opinion of cinema researchers, the features of family relationships are closely connected to the social bonds that people have to deal with on a daily basis. For instance, the tragedy of Christina is her total dedication to social activities combined with the sacrifice of her personal life. Her character is being a victim of a social machine, although she departs happy, in ignorance of the social and political changes within the country. Her gender role is positive, although she did not manage to sustain the tragedy of the totalitarian regime.

Another perspective that the film explicates is the problem of dedication and sacrifice. In comparison to Christina, her neighbours, the former party leaders have been left with nothing after their dreams about the bright socialistic future were diminished, they have been living within the so-called boulevard of broken dreams, gradually lowering their life quality under the heaviness of the bottle of vodka. Thus, they have fully experienced the feeling of nostalgia for the high values and a raised spirit of community.

Furthermore, there is the hope that belongs to Alex and involves the reuniting of the family with a father. In detail, the German cinematography maintains the father and son values on a highly esteemed level, ‘contrasted with the father-daughter relationships of French cinema’. Nevertheless, the criticism in the film has been relocated to the epoch, but not to the personalities, as they are merely typical representatives of the era of ostalgie in the German cinema. The film industry of the kind presents the kind of ‘sentimental whitewashing of the harsh realities of living under a totalitarian regime’ and ‘reexamination of the utopian hopes and expectations surrounding German reunification and a critique of a capitalist system that has failed to adequately address current economic and cultural challenges’. The moral obligations are significant for all operating under the totalitarian regime, as the physiological state of things and their outlook resembles high values, on the contrary to its psychological evaluation.

Representation of Women in EU Cinema: Critical Approach

Under the observation, it is easily understood that women have been depicted in EU cinema differently depending on the film genre. For example, art-house cinema brings the mysterious element of drama to female images, while popular dramas are focused on self-centric images of European women who have gained freedom, independence and equality, but have lost their distinct and unique feminine ways.

Throughout the recent years, in relation to the multicultural struggle and the immigration problem, the EU cinematography has been focused on the issues of ‘multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious’ matters that disclose the benefits of immigrants’ free will of being dispatched to the promised land. On the social level, such issues dominate in the perception of a female image of a mother caring about her family, irrespectively of their deeds or faults. However, in spite of that ‘the public perception and regulation of sexuality have focused on the role, structure and function of the family’, the critical approach to the female role in society has been hidden beyond the limits of a German society being strongly based on the patriarchal values. The contradiction to this idiosyncratic approach has been relevantly expressed in the film Goodbye Lenin!. Accordingly, the piece provides a structure in which a woman being an active player in social games is evaluated as a positive character, even though her actions cause a high rate of struggle and tragic interrelations with other family members. Consequently, there is a new vision of the female struggle, which lies in prioritising, as Christina fails to meet the requirements of the whole family due to a need of taking the responsibility for the children.


The role of a woman in the EU society has been dislocated due to historical features of the European big family development, which also comprises multiculturalism and feminism. Overall, women are represented in the EU cinematography as those who can enjoy life in all aspects, but fail to meet expectations of a social nature. For example, Christina in the picture Goodbye Lenin! is an active party member, who fails to combine social activity, raising her children and building strong loving and caring relationships with her husband. On the contrary, her son Alex’s girlfriend Lara is the other type of a woman, as she has no fear for the future, provides Alex with her full support and expects from him neither happy marriage nor active moral support foundation.

All things considered, severe work and hard efforts are the features that have become crucial for women of all ages. Essentially, women are active players in present world matters; however, in some cases their life experience becomes tragic for not being able to succumb to the roles of common housewives and be social leaders at the same time.


Related essays