Zitat des Monats

„Bühnenstück und Publikum haben nur dann was voneinander, wenn sie etwas von einander haben.“

(Volker Klotz: Dramaturgie des Publikums, S. 11)

Zitat des Monats

Walt Disney Animation Studio 10 years ago was making films that – you know, there were good – there weren’t as great as the past was. During the time of Walt Disney and then kind of a second renaissance of Disney Animation during “Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Land”. So I think one of the things there was missing was a belief in themselves. There was a way that that studio was set up, which is – what I call – an executive driven studio. And at Pixar we kind of built a studio they way we like to make films. And it became what I call a filmmaker driven studio. The difference is that in an executive let studio you have the head-of-the-studio, the head-of-animation, the head of development, and all these development executives, in below that each development executives assigned to a movie and there you have the filmmakers. And each of those mandatory notes, and typically that level of executives – there are the ones who kind of pic the movie that’s gonna be have, they listen to pitches, they gonna work on scripts and then they assign a director to do that. And so, as we came in 10 years ago Ed Catmull and I, we founded a studio were the filmmakers, the directors, there is a great trauma here, they last their compass. They longer were making decisions what would make the movie the best it could be. They were negotiating notes. They get’s ahead these layers and layers of mandatory notes. Yet a lot of times they contradicted each other. Yet they had to do them. And so, what at last was making a meaningful movie that really moved people, and so, what I came on I dealt with just kind of cleared that top out. And brought the filmmakers and the directors and said “You guys are now in charge of figuring out what we gonna doing with this studio. You’re running this studio. Is a filmmaker driven studio now.” And one of the things what we do, that came from Pixar, is that we create an environment where all the creative people help each other and there is no such thing as a mandatory note. And even from myself, the chief creative officer, running the studio creatively. My notes are not mandatory. And next thing you know we realised everybody around you is helping you make your movie the best it could be.

John Lasseter in Film Programme at BBC4: Presenter Francine Stock talks to John about his moving making techniques and films including Toy Story, Frozen, 18.02.2016


Zitat des Monats

“O ihr Verfertiger allgemeiner Regeln, wie wenig versteht ihr die Kunst, und wie wenig besitzt ihr von dem Genie, das die Muster hervorgebracht hat, auf welche ihr sie bauet, und das sie übertreten kann, sooft es ihm beliebt!”

G.E. Lessing, Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767/69)

Women in Film & TV II. FROM DARKNESS – by Kerstin Stutterheim

One achievement of so-called Scandinavian Noir, the specific aesthetic and dramaturgy of contemporary TV series made in Sweden and Denmark[1], was the invention of independent and convincing modern characters. Designed like contemporary modern men and women in democratic societies in Europe, these characters are created as active parts of stories dealing with the challenges we have to face today in Europe, not just in the single country that action is situated in. Female and male characters were arranged to act on eye-level, not only in the action but as well within their dramaturgical impact. In these productions men and women have to solve same problems, on duty and at home with their families. The stories were dealing with current levels of crime—from trafficking, terrorism, to international acting mafia-like organizations. The family life of the detectives as part of the action were set as a dialectic contrast to the crime stories to be investigated by them. Thus, these productions still inherited a moment of hope, of normality, the utopian moment of modern, democratic, civilized society.

Consequently, they were filmed in a more modern or postmodern aesthetic[2]. No false illusion of realism or naturalism is given the way these productions are designed.[3] To count here are productions like Forbydelsen (DAN 2007-2012) or Arne Dahl, 1st Season (S 2011), The Bridge (S/DAN 2011-) and Wallander (S 2005-), or to mention another series, Jockare än Vatten (S 2014).

New productions are released, designed in a way it is obvious they want to follow the trend, and to participate in the success productions mentioned above have had achieved internationally. Those two to be discussed within this essay were expected with high hopes or rather announced as high-quality Noir-like productions. First example to be discussed in this post, is the BBC production From Darkness—broadcasted during the last weeks.

From Darkness was classified as a “psychological crime-drama”[4]. It was announced to be a dark thriller with a strong female protagonist. To call this character a ‘Strong Woman’, means to show that female character acting outside social rules, unable to become an acceptable member of the bourgeoisie society. (Stutterheim, 2015b) Claire Church (Anne-Marie Duff) is a blond, athletic Ex-Detective; one can see here borrowings by Sara Lund (Forbydelsen) and Saga (The Bridge), to be worked out but a character completely different from both role models. The design of the whole production is dark, but the crime is the usual TV crime—tortured and murdered prostitutes. All together we are again confronted with helpless and emotional overacting women in high numbers throughout the four episodes of the mini series.

With this text no full analysis can be given, but some central aspects discussed from a dramaturgical point of view for this production, and in opposition to the above already mentioned productions, make this misogynistic. First is the design of the main character Claire Church, her motives for behaving and acting given within the story; second the murder, her character and motives; third the crime and the victims; another aspect to be discussed this way is the last sequence of the season. Before starting the analysis I want to keep in mind that characters are always designed to support the overall idea, they are written to service the action, they are neither real nor independent deciding human beings. (Stutterheim, 2015a)

Claire Church (Anne-Marie Duff) as a former police officer is a runner. Is she training for ‘Iron Men’, or running away or running her trauma through she suffered along that case 15 years ago? Already the first sequence shows the character Claire after woken up by a bad dream and fleeing the husband joint bed, running, intercut with pictures of prostitutes and tortured women. Within the second sequence, a body is to be found, marked by a red high heel, and setting of the detective and his assistant driving to the new home of Claire Church, who 15 years ago was in charge of the case of a missing prostitute, a less important case. The detective went away after the case was closed without solving it. For some reasons her former superior kept the file in his archive. Now he comes to her new place somewhere in Scotland to pick her up. An Island with rough landscape, a loving husband and stepdaughter are her new home.

Clara is slightly shocked by meeting her former superior unexpectedly again. Filmed in front of a mirror it takes her time and a pill to overcome her physical reaction to this encounter. Later she resists all his demands and luring until he forces her to go with him. The character of Claire Church is designed as an external closed and rough person, hiding her emotions to everyone. This is set in contrast to her husband, a loving father and caring husband. She has to take antidepressants.

Back in Manchester she becomes heavily involved in the investigation, as some consultant or external investigator and as target as well. The antagonistic character is a woman who is suffering a trauma after she was raped 15 years ago, but not murdered. She has been first mistaken for being a prostitute, and survived, but hating since then the young female detective Claire Church. In a flashback it is told that this Claire Church and her partner arrived at the scene, Claire promising to the surviving victim to come back to help her, but on her way back young Claire forgot this completely, and went away kissing her partner instead of helping the raped woman. No one else had this victim in his or her mind either. This sequence makes the new series of killings a personal revenge of one woman to another woman, and just as well the young detective a woman more driven by desire than being professional. To increase this designed side of the character of Claire, it is told that she became pregnant out of the relationship with her superior detective. She was not brave enough to tell him this, but quitted her police career, and attempt suicide, survived, but lost her baby. This situation shows that character in a different dramaturgical approach to most of the female detectives in Scandinavian Noir Productions. Those characters are worked out in a way, that they either become mothers, and tries their best to find a balance between job and motherhood. Or, in a more similar situation to the constructed for the Claire character, the young female detective gave her baby, result out of a difficult and violent relationship, in the care of adoptive parents. After the couple had died, she fought him successful back.[5] Not Claire Church. This character is situated in a story constructed following and repeating traditional conservative role models as well as misogynistic clichés.

About the mentally disturbed other woman, who became a murderer after she heard the news about the discovered bodies, we get not many information. Both female characters are designed as acting out of her uncontrollable emotional apparatus and in blind revenge. John, her former partner and lover, is married, has a son, and owns a house, a car, like it should be. He never acts out of an emotional status, although he sometimes is stretching the rules a bit.

The overall construction culminates in the last sequence of the mini-series: when they—John and Claire—separately understood what happened and probably will be the next step the murder will take, the catastrophe takes place. John arrives first at the scene, and due to circumstances given with the last episode, unarmed. The murder shoots him; he is not dead, but seriously wounded, heavily bleeding. Claire arrives, first acting professional—but after she spots her former love that way, she is losing her self-control, takes the gun and shoots her enemy to death. This, she destroys not only the fictional life of Claire Church and that of her family, but also the chance to let her develop into a convincing professional female detective. She is overacting, driven by desire and emotions, absolutely unprofessional. Besides this aspect, that sequence is as well a misogynistic answer towards the end of The Killing. With first glance it seems to be similar in that way, that the female detective is killing the murderer out of a spontaneous situation. The difference is obvious: in The Killing the female detective, Sarah Lund, is a professional investigator, fighting against crime suspects, struggling with political intrigues and circumstances not always easy for women in her position. Her motivation is based in her understanding that law and professional investigations are confronted with a powerful enemy, and she as detective never ever managed to get a hold of him. That makes her kill the man. Not caused in a situation, where she herself is private and emotionally involved; not because her long ago lover is in danger. The system the character Sarah Lund worked for as professionally as possible had failed; thus, she as well is stepping out of the system, acting equally powerful. And she as a women is shown in a situation less powerful then that Old-Boys-Group, what implicitly makes a difference as well, giving the situation a more metaphoric subtext.


BBC ONE. 2015. From Darkness [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7yy4.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) “Come and play with us”. Marburg: Schüren.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2014. Häutungen eines Genres – skandinavische Ermittlerinnen

Generic Metamorphosis – Scandinavian Investigators. In: DREHER, C. (ed.) Autorenserien II / Auteur Series II. Paderborn: Fink, Wilhelm.

WAADE, A. M. & JENSEN, P. M. 2013. Nordic Noir Production Values. The Killing and The Bridge. akademisk Kvarter. The academic journal for research from the humanities [Online], 07. Fall 2013. Available: http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/UK/contact.php.

[1] WAADE, A. M. & JENSEN, P. M. 2013. Nordic Noir Production Values. The Killing and The Bridge. akademisk Kvarter. The academic journal for research from the humanities [Online], 07. Fall 2013. Available: http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/UK/contact.php.

[2] cf. STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) “Come and play with us”. Marburg: Schüren.

[3] cf. STUTTERHEIM, K. 2014. Häutungen eines Genres – skandinavische Ermittlerinnen

Generic Metamorphosis – Scandinavian Investigators. In: DREHER, C. (ed.) Autorenserien II / Auteur Series II. Paderborn: Fink, Wilhelm.

[4] BBC ONE. 2015. From Darkness [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7yy4.

[5] Arne Dahl, 1st season

Women in Film and TV Productions I – by Kerstin Stutterheim

A closer look at women in film, as directors or as characters, provides a basic understanding of the situation of a society. Within this topic one is able to develop a much greater comprehension of if and how gender equality is represented and understood, through simple application of common sense. Gender role models are constructions, made common and perpetuated by media productions.

Movies are reflecting cultural and social relationships in a society, and subsequently have an influence on society as well.   Audience, the often-stressed unknown being, also includes women. In cinemas within some particular age groups, women are even the majority. We, the women, are an integral part of society; without us there would be neither society nor civilization. This is truism, but astonishingly enough it nevertheless has to be mention from time to time again.

Contemporary movies and TV productions are mostly dominated by male producers, directors, commissioning editors and heads of program, yet tell not only stories from that of a male perspective. Even character design is coined by a male view of the world; among the women represented, female characters are frequently designed in a way that gives an overall impression that women would be unable to act as independent human beings. They could be neither able to act as a director nor as female characters embedded in a story that do more than acting as a secretary, nurse, housewife, shop keeper or sex worker. Those characters often lack a name or intelligent dialogue lines, and can be exploited or tortured and murdered more easily than male characters. Productions like FORBYDELSEN (Dk 2007-2012) or BORGEN (Dk 2010-2013), ARNE DAHL (1st season, S 2011) still are the exception, not a standard.

Having analyzed many movies and TV productions produced during the last decades, one can say about female characters depicted in (especially but not limited to) German productions, that if they are part of the action, they are designed as either bad mothers or cold ‘career women’. In other words, female characters can be characterized as that of the ‘Weak Woman’ or ‘Strong Woman’.

‘Strong woman’ is a term representing the male glance towards women and inheriting dominant conditions of power and the structure of society. This term is corresponding to ‘a man from the boys’ and is directing towards a peculiarity, which throughout that ironic approach is pointing at a nearly unattainable exception. This is expressing that with either a ‘Man From the Boys’ or a ‘Strong Woman’ a traditional married life will be impossible. Instead, the term is expressing that those kinds of characters are demanding a specific hierarchy and personal freedom.

‘Strong Women’ in film and TV productions- with the exception of the aforementioned productions- usually have to fail miserably. In terms of dramatic action those women are infringing upon the implicit engraved rules of the society, which in the case of the western German tradition, means women should act firstly as ‘good’ wives and mothers. Here one can see the long shadow of the gender role models developed and set with that propaganda machinery during “Third Reich” continued with post-war cinema made in West Germany. In terms of psychology one can say that those were ‘priming’ the view and opinions of the audience, setting up anchors (Kahneman 2012) for an understanding of society and their codes. Within the hierarchy of such characters, female characters were almost always narrated out of a male position. Thus, they have little to no influence on the narrated action. If it is a female character indulged to be the protagonist, her action is shown as personal, fleshly or erotically motivated, not because of a societal or political motivation or longing of the character.

One can see an example of this given in BARBARA (D 2012, Petzold), the adaptation of DIE FLUCHT (DDR 1977, Gräf). In the DEFA movie the main character, a male doctor, is frustrated about the political and economic circumstances hindering his research, causing him to flee GDR to the west; in BARBARA the female doctor wants to go to the West to live with her love or lover, whom she is meeting for short events to have sex together in the wood or a hotel while he is crossing GDR for business trips, causing her to give up her exceptionally good position at one of the leading research hospitals, Another example is KRIEGERIN (D 2011, Wnendt), like BARBARA, premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival. Within the action the young, blonde female main character, called Marisa, (given by Alina Levshin) is shown as driven into the group of Neo-Nazis by her life situation and circumstances–her mother unable to support her, a bad job, a region undeveloped and of no hope for the young generation. As a result of her one and only human action (helping the illegal migrant to hide) she became sacrificed at the end. Independent decisions made by a female character ignoring the rules of the group she belongs to were not endured. The body of the death Marisa is shown aesthetically exaggerated, in sense of ‘Edelkitsch’ (Friedländer, 1999)

This dramaturgical approach to analyze the significance of the character for the action going on, is within sociology defined as ‘Agency’. Although this term as such first of all just means someone is able to decide independently (Holland, 1998) and still not the active influence of events happening because of a person character acting in a specific way, that term already is been used to discuss characters, especially female ones, in media productions. But to establish modern / contemporary female characters to show them as independently deciding and acting is a progress, but is not enough. Many films representing female characters with some kind of ‘Agency’, will pass as well the so called ‘Bechdel Test’ or other of these new measurements, but at the same time nevertheless stick to conservative role models. To change the ways of representing women in media productions it is necessary to have many more female writers and directors, who should in numbers correspond to the percentage of women in society and the audience. It is time to change the representation of both genders in media productions to give both of them a better perspective in a civilized world as well.

That this is possible without losing audience and attraction is obvious through mentioning productions like the TV series I mentioned above already – BORGEN, FORBYDELSEN, ARNE DAHL – as well as HATUFIM (ISR 2009-2012, Raff). Within these productions characters are interacting on eyelevel, especially within the dramaturgical structure. Action, hopes, dreams and decisions of female characters are of the same weight and influence for the action going on as those of the male characters. Their decisions and actions are not body directed or only emotion based- they are as clear and rational as those of their male counterparts.

Of course, cinema productions written and directed by women were and are successful, like f.e. movies by Agnès Varda, Agnieszka Holland, Deepa Mehta, Sally Potter, Małgośka Szumowska, Lucrecia Martel, Claire Denis, Jane Campion, Nora Ephron, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Sussane Bier, Al Mansour Khairiya, El Deghedy, Shafik Viola or Natalya Bondarchuk, Ana Carolina, Věra Chytilová to name just few of the international well known directors. Based in socio-cultural structures in the cinema business movies directed by women were differently discussed, distributed and reviewed than those directed by their male colleagues. A closer look and analysis shows that female directors more often tend to open dramaturgical forms and less often tell classical stories of a hero. Thus, a more open minded reception is needed to give them same respect as traditional male narrated movies.

To support the discussion and critical thinking of representation of gender in Film and TV productions of today we will add here from time to time short reflections on randomly selected examples we came across.

One of those will be the BBC production FROM DARKNESS (BBC 2015) written by Katie Baxendale and directed by Dominic Leclerc or the 2nd season of ARNE DAHL (S 2015).


Kerstin D. Stutterheim, November 2015



FRIEDLÄNDER, S. 1999. Kitsch und Tod: der Widerschein des Nazismus, Frankfurt am Main, Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verl.

HOLLAND, D. C. 1998. Identity and agency in cultural worlds, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.


AS IF WE WERE SOMEBODY ELSE – Director’s Note von Christine Lang

Premiere auf den Internationalen Hofer Filmtagen 20.-25.10.2015 

„Das Melodram ist das Drama der Normalisierung jener unwichtigen, irrelevanten, unsichtbaren Leben: Geschichten der normalen Menschen und nicht der Helden.“ (Maria Muhle)

Mädchenfreundschaften sind strukturiert wie Liebesbeziehungen, mit allem, was dazugehört – auch Eifersucht, Neid und Enttäuschung


Ein zentraler Ort für das Ausprobieren von Rollen ist die Umkleidekabine. Es ist gleichermaßen ein Ort der Intimität und der Imitation  – ein Identitäten-Versuchslabor.

Der Spiegel in der Umkleide evoziert eine Leinwand, die der Selbstfiktionalisierung dient. Der Blick, der sich dabei auf sich selbst richtet, ist fremdgeleitet – er ist immer auch der angenommene Blick der anderen – und des „großen Anderen“.

AS IF Still 1 Umkleide

AS IF Still 2 Partybeginn mit Vorhang neu



Eine Party in der Welt der Jugendlichen ist weniger ein Vergnügen, sondern eine Bühne, auf der es sich zu erproben gilt. Im ständigen Bemühen um Identität und Anerkennung erzeugt man einen sich selbstbeobachtenden Blick, dem man durch angenommene Posen zu entsprechen versucht:

„Der interpersonale Blick vollzieht sich als ein Geschehen, durch das einem Ich gespiegelt wird, wie es einen anderem erscheint.“ (Eva Schürmann)


Das Trinkspiel ist eine soziale Aktion, eine Art Initiationsritual. Wer in den Kreis aufgenommen werden will, muss mitspielen. Wer sich widersetzt, wird zu Fall gebracht.

Das blaue Shirt

AS IF Still 4 Nike im Park


Mit MODE geht es auch darum, eine Identität herzustellen, die man gar nicht hat. Der Akt ein Shirt zu kaufen ist mit der Hoffnung verbunden, dass es aus einem ‘etwas’ und ‘jemand anderen’ machen kann.

Durch Mode und Dinge, Accessoires und Brands werden Identitäten aber auch Beziehungen und Bindungen gelenkt; jedoch kann so ein Shirt nicht die Aufgabe lösen, die darin besteht, eigene „Prinzipien des Handelns“ (Hannah Arendt) zu entwickeln. Denn im Handeln ist doch jede/r für sich selbst verantwortlich – wie auch Nike ahnt.

Ein rein künstlich produziertes Selbstbild wird angesichts von Handlungsschuld – wie sie auch aus Unterlassung entstehen kann – zwangsläufig einfach in sich zusammenfallen.

AS IF Still 5 Turnschuhe


Die Handlungsohnmacht ist das Thema, dessen sich das MELODRAM annimmt. Zudem setzt sich der Begriff Melodram aus den griechischen Wörtern für ‘Lied’ und ‘Handlung’ zusammen. MUSIK bietet performative Identitäten an; sie schreibt sich in die Körper ein, sie formiert und codiert die Art sich zu bewegen, auf der Bühne zu erscheinen – und einen Schein zu produzieren.


AS IF Still 7 Jess tanzt AS IF Still 8 Gelb


„Musik, zumal die elektronische in AS IF WE WERE SOMEBOY ELSE, erzählt nicht in erster Linie, sondern akzentuiert. Dies gilt im Grunde auch für den Film insgesamt, der mit Gesten und Insignien, mit Ritualen und Sprachfärbungen an das Geheimnis rührt, das die Jugendlichen sich und einander sind.“ (Bert Rebhandl)

(gesamter Text von Bert Rebhandl)

Kurzfilm 2015, 23 Min. / BUCH & REGIE Christine Lang / DREHBUCHBERATUNG Harun Farocki, Charley Reincke / DRAMATURGIE Dirk Lütter, Kerstin StutterheimKAMERA Dirk Lütter / MONTAGE Jihyeon Park / MUSIK They Just Strut, Robot Koch, El Diablo feat. Mal Irie, Brero, The Bassist / SZENENBILD Sebastian Demuß / KOSTÜMBILD Angelika Götz / CAST Esther Spille, Holly Becker, Gizem Emre, Roabi Abdelgader, Anton Hinrichsen, Bjarne Meisel

Eine Produktion der Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF und Christine Lang / Gefördert durch: Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien

Was macht die Qualität eines Kinofilms aus? – von Christine Lang

Beitrag zum Aufruf der Akademie der Künste sich an der “Debatte um die Qualität des deutschen Films” zu beteiligen und sie “neu zu entfachen und das Bewusstsein für Qualität zu schärfen”:

„Das Spiel erscheint im Vergleich zur Kunst als inhaltslos, die Wissenschaft als wirkungslos.“ (Yuri Lotman)

Wichtig für die Qualität eines Kinofilms ist, dass etwas Interessantes auf eine interessante Art und Weise erzählt wird. Von Bedeutung ist auch, dass das in und mit ihm Erzählte etwas mit der Welt um uns herum und mit tatsächlichen Erfahrungen und der Weltwahrnehmung der Filmschaffenden zu tun hat – und dass sich in dem Film eine Haltung zu den Dingen reflektiert. (Das gilt auch für Genre-Filme, deren Ziel nicht die Imitation sein sollte, sondern die Aktualisierung und die Differenz innerhalb der Wiederholung.) Neues im Film entsteht vor allem in der Beziehung von Form und Inhalt. Fiktionaler Film wird in Deutschland viel zu oft als Mittel des Belehrens oder des Aufklärens betrachtet. Die Qualität eines Films liegt aber nicht in seiner journalistischen oder ethischen Funktion.

Ein Film ist vor allem dann interessant, wenn er die komplexe Kunstform des Erzählens auslotet – und gegenwärtig hält.

Dabei ist es die Form, die entscheidend ist, weil sie den Inhalt eines Films transportiert. Was nützt ein Film mit einer politischen Botschaft, wenn er seine Zuschauenden zu politisch Unmündigen degradiert, indem er beispielsweise das Ergreifende mittels kitschiger Streicher-Musik zu einem Gefühls-Porno macht? Was soll das, wenn die Kamera Opfer durch deren ausgestellten Schauwert doppelt zum Opfer macht?

Die Qualität eines Films liegt in seiner ästhetischen Form. In ihr drückt sich das Rezeptionsverhältnis zwischen Filmschaffenden und Zuschauenden aus. Es sollte zur Voraussetzung haben, dass Zuschauende als Dialogpartner, als Mitschöpfende eines Films betrachtet werden.

Wenn Filmschaffende wissen was sie ästhetisch tun, können Zuschauende “Vertrauen zu ihnen fassen” und sind bereit, sich auf das Fiktions- Spiel einzulassen und ihren Beitrag dazu zu leisten. Dann sind sie vielleicht auch bereit, der im Film repräsentierten Weltwahrnehmung Aufmerksamkeit zu schenken. Der Film kann dann seine besonderen Möglichkeiten entfalten, die – um es mit Yuri Lotman zu sagen – in einer einzigartigen Verbindung des spielerisch Darstellenden, des Sprachlichen und des Künstlerischen liegen.

Sep 2015

Draft Programme | Screenwriting Research Network London Conference 2015

Draft Programme | Website of the Screenwriting Research Network London Conference 2015.

GAME OF THRONES – eine postmodern gestaltete Serie – von Kerstin Stutterheim

(Es werden einige dramaturgische Begriffe genutzt, die im Buch in den vorangegangenen Kapiteln bereits genauer eingeführt wurden, was hier nicht durchgehend eingearbeitet werden kann.)



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GAME OF THRONES soll hier als Beispiel einer postmodern gestalteten Serie (1) zunächst im Überblick dargestellt werden (2). Diese international sehr erfolgreiche Serie basiert auf einer Roman-Reihe von George R.R. Martin (3). Als eine Referenz für die Handlung, die Struktur und einige Charaktere kann vor allem „Henry IV.“ von William Shakespeare benannt werden.

In der Serie wird neben Shakespeare unter anderem auch auf Anton Tschechow, Andrei Tarkowski und Akira Kurosawa Bezug genommen. Eine postmoderne Ästhetik ist deutlich erkennbar. Mit der ästhetischen Gestaltung der ersten Sequenz wird auf die Künstlichkeit der Gestaltung und eine Welt jenseits unserer Wirklichkeitserfahrung verwiesen. Erkennbar wird das bereits über den Auftakt: Drei Männer auf Pferden hinter einem Gitter werden so in Szene gesetzt, dass erst das Tor hochgezogen werden muss, um sie agieren zu lassen – was an den Aufzug des ‚Eisernen Vorhangs’ im Theater oder das Hochziehen des Vorhangs zu Beginn einer Vorstellung erinnert. Nach der Darstellung einer Szenerie extremer Kälte wird das Bild einen Moment lang von der Flamme einer Fackel ausgefüllt – ein extremer Kontrast im Sinne des – vorne erläuterten – ›filmischen Konflikts‹ (4). Danach reiten die Männer durch einen Tunnel – eine auch für die Zuschauer_in nachvollziehbare körperliche Erfahrung des Durchschreitens einer Verbindung, die in einen anderen Ort führt. Erneut wird ein Tor hochgezogen, wonach das Publikum in der Totale auf eine unwirkliche Szenerie blickt, in die diese drei Reiter nun, noch etwas zögernd, eintreten.

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Abb. 3

Abb. 3

Die Handlung ereignet sich in einer Welt, die sich von unserer erlebten Wirklichkeit unterscheidet. Dies wird sowohl über die Bildgestaltung als auch den physischen Mit-Affekt unseres Körperbewusstseins vermittelt. Die Männer reiten in einen tief verschneiten und kontrastreichen Winterwald, der künstlich überhöht wirkt – und an den Wald in NIBELUNGEN: SIEGFRIED (Lang, D 1924) oder einen Studiowald alter Western-Filme erinnert. Über diesen ›Auftakt‹, der implizites Wissen und eine intuitive Reaktion aufruft sowie die Rezeptionsvereinbarung anbietet, kann das Geschehen fantastisch gestaltet werden. Fantastisch meint nicht den „Komplementärentwurf zum Realen, sondern zum Realistischen“ (5). In Fantasy-Filmen kann auch auf die von uns erlebte Wirklichkeit referiert werden. Insbesondere fantastische Werke, die mit Mitteln der Ästhetik der Postmoderne gestaltet sind, nutzen die so gegebenen künstlerischen Möglichkeiten, dies implizit und metaphorisch zu tun. Fantasy-Werke präsentieren „eine bis ins Detail vorgeprägte und vor-imaginierte Welt“ (6), die im Verhältnis zu unserer Lebenswelt steht. In der in GAME OF THRONES erzählten epischen Geschichte um Vertrauen und Verrat, Liebe und Hass, Machtgier versus Eintreten für die Gemeinschaft, finden sich durchaus Analogien zur Gegenwart. Ein Moment des Zeitgeists besteht auf der impliziten Ebene insbesondere in der Erfahrung instabiler Allianzen, der Brüchigkeit von Gesellschaften und einer von Katastrophen aller Art bedrohten Zukunft. „Winter is coming“ kann ebenso ganz direkt auf die von der Klimaveränderung hervorgerufenen Naturkatastrophen verstanden werden, die im Sinne des in Henry VI. in vergleichbaren Situationen und ähnlichem Rhythmus angeführten Satzes „War is coming“ die zu befürchtende Katastrophe noch verstärkt.

Dramaturgisch ist die Serie in der horizontalen Struktur explizit als epische Erzählung gestaltet. Die Handlung entspricht der einer Familiensaga in Kombination mit der Struktur von Shakespeares’ Königsdramen, angereichert durch – in Shakespeares’ Dramen bereits gegebene – Fantasy-Elemente. Zentraler Handlungsort ist eine Insel, die wie eine Variante Englands wirkt. Der Chronotopos (7) wird als eine fantastische geographische Interpretation Europas als der ‚alten Welt’ in einem unbestimmten zukünftigen Mittelalter angelegt. Mehrere Königsfamilien kämpfen um den Thron und die Macht über das ‚Westeros’ genannte Land mit seinen sieben Königreichen. Dementsprechend agiert ein umfangreiches Ensemble von relevanten Figuren in einer dramaturgisch überzeugend texturierten epischen Narration. Figuren stehen grundsätzlich im Dienst der Handlung, auch in postmodernen Fantasy-Filmen. Wenn die Gestaltung des expliziten Handlungsverlaufs zur Versinnlichung des Themas, des Bedeutungsfazits, es erforderlich macht, dass Figuren – auch Sympathieträger – aus der Handlung ausscheiden (indem sie ermordet werden oder den Schauplatz verlassen), dann kann in der Weiterentwicklung des von dieser Figur repräsentierten Prinzips eine neue Figur deren Funktion übernehmen. Zumeist hat diese Figur bereits ihre Vorgänger_in getroffen, begleitet oder zumindest eine vergleichbare Situation in einer Nebenhandlung vertreten können. Stabilisiert wird die Handlung über zwei zentrale Figurenpaare, die sich ergänzen (8) – Jon Snow (Kit Harington) und Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) sowie Tyron Lannister (Peter Dinklage) und Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Diese Figuren stellen jeweils autonome, unabhängige Charaktere dar und sind in ihrer Motivation von den anderen Ensemble-Figuren unterschieden gezeichnet.

Den hier erwähnten Charakteren ist gemeinsam, dass sie nicht an persönlicher Macht oder gar dem Thron interessiert sind, sondern an einer allgemeinen Stabilität und friedlichen Verhältnissen. Sie repräsentieren Spielarten des klassischen Helden, der sein Leben für das Wohl der Gemeinschaft, für Gerechtigkeit und eine geregelte Grundordnung einsetzt. Diese zentralen Figuren geben der horizontalen Gesamthandlung die Stabilität und werden sehr wahrscheinlich auch zur Lösung des Konflikts in der Wiederherstellung eines neuen Machtgefüges in der erzählten Handlung beitragen. Sie bilden den Mittelpunkt, den Kern des Ensembles, welches eine größere Personage umfasst, die in der Handlung durch einen Wechsel konkreter Figuren geprägt ist. Eine derartige Gestaltung wird möglich, da in modernen und postmodernen Produktionen Figuren für ein Prinzip stehen können. Das ermöglicht einen Wechsel der Figuren, die dieses jeweilige Prinzip repräsentieren, und die wie in einem Staffellauf geführt werden können – zum Beispiel Ned Stark und Jon Snow oder Theon Graufreund (Alfie Owen-Allen), Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) und weitere Söhne aus zerstörten Familien, die mit grausamen Vätern gemeinsam oder nach deren Ermordung ihr Unwesen an anderen treiben. Dies sich ergänzenden, überlappenden und ablösenden Charaktere vertreten zum Beispiel das Prinzip der Gerechtigkeit oder verkörpern die besonders grausamen und hörigen Charaktere, das Prinzip des Eigennutzes, der Grausamkeit oder auch des Bösen in seinen Spielformen. Die unterschiedlichen Figuren agieren aus ihrer Zugehörigkeit oder Verbundenheit mit einer Familie oder einer ethnischen beziehungsweise sozialen Gruppe mit spezifischen Interessen heraus. Dementsprechend sind sie in ihren jeweiligen individuellen Persönlichkeitsstrukturen gestaltet, was eine abwechslungsreiche Choreographie der Figuren in der Handlung ermöglicht.


Abb. 4

Auch in der hier diskutierten Serie ist das Geschehen stets so gestaltet, dass durch das Moment der überraschenden Wendung, das einen Affekt auslöst, einem Thema oder Motiv zur Entfaltung und emotionaler Kraft verholfen werden kann. In modernen und postmodernen Werken wird zudem ein Mitdenken, eine kritische Aufmerksamkeit des Publikums eingefordert – die jedoch ein affektive Reaktion nicht ausschließt, sondern die emotionale Identifikation mit der Hauptfigur reduziert oder überflüssig werden lässt. Die Struktur von GAME OF THRONES basiert, wie bereits erwähnt, einerseits auf der einer Familienserie. Die >Überraschung im Vertrauten< (9) liegt hier jedoch darin, dass es sich nicht um eine klassische Familiengeschichte handelt, sondern um die mehrerer konkurrierender Familien und gesellschaftlicher oder sozialer Gruppen, die familienähnliche Bündnisse eingehen. Die erste Sequenz, die noch vor dem Titel läuft, gibt als ›einleitender Akkord‹ dem gesamten Film die Basis. Diese Szene verdeutlicht einerseits, welches Bedrohungspotential der Satz „Winter is coming“ enthält. Jenseits der Mauer – die auf den Hadrianswall verweist – leben Wilde, vor deren Einwanderung man sich schützen muss. Doch dieser Auftakt erzählt von der Rückkehr einer überwunden geglaubten noch größeren Bedrohung. In einer visuellen und inhaltlichen Referenz auf Ivan (Tarkowski, SU 1962) wird der einzige der drei Späher, der mutig und umsichtig gleichermaßen die Gefahr wahrzunehmen in der Lage ist, von der wiedergekehrten Bedrohung berichten – nur, dass im Gegensatz zu Ivan man sich der drohenden Gefahr noch nicht ausreichend bewusst ist. Indem Ned Stark den Jungen als Deserteur wegen des Verstoßes gegen die Regel dem tradierten, seit Generationen befolgten Gesetz gemäß hinrichtet, verstößt er selber nun gegen die Interessen der Gemeinschaft. In dem anschließenden Dialog, den die Figur mit seinem Sohn Bran führt, wird erkennbar, dass er die Aussage des jungen Deserteurs nicht vollkommen anzweifelt.

Dramaturgisch gesehen ist demnach gut möglich, dass diese Handlung die Figur des Ned Stark in Schwierigkeiten bringt. Mit dieser ersten Szene ist die Begebenheit etabliert, zu der alles Handeln in Relation gesetzt wird. Aus diesem Grund muss die Handlung auch konsequent an der Schnittstelle einsetzen, die den unbeschwerten Alltag im Sinne des paradiesischen Zustands von der Katastrophe trennt, die sich in den „White Walkers“ als leibhaftigen unmenschlichen Inkarnationen des Bösen inkarniert. Wie in Shakespeares Henry VI. „War is coming“ die heraufziehende Katastrophe mit Leid und Zerstörung ankündigt, so wird in GAME OF THRONES mit dem immer wieder kehrenden Satz „Winter is coming“ ein vergleichbarer, aber emotional stärker wirkender, weil physisch imaginierbarer Zustand angekündigt. Diese Serie trifft den Zeitgeist, da sie von dem Ringen um die (Welt-)Macht, dem Aufeinandertreffen unterschiedlicher religiös oder kulturell tradierter Wertvorstellungen ebenso erzählt, wie von dem Verhältnis von Individuum und Gemeinschaft als auch unterschiedlichsten Idealvorstellungen von dem, was Freiheit bedeutet. In den ersten beiden Folgen oder Episoden wird nicht nur die Begebenheit etabliert, die in das Gesamtgeschehen mündet, sondern über die Gestaltung der impliziten Ebene und eine genaue visuelle Dramaturgie, die Referenz auf Konventionen und deren postmoderne Interpretation eine sehr genaue Rezeptionsverabredung etabliert. Auf der dramaturgisch im Detail genau gearbeiteten Exposition kann der weitere Verlauf auf unterschiedlichen zueinander in Relation stehenden und vielfältigen Handlungssträngen geführt werden. Überraschende Wendungen und Figurenwechsel werden über die stabile dramaturgische und ästhetisch konsequente Etablierung und Gestaltung des horizontal erzählten Königsdramas möglich.

In der Tendenz korrespondiert das zentrale Thema „Wer wird die Welt regieren? – Zum Guten oder Schlechten?“ mit dem oben beschriebenen Zeitgeistgefühl und versinnlicht sich in dem dramatischen Konflikt, der die Handlung auslöst: es werden tradierte moralische Normen und die Regeln des zivilisierten (christlich-abendländisch tradierten) Zusammenlebens missachtet, und die ‚alte Ordnung’ nicht gepflegt, befolgt und repräsentiert. Dieses Verhalten der regierenden Königsfamilie bringt in der Konsequenz alle Bewohner der ‚alten Welt’, der als zivilisiert und fortschrittlich gesetzten Region Westeros, dem „Westen“ eben, in Gefahr.

Dieser hier beschriebene Umstand wird über die Folge von Anstoß und Auslöser der expliziten Handlung deutlich: Der Moment des Anstoßes besteht in der tödlichen Vergiftung des persönlichen Sekretärs, „der Hand“ des Königs, der diesem von der heimlichen und inzestuösen Liebesbeziehung zwischen dessen Ehefrau und deren Bruder hätte berichten können. Dieser Verlust veranlasst den König samt Gefolge in die von den Starks beherrschte Provinz in den Norden reisen, um seinen alten Weggefährten zu seinem neunen persönlichen Sekretär, „der Hand“, zu ernennen. Da der König sich – wie schon im einleitenden Akkord der junge Offizier – zu sicher in seinem Amt wähnt, in einer von langen Friedenszeiten geprägten Machtposition gegebene Regeln ignoriert, ‚versündigt’ er sich. Der König säuft und schlemmt ungehemmt und öffentlich, betrügt seine Frau, verhält sich nicht seiner Position gemäß vorbildlich und ignoriert die Bedrohung von außen. Entsprechend der Erzähltradition dramatischer und filmischer Werke ruft derartiges Verhalten entweder die Herausforderung zur Sühne oder eine tödliche Strafe hervor. Hier kommt der König – wie bereits in Henry VI. in der ersten Szene beziehungsweise Episode – um und löst damit die konfliktreiche Situation aus. Aus dem – im Sinne der Konventionen der Gesellschaft gesehenen – Fehlverhalten desjenigen, der die Macht und die Verantwortung hat, die tradierten moralischen Werte der Gemeinschaft vorbildhaft zu bewahren, ergibt sich die Katastrophe. Die als Kollision zu verstehende Ermordung des engsten Vertrauten des Königs, „der Hand“ – durch die nicht minder gegen tradierte Regeln verstoßende Königin –, löst die nächste noch folgenreichere aus – den Tod des Königs. Dieser dramatische Konflikt führt zu einer Kettenreaktion, die das Land in ein Chaos stürzt und lange überwunden geglaubte feindliche Kräfte wieder auferstehen lässt, die den Konflikt verstärken. Das so aufgefächerte Geschehen kann in mehreren Stufen über die verschiedenen Handlungsstränge durchgespielt werden. Der Untergang des Abendlandes, der zivilisierten Welt, droht. Dies zu verdeutlichen tritt in der fünften Staffel das absolut Böse als dämonische Figur auf, als satanischer „White Walker“.


Abb. 5

Insofern vertreten (ausgerechnet) die positiv wirkenden Figuren dieser Serie konservative christliche und uramerikanische Werte. Der zentrale Charakter Jon Snow ist nicht nur über die Charakterzeichnung als eine Variante des klassischen Western-Heldens gestaltet. Seine Figur wagt sich in die Weite, scheut die Konfrontation mit den „Wilden“ nicht, entsagt so lange allen sinnlichen Freuden, bis wieder Friede herrscht und die Werte einer friedlich zusammen lebenden Gemeinschaft wieder stabilisiert sein werden. Er ist ein Outcast, vertritt die Werte der Gemeinschaft ernsthafter als diese selber, weshalb er von ihr nur toleriert, aber nicht als Ihresgleichen angesehen wird. Das verleiht diesem Western-Helden wiederum eine besondere Haltung. Es geht vor allem um das Überleben. Auch visuell wird die Figur Jon Snow den Helden in Filmwestern entsprechend in Szene gesetzt. Tyrill Lannister ist ebenfalls ein ‚outcast’. Er wird zu einer positiven handlungsführenden Figur, nachdem er dem Leben eines der dem Setting entsprechenden Version eines Dandys entsagt, eine monogame Beziehung pflegt und sich für die tradierten Werte der Gemeinschaft einsetzt.


Abb. 6


Abb. 7

Die facettenreiche Handlung ist sehr stark von archaischen wie martialischen Ereignissen geprägt. Frauen wie Männer werden von Männern und Frauen missbraucht, als Geiseln genommen, gefoltert und gemordet – dem Aspekt der Ausstellung von Gewalt in postmodernen filmischen Werken (10) und der in vorangegangenen Kapiteln bereits dargelegten Intention dessen entsprechend. Männer- und Frauenfiguren werden dramaturgisch gleichberechtigt und entsprechend der erzählten Geschichte gleichermaßen abhängig von Bindungen, sozialen Zwängen, familiären Abhängigkeiten oder Feindschaften gestaltet. In dieser Serie gibt es keine geschlechterspezifische Aufteilung in Gut oder Böse, in Sieger oder Verlierer. Männer beschützen oder bedrohen, misshandeln Frauen ebenso wie Frauen auch Männer beschützen, bedrohen oder misshandeln. Gehasst, gemordet und geliebt wird in jeder vorstellbaren Figuren-Konstellation.


Abb. 8

Eine weitere der bewährten Möglichkeiten für eine dramaturgisch stabil und überzeugend gestaltete Handlung in einer komplexen und offen gestalteten Struktur wird auch für GAME OF THRONES genutzt – ein physisch konkreter Gegenstand repräsentiert das Zentrum des Begehrens, verbindet alle Handlungsstränge direkt oder auch indirekt. Der Thronsaal kann als Knotenpunkt der Handlung angesehen werden, auf den Thron als Gegenstand sind alle Handlungsstränge direkt oder indirekt gerichtet.

Zu Beginn der ersten Staffel werden zunächst Erzählkonventionen und Klischees bedient, wenn die männlichen Figuren als Repräsentanten der Macht eingeführt werden, zu denen die weibliche Figuren zunächst zweitrangig und in Abhängigkeitsverhältnissen gefangen wirken. Innerhalb weniger Folgen werden einige der Ehefrauen, Mütter und Töchter zu ebenbürtigen Charakteren entwickelt. Dies gilt für deren dramaturgische Relevanz ebenso wie für die über die Handlung erzählten Hierarchien. Frauenfiguren agieren als Antagonistinnen oder spiegelbildliche Heldenfiguren.

Jede der einzelnen Staffeln wird über eine horizontale Ebene gestaltet, die dieser eine gewisse Geschlossenheit gibt und gleichermaßen mit den anderen Staffeln verbindet. Vor- und Rückblenden verknüpfen die Staffeln untereinander. Gemäß tradierter Seriendramaturgie erhält jede Folge eine vertikale Handlung, die über einen Cliff-Hänger die nächste Folge vorbereitet. Auf Grund der vielfältigen Handlungsstränge verläuft die Zeit in der Serienhandlung überwiegend gerichtet, aber nicht in regelmäßigem Tempo. Der Rhythmus wird über die Choreographie der Figuren gegeben und folgt eher dramaturgischen Regeln als einer Illusion von Wirklichkeitserfahrung. Sehr wahrscheinlich wird am Ende der Serie eine gewisse Geschlossenheit erreicht, indem eine wie auch immer geartete hierarchische Ordnung mit klaren moralischen Normen errichtet werden wird – unter Umständen von der Frau, die sich über mehrere Staffeln darin geübt und trotz einiger Rückschläge bewährt hat.

Die Figur der Danaerys Tageryan wurde als die einzige verbliebene Nachfahrin einer sehr alten Herrscherfamilie eingeführt. Sie fungiert als spiegelbildliche positive Version der vorherigen Könige aus der Lannister-Familie. So könnte – dramaturgisch gesehen –, die bewährte Ordnung über eine, aus alter englischer Königsfamilie stammende Figur wieder hergestellt und das Land befriedet werden. Sehr wahrscheinlich ist das Figurenpaar Jon Snow / Arya Stark am Ende von Einfluss auf den Ausgang, völlig unabhängig davon, ob Jon Snow das Attentat am Ende der 5ten Staffel durch ein Wunder überlebt und gerettet wird, oder ob seine Komplementärfigur mit Hilfe des beide verbindenden Gegenstands zum Ausgang beitragen wird. Arya und Jon oder sie alleine, wie auch die Lannister-Brüder, könnten sich im Rahmen der dramaturgischen Möglichkeiten wieder begegnen. Unter Umständen wird im Zuge der Auflösung des Konflikts auch das Rätsel um die Herkunft von Jon Snow gelöst werden. Da dieses bereits zu Beginn der Serie prominent gesetzt wurde, kann es erst mit oder nach der Auflösung des Konflikts aufgedeckt werden, oder bleibt – wie in Henrik Ibsens „Rosmersholm“ – für immer der Phantasie des Publikums überlassen. Mit einer entsprechenden Auflösung würde eine gewisse Geschlossenheit in der offenen Form erreicht und Bögen geschlossen werden.

Die Serie ist insgesamt in einem durchkomponierten kontrapunktischen von Nord und Süd, Eis und Feuer, alter Ordnung und neuen Werten, Zivilisation und den „Wilden“ gehalten. Jon Snow ist als Westerner eine Mittelpunktfigur, der es wie keiner anderen in gleichem Maß gegeben ist, sich zwischen beiden Seiten zu bewegen. Was unter Umständen am Ende über seine Herkunft dramaturgisch unterfüttert werden könnte. Doch auch hier gibt es aus der Erfahrung mit den genutzten Mittel der Gestaltung und Dramaturgie keine Gewissheit.

Dramaturgie entwickelt sich mit den künstlerischen Möglichkeiten mit und lässt aus der langen und facettenreichen Tradition viele Varianten zur Versinnlichung eines Themas zu, so dass es keine berechenbare Lösung geben muss oder kann. Die Varianten, dramaturgische Regeln zu befolgen und kreativ zu kombinieren, sind vielfältig, so dass sich der Fortgang für eine nächste Staffel und die Lösung des Konflikts weder vorhersagen noch berechnen lässt.

Kerstin Stutterheim, Aug 2015

Dieser Text basiert auf dem entsprechenden Kapitel im ‘Handbuch Angewandter Dramaturgie': http://www.peterlang.com/detail/buch/75431/5/264138/ S. 373-381


BACHTIN, M. M., DEWEY, M. & FRANK, M. C. 2008. Chronotopos (1941), [Frankfurt am Main], Suhrkamp.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) “Come and play with us”. Marburg: Schüren.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Frankfurt am Main u.a., Peter Lang Verlag.

[1] Siehe hierzu STUTTERHEIM, K. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Frankfurt am Main u.a., Peter Lang Verlag. S. 310-314; sowie STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) “Come and play with us”. Marburg: Schüren.

[1] Eine eigenständige Publikation über diese Serie ist in Vorbereitung

[1] MARTIN, G. R. R. & GILBERT, Y. 2006. The ice dragon, New York, Tom Doherty Associates, MARTIN, G. R. R., GARCIA, E. & ANTONSSON, L. 2014. The World of Ice & Fire : the untold history of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, New York, Bantam Books, MARTIN, G. R. R. 2012. A dance with dragons, New York, Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks, MARTIN, G. R. R. 2005. A feast for crows, New York, Bantam Books, MARTIN, G. R. R. 2000. A storm of swords, New York, Bantam Books, MARTIN, G. R. R. 1999. A clash of kings, New York, Bantam Books.


[1] STUTTERHEIM, K. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Frankfurt am Main u.a., Peter Lang Verlag., S. 134 f. – Ein Konflikt, der sich aus der visuellen Gestaltung ergibt, von Sergeij Eisenstein definiert.

[1] FRIEDRICH, A. (ed.) 2003. Filmgenres – Fantasy- und Märchenfilm, Stuttgart: Reclam., S. 9

[1] Ebd., S. 10

[1] Das für eine fiktionale Erzählung verdichtet gestaltete Verhältnis von Raum und Zeit (BACHTIN, M. M., DEWEY, M. & FRANK, M. C. 2008. Chronotopos (1941), [Frankfurt am Main], Suhrkamp.)

[1] Eine ausführlichere, detaillierte Analyse würde den Rahmen hier sprengen und wird ggf. später in anderem Kontext publiziert werden, wenn die Serie abgeschlossen ist. U.U. auf www.kino-glaz.de

[1] vgl. STUTTERHEIM, K. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Frankfurt am Main u.a., Peter Lang Verlag. S.82

[1] Vgl. auch STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) “Come and play with us”. Marburg: Schüren.

Trauma, Guilt, and Ethics in BETIPUL and IN TREATMENT. The Universalist Approach and (Jewish) Particularism of Psychoanalysis in Transnational Television – by Michaela Wünsch

This article compares the Israeli television show BeTipul with its American adaptation, In Treatment, with regard to the subtle Jewishness of the Israeli show and its universalist conversion into a non-Jewish-American context. It asks why the adaptation was stripped of its Jewishness, and it relates this fact both to the question of psychoanalysis as a “Jewish” science as well as to Paulinian universalism. Questions after the fluidity and evasiveness of Jewish identity in general and in popular culture in particular arise as well as the question how psychoanalysis can be transferred on television. Both series are also analyzed from a psychoanalytical perspective as a cultural unconscious.

Produced by the network HOT3, BeTipul is an Israeli television series consisting of eighty episodes that were broadcast over the course of two seasons, from 2005 to 2008. The idea of its creator, Hagai Levi, was to make a “series that imitates therapy.”[1] Five episodes are presented over the course of one week, with each episode depicting a single therapy session. In each of four episodes, the therapist, Reuven Dagan (Assi Dayan), meets a different individual patient; one episode each week is reserved for Reuven’s supervision and therapy with his clinical supervisor, Gila (Gila Almagor). The series has been hugely successful in Israel in terms of both ratings and awards, and so far it has been adapted in fourteen different countries, including the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands, and Italy.[2] This success is particularly surprising, given the show’s low levels of action, which instead feature “two almost motionless actors talking” in a consulting room in front of a mostly static camera that “almost contradicts dramatic principles.”[3] To produce drama, and to translate psychological language into televisual language, the writers create conflicts between the therapist and his patients. Instead of their merely talking about the conflicts that take place with people outside the consultation room, the patients develop conflicts with Reuven, which involve a love story, jealousy, a miscarriage, and even suicide attempts. Most of the subsequent adaptations have used similar consultation-room sets and the same scripts. As many have pointed out, BeTipul and its adaptations closely follow conventional television formats, especially those of daytime programs, with their frequent close-ups, shot/counter shots, and talking heads. But the show’s modular storytelling also marked an innovative approach to television drama. With recording technologies such as TiVo and the show’s availability on DVD, viewers could choose to watch only the episodes of their favorite “cases.”[4]

It is not unusual for an Israeli television series not to be broadcast worldwide, but this article explores why adaptations of a series like BeTipul might be necessary, despite the program’s minimalist setting and universal themes. I also explore the differences that emerge from comparing BeTipul with the first adaptation, the US series In Treatment (HBO, 2007-2010). I first analyze the Jewishness of BeTipul and subsequently trace how it is transformed into Paulinian universalism in In Treatment. Even though all the characters in the Israeli version are Jewish, the Jewishness of the series is not easy to identify, due only partly to its lack of religious topics and its secularism. I am following here Vincent Brook’s claim that it is hard to define what is Jewish in Jewish televisual representation: “Jewish themes need not be treated on the shows, nor will protagonists be held to any rigorous standard of religious affiliation or ethnic consciousness. The quotes around the word ‘Jewish’ acknowledge the constructed and highly contested nature of Jewish identity generally, as well as the tenuous, largely inferred, and increasingly ‘virtual’ nature of Jewish televisual representation specifically.”[5]

Because the question of what is Jewish remains “subject of debate,”[6] and also because of the psychoanalytic/psychotherapeutic focus of the series, I refer primarily to Sigmund Freud’s definitions and discussions of Jewishness. Freud’s most important essay on Judaism and Jewishness, Moses and Monotheism (1939), offers very unusual interpretations of Moses–“who set the Jewish people free, who gave them their laws and founded their religion,” but was later killed by the Jews[7]–and of the Apostle Paul, who is generally regarded as the founder of the Christian religion. Christine Lang, in her essay on In Treatment, emphasizes that psychoanalysis itself follows dramaturgical formulas and narratives ranging from Oedipus and Cassandra–and, I would like to add, Moses–to Saint Paul.[8] The title of Freud’s book on Moses included the subtitle “A Historical Novel,” which suggests that his aim was not to tell the true history of Moses but rather to provide a “formula” about the man who “created the Jews.”[9] Freud often uses mythologies, fictional characters, and historical persons to illustrate and develop his theories of psychic mechanisms, but he does so without implying that these depictions represent historical or empirical truths. Indeed, this resembles the ways in which the Jewish and Christian religions are based on myths from the Old and New Testaments. The interpretations of these narratives are connected to the second topic of this essay: psychoanalysis and Jewishness. Founded in the secular Jewish community of Vienna around 1900, psychoanalysis–like BeTipul–has been transmitted around the globe. In the process of “being adapted to different national registers, to different schools of thought, to theoretical and technical re-elaborations, to misunderstandings, and to the systematic resistance to it that has grown up,”[10] psychoanalysis was stripped of its Jewishness, defended against and fought by anti-Semitism, and yet it is still associated with Jewishness in popular culture.[11] The question about the Jewishness of the series can thus be related to the different status of psychoanalysis in the two different versions.

            In the case of BeTipul, I tackle the question of Jewishness by analyzing both the influence of the specific historical situation of Israel in the 2000s and the influence of Jewish history on the psychological lives of Reuven’s patients. I here follow Freud again, who claims that the “events in human history are no more than a reflection of the dynamic conflicts between the ego, the id and the super-ego.”[12] Especially in regard to traumas, Freud states that “they are not strictly limited to what the subject himself has really experienced but diverge from it in a way which fits in much better with the model of a phylogenetic event and, in general, can only be explained by such an influence.”[13] Trauma is not limited to a single subject but affects whole generations and cultures; thus I will discuss the treatment of trauma in BeTipul and In Treatment not only in regard to the fictionalized “cases” but also as characteristic of a specific culture. According to Hagai Levi, the case of the traumatized soldier in particular has been transformed to match specific national traumas in different adaptations of the series.[14] For this reason, I concentrate on the character of Yadin and his US counterpart, Alex, in the first season and analyze only those parts of both series that are significantly different. These differences also include the methodology and identity of the non-Jewish therapist (Paul Weston, played by Gabriel Byrne) in In Treatment, which I discuss in regard to the question of universalism and particularism connected to Paul the Apostle, the Jew who founded Christianity. But regardless of these differences, most parts of the script of BeTipul have been transferred word for word into In Treatment, and these transferences may correspond with the universal claim of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis assumes that, whereas the psychic mechanisms of repression and memory and the topology of ego, id, and superego work similarly in every subject, the particular content is different. Similarly, in the case of the television series adaptations, the form(at) is the same, but the content and the type of cast differs. Robert Stam claims that “adaptations are inevitably inscribed in national settings.”[15] Thus my analysis of In Treatment concentrates on how Jewishness and therapy play out in a changed national setting.

            The majority of literature on In Treatment discusses what kind of therapy is represented; whether Weston’s methods are ethically defendable;[16] and whether the fictionalized representation of the therapeutic process is realistic.[17] The therapeutic method shown in both series is not psychoanalysis but rather a relational form of therapy, in which patient and therapist face each other–a choice that reflects the needs of both medium and narrative. Jane Feuer and Caroline Bem compare the format of the television series with the setting of the analytic or therapeutic cure: “The idea of scheduling by the hour is not the only thing television and psychotherapy have in common. Both are, so to speak, serialized,” writes Feuer.[18] Bem focuses on In Treatment’s televisuality and televisual time:

Thus, while In Treatment is unable to fully reproduce the therapeutic experience, it relies, instead, on a premise of medium self-reflexivity whereby the face-to-face between therapist and patient is reflected in that other, medial encounter between viewer and personal screen. As a result, and by making use of the formal parameters of the TV show format (repetition, scheduled regularity, precise time constraints), In Treatment suggests that the talk-medium of television and the talking cure are bound by a kinship that exceeds cinema’s much-theorized connivance with psychoanalysis.[19]

I’ve written elsewhere about the (im)possibility of transference of the psychoanalytic cure into a televisual narrative.[20] But since this topic and the question of representation of psychoanalysis have already been dealt with extensively, this article takes another direction. It stands more in line with the psychoanalytical interpretations presented at a conference on BeTipul and In Treatment held at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2009.[21] Some of the talks in the panel “In Treatment/Be-Tipul and Psychotherapy” gave psychoanalytical readings of particular characters in both series as if they were real cases. My interpretation differs from these readings insofar as I analyze these cases as emblematic of Israeli and US cultures according to Sigmund Freud’s sociocultural and literal analyses. I also refer to the tradition of psychoanalytical readings in Film and Cinema Studies, which not only focuses on the emotional and ideological relationship between viewer and film but also includes psychoanalytical readings of the characters and the “filmic text.”[22] These psychoanalytical readings understand the filmic text as part of reality, in the sense that films and other forms of fictions are able to reveal the unconscious of a society. My interpretation thus doesn’t read the series’ fictional cases as “reality” but as “real” in the sense that they reveal something about the unconscious of the represented culture. I also analyze the sessions in the series in the way Ira Konigsberg treats films like a clinical hour, as processes that create narratives.[23] This interpretation exceeds the psychotherapeutic elements represented in both BeTipul and In Treatment, although I also outline the psychoanalytic aspects within this psychotherapeutic fiction.

What Is Jewish in BeTipul?

The series BeTipul starts with Reuven’s patient Naama (Ayelet Zurer), whose case is one of erotic transference. In the first episode, which takes place during her Sunday session, she confesses that she fell in love with her former therapist. Yadin (Lior Ashkenazi) has his sessions on Mondays. He is described by Tasha Oren as “a cocky fighter pilot who seems chillingly indifferent to the carnage he caused after bombing a Palestinian apartment building and whose own gradual deterioration serves to deconstruct the crushing consequences of Israel’s military ideology.”[24] Tuesdays Reuven sees Ayala (Maya Maron), a teenage gymnast who broke both arms in an accident that might have been a suicide attempt. On Wednesdays he sees a couple, Orna and Michael Neumann (Alma Zack and Rami Heuberger). On Thursdays Reuven sees his own former therapist and current clinical supervisor, Gila. All these cases have been described as being “very much about Israel, its talking culture, secularization, and the role of guilt in the twenty-first century,” but my discussion of the series’ Jewishness focuses primarily on the case of Yadin. [25] There are two reasons for my choice: first, because Yadin’s case is the one that most revolves around Israeli and Jewish issues; and second, because it is the one that most differs from the adapted US version, the case of Alex in In Treatment.

            Yadin accidentally killed several Palestinian children in Ramallah during a military operation. He did not know at the time that children were in the house he bombed, and he later wonders if his superiors knew about it or made a mistake. According to Irit Keynan, in Israeli society it is taboo to discuss such an incident or military mistake in a television series or in public media in general.[26] But since Judd Ne’eman’s 1977 movie Paratroopers (Israel), which shows how the training of an elite unit led to the suicide of a sensitive young man, a critique of “[a]rmy life as a metaphor of Israeli culture”[27] and Israeli military manhood has evolved.[28] Paratroopers and similar films from the 1970s to the 1990s depict the “fatigue and resentment of the military behavior enforced by the conditions of the occupation.”[29]

            Through the representation of Yadin’s case and the depiction of Yadin’s father, who can’t accept the failure and subsequent suicide of his son, BeTipul seems to reflect the lack of self-critique in Israeli society in regard to both the army and this tradition of cinematic critique. But instead of showing scenes of war and traumatic incidents as the earlier movies do, BeTipul depicts the trauma and its aftermath as they are “just” described by the patients, interrupted only by counter shots of the therapist. BeTipul never uses the usual visual device of flashbacks to illustrate and authenticate trauma.

            In his monologues Yadin, as played by Ashkenazi–who previously portrayed a similar figure as the cold, emotionally detached secret service agent in Walk on Water (Eytan Fox, Israel, 2004),which also deals with past and current Israeli traumas–seems to struggle between the image of the pilot as war hero and his guilt feelings.[30] In the first session Yadin repeatedly says that he feels good and still sleeps like a baby, claiming that it wasn’t he who made a mistake. He did not hit the wrong building; rather the wrong people were in the building. He just followed orders. At the same time Yadin struggles with the incident. Although he denies that what happened “sits on [his] conscience,” his story describes very well what is called moral injury in psychoanalytic and clinical discourse:[31] “[a]n act of serious transgression that creates dissonance and conflict because it violates assumptions and beliefs about right and wrong and personal goodness.”[32] According to K. D. Drescher et al., “[M]oral injury is a construct to describe disruption in an individual’s sense of personal morality.”[33] That Yadin’s character shows symptoms of moral injury is clearly indicated: he says in therapy that he feels a split in himself. In his second session, Yadin wonders why he didn’t feel anything when, after his first session, he visited Ramallah and met the wounded people and parents who lost their children as a result of the bombs he had dropped on them. He says that he could not “make a connection” between his acts and their consequences. He worries that this is not a “normal” reaction and starts analyzing himself. Yadin argues that his body “has a built-in separation mechanism” and that the “system did a great job on [him].” They cut out the “organ called ‘guilt feelings,’” he says. “I have no way of feeling guilt. I don’t have the organ.”[34]

            Typical of moral injury is the experience of “a soul-wound inflicted by doing something that violates one’s own ethics, ideals or attachments,” as Amit Goldenberg quotes Jonathan Shay; he continues: “[T]he emotions experienced in moral injury are often guilt, shame and anger.”[35] Clinical research shows that serving as an agent of killing and failing to prevent death and injury are related more strongly than other wartime actions to general psychiatric distress and suicide attempts; and indeed Yadin kills himself at the end of the first season. [36] According to Maguen and Litz, “Feelings that one does not belong with other people” are strong motivators for suicide.[37] In his second session Yadin tells Reuven that he discovered that he does not love his wife. He assumes that she “does not know anything about him” and that “she does not imagine what is going through my head.”[38] Not only does he feel disconnected from his wife, he is also angry with her–the very anger, in Reuven’s interpretation, which he does not or cannot feel toward himself. As Yadin puts it, he tries to “cut out” one side of his split self, abandoning either his wife, who forces him to fly again and follow his military duties, or the demand to feel guilt.

            The specific situation of Israeli soldiers is not the only particularly Israeli issue to be the focus of Yadin’s case. The series also reveals other aspects of the Israeli unconscious. In his first session Yadin tells Reuven about his father, a Holocaust survivor. Yadin brings up his father in relation to feelings of guilt, claiming, “If there is someone who doesn’t know of guilt feelings, it’s my father.”[39] He recalls the story his father tells every Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), describing his time in a Warsaw Ghetto bunker. It was there that Yadin’s father killed his own father, who had contracted tuberculosis. Yadin assumes that his father does not feel guilty, because he always says: “Leave the guilt to the Germans; the Jews can’t afford it.”[40] Reuven suggests that feeling guilty might be too dangerous, because it is a sign of weakness; whoever is weak or sick may be tossed out to die like Yadin’s grandfather. [41] He thus draws a parallel between Nazi ideology (tossing out the weak) and the behavior of Yadin’s father. In fact, in the beginning of the session, Yadin compares himself to a “German dickhead of the ‘Luftwaffe’ bombing Stalingrad,” and likens the street in Ramallah he visited to a shot from the ghetto in The Pianist, a film about the Shoah and the Warsaw Ghetto directed by Roman Polanski (France, Poland, Germany, UK, 2002).[42]

            Yadin’s case shows the psychic mechanisms not only of moral injury but also of transgenerational trauma, from which most Israelis suffer to this day. Writing about their research on transgenerational transmission of traumatic experiences, Nanette Auerhahn and Dori Laub state “that massive trauma has an amorphous presence not defined by place or time and lacking a beginning, middle, or end, and that it shapes the internal representation of reality of several generations, becoming an unconscious organizing principle passed on by parents and internalized by their children.”[43] They describe how children of survivors develop the sense that their parents often experience separation, differentiation, and individualization as a reactivation of the original trauma. Such responses by their parents support their own identification with their parents’ victimizers.[44]

            In his sixth session Yadin talks more about his relationship with his father and how angry his father became whenever Yadin did not live up to his expectations or separated, differentiated, and individuated himself from his father–for example, through Yadin’s tendency to be too female as a child or a “fag,” as Yadin’s father later calls his son. So instead of separating from his father–and thus repeating the trauma–Yadin followed his father’s expectations: he married a woman and became a pilot. Nevertheless, a reactivation of trauma is still possible in this transmission. Indeed, the transmission of the father’s trauma onto his son could explain why Yadin compares the street in Ramallah to the street in the Warsaw Ghetto, where his father and grandfather sheltered in a bunker. The trauma is present regardless of place or time. In addition Yadin identifies himself with the victimizer, the “German dickhead of the ‘Luftwaffe.’” It seems that Yadin’s father tried to protect his son from inheriting the guilt that the Nazis brutally transferred to their victims when he denied his own guilt for killing Yadin’s grandfather. But what Yadin inherited instead is an inability to feel guilty, because it is indeed too dangerous, and because it would mean that the Nazis would have succeeded, finally, in turning the victims into the victimizers.

            While the transgenerational transmission of the Holocaust trauma affects Jewish people worldwide, there are different opinions about how trauma affects the children of Holocaust survivors in Israel as compared to those in other countries. Jeffrey Prager, for instance, writes:

“It appears that the descendants of Holocaust survivors in Israel have been more successful in establishing independent lives as compared with similar populations among Jews [in other] countries. [. . .] It might be said that the [Israeli] nation has taken the traumatic secret and assertively sought to expose it. [. . .] When, through public rites of remembering and accountability, traumatic secrets are allowed to see the light of day, conditions are established, it might be said, to recover childhoods for the children and to enable subsequent generations to claim the world as their own.”[45]

But this exposure of the trauma in public memories can also result in a type of remembrance that forgets, a closure that “processed the trauma by incorporating it.”[46] However this does seem to be the case for Yadin, who is very much kept imprisoned by the trauma of his father, even though his father is able to speak about his trauma during the rites of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yadin can’t claim the world as his own. Instead, he does what his father expects from him.

            The case of Yadin and the history of his father have an additional implication that might not be specifically Israeli but is attributed as specifically Jewish: the topos of parricide. One of Freud’s most important metapsychological assumptions is that of the primal father, who was “lord and father of the entire horde and unrestricted in his power, which he exercised with violence.”[47] This strong male was destined to be killed by the generation of younger men or by his sons. While later peoples practiced totem religious cults to reenact this primal murder on a symbolic level, monotheistic religions developed a different way of dealing with it. Freud’s Moses and Monotheism and Totem and Taboo (1912–13), as well as his lecture “Death and Us” (1915),[48] not only are concerned with the general passing of trauma from one generation to the next, as described earlier, but deal in particular with the trauma of the murder of the father and its impact on Judaism and Christianity. In his lecture Freud said:

“If the original sin was an offence against God the Father, the primal crime of mankind must have been parricide, the killing of the primal father of the primitive human horde. [. . .] Incidentally, let me point out that the doctrine of original sin is not a Christian innovation; it is part of the primal belief that has continued for ages in subterranean religious currents. Judaism has carefully pushed aside these dark memories of mankind.”[49]

The killing of the father is universal, but Christians have confessed the murder. They “have been cleansed of that guilt” through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s life to redeem mankind from original sin, while the Jews, according to Freud’s argument in his Moses text, denied the murder and acted it out again in the murder of Moses.[50]

            To a certain extent Yadin’s description of his father, who has had many lovers and cheated on his mother, resembles that of the polygamous primal father. But his father is free of guilt or denies his guilty feelings. Yadin also describes his father as “the boy who left the camp and created his own morals,” thus likening him to Moses, the religious leader and creator of the Jews who led the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.[51] Yadin’s father seems to be a creator, and at the same time he repeats Jewish history by murdering his father and denying his guilt. Later we hear Yadin’s father saying that he doesn’t want to remember, that “the brain tells people what it doesn’t want to remember.”[52] According to Freud, such a denial of the murder (of the father) results in acting out and repetition: “The great deed and misdeed of primeval times, the murder of the Father, was brought home to the Jews, for fate decreed that they should repeat it on the person of Moses, an eminent father substitute. [. . .] It was a case of ‘acting’ instead of remembering. [. . .] They responded to the doctrine of Moses–which should have been a stimulus to their memory–by denying their act.”[53] Freud’s assumption that the historic and mythological past “retain[s] an impression of the past in unconscious memory traces” is not reduced to individual trauma; in my view it also constitutes the individual, collective, and cultural unconscious and therefore influences cultural products like film and television as well.[54]

            Aside from the specific Jewish and Israeli living conditions and historical experiences of the patients and the therapist, one can also ask about the relationship between psychoanalysis and Jewishness in general. The founder of psychoanalysis was Jewish, and different theoretical approaches claim that this was not coincidental. Indeed, psychoanalysis is still thought of as a “Jewish science”:

“[T]he claim that psychoanalysis should be considered a ‘Jewish science’ relates to the idea that Jewish thought, Jewish philosophy, and Jewish history flooded its foundations, investing it with the specific inward-consciousness of the Jews, who were newly released in the nineteenth century from their ghettoes and at least some of their traditions. That is, the claim is based on the idea of cultural inheritance: that however atheistic these early psychoanalytic Jews were, they could not but pursue a way of looking at things which was “Jewish.”[55]

Despite the fact that Freud wasn’t religious, many argue that he was much in favor of Enlightenment and Bildung, and saw Judaism “as the religion of reason.”[56] Regardless of his universalistic approach, he did not deny his Jewish background. In fact, he sought to universalize Jewish experiences. David Meghnagi, for instance, draws a link between “Midrash Haggadah” and “free association.”[57] In a similar vein, Stephen Frosh also emphasizes that the “Jewishness” of psychoanalysis “was not a religious perspective–not Judaism–but an approach to argument and interpretation established over centuries in which debates over the meanings of texts were the main expression of cultural achievement.”[58] For Frosh the Talmudic patterns of exegesis, the fascination with words and with reading, present a “relentless and unending search for another way of looking at things,”[59] an other reading of words that goes together with a critical position.[60]

            At the conference on BeTipul and In Treatment at UCLA, almost every speaker agreed that BeTipul is very Jewish only in that it is about the power of words and reflection instead of action. This sentiment is summarized in Miriam Talmon-Bohm’s statement that psychoanalysis is about “thought representation” instead of “thing representation.”[61] Some of the sessions in BeTipul are clearly based on language; insight into the psychic history of the patients is produced though word associations that occur during therapy. In the second season, the patient Talia (Asi Levi), who was Reuven’s lawyer and also his patient several years earlier, is very upset because she read the files of his lawsuit and found out about his love affair with his patient Naama. Talia later tells Reuven about a book she bought online, by Howard Gordon, a fictional American psychologist who wrote a novel about having an affair with a young, attractive patient. She also tells Reuven that while she was looking up the word “therapist,” Google displayed “the rapist.”[62] Words are also confused in Reuven’s own session, when his supervisor, Gila, several times converts the name of his patient Naama into , much to his dismay. In his first session he says that he feels a rupture toward his family, and Gila asks, “What do you mean with ‘rupture’?” Reuven replies, “Never mind. I’m not in therapy, Gila.”[63] Therapy, then, starts only when words are being analyzed.

Paulinian Universalism in In Treatment

At first sight the stories of the HBO adaptation In Treatment seem to be similar to those of BeTipul, with the exception of the third season, which was developed by HBO. The scripts for the first two seasons were adapted almost word for word from the original Hebrew. Co-producer Sarah Treem summarizes the differences on the formal level as involved more with storytelling than with dialogue.[64] But the visual style and setting also differ. Christine Lang offers this description:

“It is all presented in muted colors, soft lighting, and a classical mise-en-sc<è>ne, with alternating shots and reaction shots ranging from medium shots to close-ups; we always see the characters at eye level, which has an almost “anthropomorphizing” effect. There are very few dolly shots or gentle zooms. Line crossing is utilized only sparingly and always in the service of the plot, for example to emphasize a shift in psychological atmosphere. No effort is made to draw attention to the series’ cinematic technique, and soundtrack music is rarely employed.”[65]

It is quite apparent that In Treatment was produced with a larger budget than BeTipul’s. By comparison BeTipul looks more like a soap opera or reality TV program: the colors are more dazzling, the furniture looks cheap, and sometimes the “cinematic technique” is plainly visible, for instance, when a hanging microphone appears in the frame. But although BeTipul is thus less immersive than In Treatment, the focus on talking heads is still the same. Both series cast well-known actors: Dayan, Almagor, and Ashkenazi in BeTipul; and Byrne, Dianne Wiest, and Blair Underwood in In Treatment. And, through the foregrounding of acting, both series resemble theater plays. There are significant differences, however, in the details and cultural identities of the patients and analysts. In the case of Yadin/Alex, for instance, national trauma specific to the United States is introduced through the fact that Alex (Blair Underwood) is African American. Examples of the differences between “thought representation” and “thing representation” mentioned earlier occur already in the second season of In Treatment, in the adaptation of Talia’s case. Mia (Hope Davis), who replaces Talia’s character, also reads the private file of her therapist, Paul Weston, Reuven’s US counterpart. But instead of telling her therapist about a book she bought after she starts thinking about his affair, she speaks about a BBC documentary she watched on the topic of sex dolls.[66] The shift from words to images, or book to film, is already crucial here, but the change from reading about an affair to having sex with dolls is truly astonishing.

            Krin Gabbard argues that In Treatment is stripped of all Jewishness.[67] For Gabbard this is demonstrated by the fact that the name of the therapist has been changed to Paul, “the most Gentile name, the Jew Saul who became the Christian Paul.”[68] Harvey Roy Greenberg similarly questions whether Weston can be imagined as Jewish.[69] Let’s stay for a while with his name and the identity of “Paul” or “Saint Paul.” Paul the Apostle is known for his conversion from a Jew to a Christian missionary who preached that Jesus was the messiah and son of God. The mainstream interpretation of Paul says that salvation is based on faith and not on obedience to the words of law, although several authors have questioned this reading.[70] Paul sought to “offer Gentiles a means of salvation.”[71] He argued that Gentile converts did not need to become Jews, be circumcised, follow Jewish dietary restrictions, or otherwise observe Mosaic laws in order to be saved. This openness to conversion was related to universalism, as Daniel Boyarin points out: “Paul was motivated by a Hellenistic desire for the One, which among other things produced an ideal of a universal human essence, beyond difference and hierarchy.”[72] Boyarin reads both the integration of Gentiles and Paul’s universalism together with the spiritualizing and allegorizing interpretation of Israel’s scripture and law. Apart from the fact that one can conclude from Boyarin’s argument that Paul claimed universalism and spirit only for Christians (and not for Jews whose bodies became particular), one can also read the “fleshy signs” of the Torah and the marked body as focusing on the materiality of language (rather than its spirituality) and the associations of words that are more important in BeTipul.

            Freud’s interpretation of the Apostle Paul focuses mainly on the idea of the murder of the father and the resulting guilt. For Freud, Paul was the one “in whose spirit the realization first emerged: ‘the reason we are so unhappy is that we have killed God the father.’”[73] Whereas the Jews acted out–instead of remembering–the killing of the father through the murder of Moses, “Paul, a Roman Jew from Tarsus, seized on the sense of guilt and traced it back correctly to its original source.”[74] Freud also stressed that Paul universalized religion by abandoning the idea of a chosen people and the practice of circumcision: “he exorcised humanity’s sense of guilt; but he owed it as well to the circumstance that he abandoned the ‘chosen’ character of his people and its visible mark–circumcision–so that the new religion could be a universal one, embracing all men.”[75] According to Jacob Taubes’s interpretation, what Freud saw in Paul–his ability to trace back the sense of guilt to its original source instead of acting it out again–was also his own aim.[76] In addition, Freud invented a universal method grounded in Jewish experience.

            What, then, has Paul Weston in common with Paul the Apostle? While BeTipul is distinctly situated in a specific Jewish experience and Israeli culture, In Treatment is much less specifically Christian or Jewish, leaving Paul Weston rather unmarked both ethnically and religiously. But when it comes to guilt, Paul actively denies it: at Alex’s funeral, he denies having been Alex’s therapist, so that when Alex’s father comes to Paul’s clinic the next day, he is very upset. In contrast to Reuven, who says to Yadin’s father, “One must learn to live with guilt,”[77] Paul says to Alex’s father, “You are not responsible.”[78] And although, of course, no one is responsible for Alex’s suicide, Paul is not even questioning the source of guilty feelings that might arise in him or Alex’s father. So while the aim of both Paul the Apostle and psychoanalysis is tracing back the sense of guilt, this is not the aim of Paul Weston. Reuven, on the other hand, admits the guilt with which he and Yadin’s father must live.

            What about Paul’s universalist approach? Instead of seeing Paul as unmarked and universal, Alex’s father accuses him of being not familiar “with [Alex’s] background.” He asks Paul what he would do if his son sought out someone from a different culture “who started giving him advice [. . . ], advice that you would pretty sure find harmful to your son; what would you do?”[79] Alex’s father makes clear that he thinks a white man could not be a good therapist for his African-American son, suggesting that what might be good for white people might be harmful for black people. For him the cultural background of the therapist is relevant; the use of universal ideas for every different case is insufficient.

            But in his universal attitude toward and disregard for cultural differences, Paul Weston’s approach fits well into the recent philosophical debate that has arisen around Saint Paul, involving such figures as Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, and Slavoj <Ž>i<ž>ek. Boyarin, too, attests that “in terms of ethnicity, his [Saint Paul’s] system required that all human cultural specificities [. . .] be eradicated.”[80] Badiou found in Paul’s universalism a counter-model to a multicultural identity politics, including Jewish particularism, which is based on the tolerance of difference. He also follows the idea that Paul overturned the Jewish law.[81]

            In In Treatment we also find a struggle with the law, mostly in the episodes when Paul sees his supervisor, Gina (Dianne Wiest). Furthermore, some reviewers contend that the sessions with Gina are the most psychoanalytic ones, and Paul frequently argues with her about the rules of psychoanalysis. In his sessions with patients, Paul seems to practice an “Augustinian/Lutheran psychologizing of Paul’s epistle to the Romans,”[82] which forms a model of introspection and confession combined with a forgiveness of sins. But when he meets with Gina, he constantly questions her authority. When she asks Paul if he might repeat his father’s behavior and run away with a patient, Paul asks her to stop talking about his father. He clearly challenges Gina’s rules, treating her disrespectfully by arriving late, ending the session early, and insulting her. If psychoanalysis is a Jewish science–with Judaism a religion of law–Paul is here rebelling against that authority figure and claims to invent a new school. Like the Apostle Paul, who said that belief in the advent of Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law,” Paul Weston claims to redeem psychoanalysis.[83] He complains that Gina follows the rules of psychotherapy too closely, as reflected by her demand that he end the case of erotic transference with Laura (Melissa George).

            Žižek’s reading of Apostle Paul is similar to Freud’s, wherein Paul relieved Christians of guilt for their past sins. For Žižek the most important difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the break with the logic of Sin and Punishment, which brings about the possibility of a New Beginning: “[T]he crucial point is that this New Beginning is possible only through Divine Grace–its impetus must come from outside; it is not the result of a man’s inner effort to overcome his/her limitations.”[84] This is an attempt to overcome “the universe we live in, our ‘way of all flesh.’ [. . .]”[85] His argument is that Paul was not against the law as such but rather against a cycle in which the subject is kept in a “universe in which Sin and Law, desire and its prohibition, are inextricably intertwined. [. . .] The direct result of the intervention of the Law is thus that it divides the subject and introduces a morbid confusion between life and death: the subject is divided between (conscious) obedience to the Law and (unconscious) desire for its transgression.”[86]

            Paul argues with Gina over whether the case of erotic transference is still within the laws of psychotherapy or already crosses the borders, and over whether he expresses a desire for a transgression when he articulates the wish to leave his patients and his wife. The question of whether desire exists beyond the rules of the law is more or less a question of psychoanalysis and the analytic cure. Žižek’s discussion of Saint Paul is not in the lineage of Freud but rather draws on Lacan’s seminar on the Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1959, 60). “Psychoanalysis,” he writes, “is the theory that conceptualizes the paradoxical structure of the first division!”[87] The question is whether psychoanalysis stays within the circle of the law and the desire that transgresses the law, or what “solution” it offers. Lacan agrees with the Apostle Paul that sin is always situated in relation to the law, or rather that the law produces sin as its transgression. When Lacan formulates the maxim of psychoanalytic ethics in the sentence “don’t give way on your desire,” desire is no longer the transgressive desire generated by the prohibitory Law; “rather, it is fidelity to one’s desire itself that is elevated to the level of ethical duty, so that [it] is ultimately another way of saying ‘Do your duty!’”[88]

            From this point of view, all of Paul’s sessions with Gina are about the ethics of psychoanalysis and about the rules of the cure, but also about an understanding of these rules and the symbolic law itself.[89] When Paul confesses later that he is in love with his patient Laura and wants to be with her, a relationship or an affair with Laura seems to be a fulfillment of his desire. But when he finally meets her at home, he is not able to sleep with her, because he has a panic attack. Gina asks Paul whether he thinks “moral decisions are always made in the absence of temptation.”[90] While for Paul the panic attack stands between his desire and its fulfillment, in Gina’s view it was in accordance with Paul’s desire to fulfill his duty to his patient, to do the right thing. This episode at the end of the first season thus shows the impossibility of jouissance beyond the law. Jouissance is part of the law, but not as its opposite. Rather, the two are tied together.


One can claim that Paul’s universalism fails in the US adaptation. If the Apostle Paul embodies a universalism and abolishment of borders, the series and especially the adaptation say something different: that the same story needs its own specific cultural adjustment. In Treatment follows a multiculturalist concept; the cast is more diverse than in BeTipul. But even though its diversity is limited to patients of African-American or Indian decent, it is striking that Jewishness is almost invisible. In its multicultural approach, the Jew becomes white in the series, as has often been the case.[91] But even the transference from a Jewish culture to a multicultural project fails in some cases. In the case of Yadin/Alex, the incomparability of Jewish and African-American trauma becomes obvious. This is partly because racism in the US and the history of slavery are rarely discussed in public, and they are not acknowledged as national traumas.[92] Another important difference is the commonality or difference between the identities of patient and therapist. While I don’t argue that this is equally important for all cases, the case of Yadin shows that a specific trauma cannot be transferred onto another traumatic history. Ultimately, American television’s avoidance in naming both Jewishness and racism results in the failure of that particular story. In regard to the Jewishness of psychoanalysis in general, we have to take into account that in both series we don’t see psychoanalytic sessions but rather witness psychotherapy instead. Although both series consist mainly of dialogue, there is a crucial difference between the two. Whereas in In Treatment the exchange between patient and therapist focuses more on action than on language, the dialogue in BeTipul is more closely aligned with the aim of psychoanalysis–the interpretation of words.


I am grateful for Kenneth Reinhard’s and Ann Goldberg’s comments and helpful suggestions on a draft of this article and for their general support of my work. Great thanks to Vincent Brook, Deborah Hertz, and Nancy Ezer for our conversations on Jewish and Israeli television, and to Hagai Levi, Sarah Treem, and Rodrigo Garcia for their interviews. Special thanks to Katrin Pesch.


[1] Mosse-Lecture with Hagai Levi and Elisabeth Bronfen, Humboldt University, Berlin, June 14,, 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_EzaysXkJ8_, accessed May 15, 2015.

[2] Other countries are Slovenia, Serbia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Moldavia, and Canada.

[3] Roni Baht, “Consulting for the TV Series BeTipul: A Personal Perspective,” Contemporary Psychoanalysis 46.2 (2010): 238.

[4] Tasha Oren, “Therapy Is Complicated: HBO’s Foray into Modular Storytelling with In Treatment,” Flow, January 29, 2008, flowtv.org/2008/01/therapy-is-complicated-hbo%E2%80%99s-foray-into-modular-storytelling-with-in-treatment, accessed January 14, 2014.

[5] Vincent Brook, Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 1.

[6] Ibid., 11.

[7] Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, vol. 1 of The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), 7.

[8] Christine Lang, “The Idea of Love in the TV Serial In Treatment,” in Screening the Dark Side of Love, ed. Karen Ritzenhoff and Karen Randell (London: Palgrave, 2012), 120-140.

[9] Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Freud’s Moses: Judaism Terminable and Interminable (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 16.

[10] Silvia Vegetti Finzi, “The Jew as an Ethical Figure,” in Freud and Judaism, ed. David Meghnagi (London: Karnac Books, 1993), 96.

[11] See Stephen Frosh, Hate and the “Jewish Science”: Anti-Semitism, Nazism and Psychoanalysis (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2005).

[12] Sigmund Freud, Postscript (1935) to An Autobiographical Study, vol. 20 of The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), 72.

[13] Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 99.

[14] Mosse-Lecture with Hagai Levi and Elisabeth Bronfen.

[15] Robert Stam, “The Theory and Practice of Adaptation,” in Literature and Film–A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation, ed. Alessandra Raengo and Robert Stam (Malden, MA: Blackwell 2005), 44.

[16] Brett Kahr, “Dr. Paul Weston and the Bloodstained Couch,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 92 (2011): 1051-1058.

[17] Harvey Roy Greenberg, “In Treatment: Doctor Paul Weston–Psychotherapist or Cinetherapist?” Psychoanalytic Review 98.1 (2011): 121-134; Laura Barnett, “How Realistic Is In Treatment?” Guardian, April 25, 2011, www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/apr/26/in-treatment-british-psychotherapists, accessed January 14, 2014.

[18] Jane Feuer, “Being in Treatment on TV,” Flow, May 16, 2009, flowtv.org/2009/05/being-in-treatment-on-tvjane-feuer-university-of-pittsburgh, accessed January 21, 2014.

[19] Caroline Bem, “Of Talk and Silence on Television: Notes on In Treatment,” Seachange (2012): 25-39, 28, www.seachangejournal.ca/PDF/2012_Talk_Parole/Notes%20on%20In%20Treatment%20-%20Bem.pdf, accessed May 15, 2015.

[20] Michaela Wünsch, „Schluss mit dem Kino!,“ in Félix Guattari. Die Couch des Armen. Die Kinotexte in der Diskussion, ed.Aljoscha Weskott, Susanne Leeb, Herlmut Draxler et.al. (Berlin: b_books 2011), 79-91.

[21] This was a one-day conference on April 9, 2009, hosted by the Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. www.international.ucla.edu/israel/be-tipul, accessed May 15, 2015.

[22] See, for instance, Slavoj <Ž>i<ž>ek’s reading of Psycho or Total Recall in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) (London: Verso, 1993); Joan Copjec’s film analysis in Read My Desire: Lacan Against the Historicists (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994); or Todd McGowan and Sheila Kunkle’s reader, Lacan and Contemporary Film (New York: Other Press, 2004), xx, in which the editors claim that a psychoanalytical reading of a “filmic text” cannot be separated from its reception.

[23] Ira Konigsberg, “Does It Work? Mine Own Executioner and Psychoanalytic Interpretation,” Contemporary Psychoanalysis 46. 2 (2010): 199.

[24] Oren, “Therapy Is Complicated.”

[25] Krin Gabbard at the UCLA conference on In Treatment/BeTipul, April 3 2009, podcast: www.international.ucla.edu/israel/be-tipul, accessed May 15, 2015.

[26] Irit Keynan, “Moral Injury: The Case of Israel,” UCIPC Annual Conference, Lake Arrowhead, May 18, 2013.

[27] See Ilan Avisar, “Israeli Cinema and the Ending of Zionist Ideology,” in Israel in the Nineties, ed. Frederick Lazin and Gregory Mahler (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996), 153-168; Nurit Gertz, “Historical Memory: Israeli Cinema and Literature in the 1980s and 1990s,” in Critical Essays on Israeli Society, Religion, and Government, ed. Kevin Avruch and Walter Zenner (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 200-226.

[28] Raz Yosef, Beyond Flesh: Queer Masculinities and Nationalism in Israeli Cinema (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004), 57.

[29] Avisar, “Israeli Cinema,” 165.

[30] Hagai Levi at the UCLA conference on In Treatment/ BeTipul, April 3, 2009, podcast: www.international.ucla.edu/israel/be-tipul, accessed May 15, 2015.

[31] “Yadin: Week 1,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 2, 2005.

[32] B. T. Litz, N. Stein, E. Delaney, L. Lebowitz, W. P. Nash, C. Silva, and S. Maguen, “Moral Injury and Moral Repair in War Veterans: A Preliminary Model and Intervention Strategy,” Clinical Psychology Review 29.8 (2009): 695-706.

[33] K. D. Drescher, D. W. Foy, C. Kelly, A. Leshner, K. Schutz, and B. Litz, “An Exploration of the Viability and Usefulness of the Construct of Moral Injury in War Veterans,” Traumatology 17 (2011): 8-13.

[34] “Yadin: Week 1,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 2, 2005.

[35] Amit Goldenberg, “A Soldier’s Self-Cannibalization: Moral Injury,” International Psychoanalysis, October 24, 2011, www.internationalpsychoanalysis.net/2011/10/24/a-soldier%E2%80%99s-self-cannibalization-moral-injury%E2%80%9D-introduction-by-nathan-szajnberg-md-managing-editor, accessed January 20, 2014.

[36] A. Fontana, R. Rosenheck, and E. Brett, “War Zone Traumas and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptomatology,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 180 (1992): 748-755.

[37] Shira Maguen and Brett Litz, “Moral Injury in Veterans of War,” PTSD Research Quarterly 23.1 (2012): 2, www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/newsletters/research-quarterly/v23n1.pdf, accessed May 15, 2015.

[38] “Yadin: Week 2,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 7, 2005.

[39] “Yadin: Week 1,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 2, 2005.

[40] “Yadin: Week 2,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 7, 2005.

[41] He uses the Hebrew word for “tuberculotic.” I thank Yaron Spivak for this translation.

[42] “Yadin: Week 1,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 2, 2005.

[43] N. Auerhahn and D. Laub, “Intergenerational Memory of the Holocaust,” in International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, ed. Y. Danieli (New York: Plenum Press, 1998), 21-42: 38.

[44] Jeffrey Prager, “Lost Childhood, Lost Generations: The Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma,” Journal of Human Rights 2:2 (2003): 173-181; 177.

[45] Ibid., 180.

[46] Raz Yosef, The Politics of Loss and Trauma in Contemporary Israeli Cinema (New York: Routledge, 2011), 7.

[47] Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 81.

[48] Freud, “Death and Us,” in Freud and Judaism, ed. Meghnagi, 11-41.

[49] Ibid., 23.

[50] Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 133.

[51] “Yadin: Week 5,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 22, 2005.

[52] “Yadin–Yadin’s Father: Week 8,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 37, 2005.

[53] Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 88.

[54] Ibid., 101.

[55] Frosh, Hate and the “Jewish Science”, 10 (emphasis in original).

[56] Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, “Some Thoughts on Freud’s Attitude during the Nazi Period,” in Freud and Judaism, ed. Meghnagi, 74.

[57] David Meghnagi, “A Cultural Event with Judaism,” in Freud and Judaism, ed. Meghnagi, 63.

[58] Frosh, Hate and the “Jewish Science”, 11. I am not sure where the comma has to be, because the “ is part of the title.

[59] Ibid., 13.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Miriam Talmon-Bohm at the UCLA conference on In Treatment/ BeTipul, April 3, 2009, podcast, www.international.ucla.edu/israel/be-tipul, accessed May 15, 2015.

[62] “Talia: Week 3,” BeTipul, season 2, episode 11, 2008.

[63] “Gila: Week 1,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 5, 2005.

[64] Interview with the author, June 20, 2013.

[65] Lang, “Idea of Love,” 131.

[66] “Mia: Week 3,” In Treatment, season 2, episode 11, 2011.

[67] Krin Gabbard at the conference on In Treatment/ BeTipul, April 3, 2009, podcast, www.international.ucla.edu/israel/be-tipul, accessed May 15, 2015.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Greenberg, “In Treatment: Doctor Paul Weston,” 129.

[70] Wolf-Daniel Hartwich, Aleida Assmann, and Jan Assmann, “Afterword,” in Jacob Taubes, The Political Theology of Paul, trans. Dana Hollander, ed. Aleida Assmann and Jan Assmann (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 116.

[71] Pamela E. Klassen and John W. Marshall, “Saint as Cipher: Paul, Badiou, and the Politics of Ritual Repudiation,” History of Religions 51.4 (May 2012): 360.

[72] Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), introduction (ebook).

[73] Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 135.

[74] Ibid., 89, 86.

[75] Ibid., 88.

[76] Taubes, The Political Theology of Paul, 95.

[77] “Yadin–Yadin’s Father: Week 8,” BeTipul, season 1, episode 37, 2005.

[78] “Alex: Week 8,” In Treatment, season 1, episode 37, 2008.

[79] “Alex: Week 8,” In Treatment, season 1, episode 37, 2008.

[80] Boyarin, A Radical Jew, introduction.

[81] Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, trans. Ray Brassier (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003). See also Eleanor Kaufman, “The Saturday of Messianic Time (Agamben and Badiou on the Apostle Paul),” in South Atlantic Quarterly 107.1 (Winter 2008): 37-54.

[82] Klassen and Marshall, “Saint as Cipher,” 360.

[83] Holy Bible, New International Version, Galatians 3:13.

[84] Slavoj Žižek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology (London: Verso, 1999), 331.

[85] Ibid., 148 (emphasis in original).

[86] Ibid., 148-149.

[87] Ibid., 153 (emphasis in original).

[88] Ibid.

[89] On Paul’s unethical behavior, see Kahr, “Dr. Paul Weston and the Bloodstained Couch.”

[90] “Paul and Gina: Week 9,” In Treatment, season 1, episode 43, 2008.

[91] See Vincent Brook, Something Ain’t Kosher, 15, 163.

[92] Jeffrey Prager, “False Memory and Early Childhood Sexual Abuse: Two Distinctive Differences in Understanding and Intervention,” New Center for Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles, CA, November 21, 2013.