If Alexander Kluge wasn’t the first auteur to apply the gray colors and paranoia that defined New German Cinema, then he was close at hand and holding a paintbrush. The Goethe-Institut’s retrospective on Kluge, “Film Will Survive,” features four of the director’s longer works, accompanied by relevant short films, beginning Sept. 8 with Kluge’s early triumphs Brutality in Stone (1966) and Yesterday Girl (1966). Brutality in Stone, an 11-minute montage assembled from footage of the ruined Nuremberg rally grounds, contemplates decaying Nazi architecture as a silent witness to Word War II atrocity. While that may seem old hat in the era of the History Channel, it resonated deeply back when Germany was desperately trying to look away and start over. Yesterday Girl, Kluge’s first feature-length film, critiques postwar German society by following an young and emotionally desolate Jewish woman from betrayal to betrayal as she tries to get ahead, ultimately descending into a life of petty theft. By using on-set improvisation, wild juxtapositions, and jarring narrative leaps, Kluge helped to establish a distinctive world for German cinema. But it’s a slightly harrowing one, where a common person’s soul generally gets crushed and birds don’t sing but scream in pain. The series runs to Monday, Sept. 29, at the Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 7th St. NW; see Showtimes for this week’s films; see goethe.de/washington for a complete schedule. $6. (202) 289-1200.