In the Space of the Screen: Cinema and the Political Subject

    • Nice November 2018
    • Presentation speakers
      • Evelyn Preuss, Yale University, USA


    Hollywood manufactures potent mind-altering drugs. Activating a hormonal response in its subjects, their effects are no less physical than conventional chemically-based psychopharmaca. As Hollywood’s recipe of combining image and sound to captivate audiences proliferates, mutates into other forms and is adopted by new media industries—first television, then video game ventures and now internet streaming services—its availability has spread from the once-a-week delivery of the ‘night at the movies’ to an exposure that extends through much or most of people’s unstructured time. Digital technologies further enhance both the effectiveness and the distribution of the drug, enabling a more or less continuous hallucination and mind control. Changing expectations and behavioral patterns, Hollywood and its mutants reconfigure emotional and mental structures, undermining not only concepts of personal autonomy, but, in its wake, also of the liberal political subject and democracy. My paper juxtaposes the Hollywood aesthetic, which after the demise of the Eastern bloc has become globally dominant, with that of media from the former East. Using East German Cinema as an example to show how media could function as an intersection of studio-produced Autorenfilm with a revolutionary intent (i.e., as a cross-over of what is conceived in film theory as First, Second and Third Cinema), I will highlight an aesthetic that instead of a compulsive and addictive lack-suture structure, an overpowering affective control and a return-to-the-comfort-zone closure, aimed to liberate the spectator intellectually and emotionally, sought to interpolate the spectator as an autonomous subject and to use the movie hall as a social forum in which to establish a democratic consensus. Instead of hijacking the spectators’ minds by triggering emotive responses, East German cinema first and foremost called upon the intellectual capacity of the audience. It eschewed unequivocality, instead using the screen to open up a space for questioning and contemplation.