Graduate Topics in Film – Cinema of Crisis
240 002 | CCN: 27000
Anton J Kaes
Location: Dwinelle 226
Date and Time: M 1:00pm - 3:59pm
The seminar looks at German cinema between 1929 and 1934 through the lens of philosophical writings about crisis — economic, political, and cultural. We will analyze selected films from the pivotal years before and after the ascent of Hitler and ask how culture registered the gradual transition from a democratic to an autocratic system of government. Occasionally we will compare the German production with crisis films from other countries (for instance, King Vidor’s 1934 Our Daily Bread or Dovzhenko’s 1930 Earth). Our interrogation will also address larger theoretical questions, such as the entanglement of aesthetics and politics, modernity and myth, and populism and working class, as well as the very definitions of crisis, state of exception, and fascist thought. We will screen films by Bert Brecht, Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst, Leni Riefenstahl, and lesser-known documentary and avant-garde works. Most importantly, we will discuss critical interventions by Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger, and Carl Schmitt, as well as retrospective readings of the period by Theodor W. Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, and Hannah Arendt, among others. Readings are in English.