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  3. (PDF) The Spirit of Technology: Early German Thinking about Film | Katharina Loew -
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And cinema is able to conjure up events of grotesque and magic nature that could never happen in real life and could never appear on stage. However, his espousal of cinematic realism came at least one decade too early. In the prewar period, images of nature—although widely acknowledged as genuinely cinematic—were considered to have little artistic value. Similar arguments can also be found in the French discourse.

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The article appeared in March To be granted the status of an art form, cinema could not merely copy external reality. Technoromanticism As an emblem of modernity, cinema has been associated with concepts like novelty, speed, technology, youth, and urbanity. They attributed spiritual qualities to technology that were considered constitutive for art. This resulted in an amalgamation of technophilia and mystical or idealist concepts. Tech- noromantic lines of thought shaped early theories of film and pervade mod- ernist culture more generally.

Walter Hin- derer and Daniel O. Dahlstrom, trans. Daniel O. Dahlstrom New York: Continuum, , This becomes particu- larly evident in light of the debates about cinema during the silent era. First, the technoromantic outlook was a widespread reaction to modernity and by no means a specifically German phenomenon. The filmic medium was attributed mysterious, impenetrable, quasi-supernatural powers that could reveal a hidden meaning in material reality while techno- logically transforming it.

Second, technoromantic lines of argument were not limited to the politi- cal Right.

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Only semblance is eternal because it has no reality. Alfred A. Regardless of the political orientation of individual commentators, the assumption that a machine could provide access to a spiritual dimension challenged traditional positions and simultaneously reflected an attempt to integrate technology with established aesthetic theories. Transcending Physical Reality If film wanted to be art, it had to convey a sense of transcendence and subjec- tivity while bringing into being something original and meaningful. Many commentators doubted that photographic images could be anything but direct imprints of reality.

If filmic images were nothing but monochrome and silent copies of superior originals, cinema was certainly not creative. While few could imagine how photographic images of outside reality could render something original and subjective, the artistic nature of represen- tations of personal experiences and supernatural events was far more easily Lance W. Garmer, in German Essays on Film, ed. Richard W.

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  6. Trick effects were the most obvious demonstration that film tech- nology could provide new scope for the imagination and could create images rather than simply reproduce them. In short: film technology must become relevant for the choice of content. Both relied on trick technology to visualize what could not be found in physical reality and what the traditional arts could only approximate.

    In addi- tion, they were also attributed an ontological affinity with the new medium.

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    On account of its ability to conjure up a make-believe world, as well as its mass appeal and narrative plainness, critics frequently identified cinema as a modern rendition of traditional folk art. We are being told a story. Our eyes are listening and the ears get a little music as consolation for the sur- roundings. It was popular with adult and child audiences, acceptable to many critics, and allowed for playful technical experiments with the cinematic apparatus. Most decisive for the development of German film culture, however, was the assumed affinity between cinema and the workings of the soul.

    If the new medium could, in a uniquely cinematic way, objectify ideas, if it could be a mirror of the mind rather than one of physical reality, film would meet the most crucial criteria for art. Ludwig Berger , and various productions by Alfons Zengerling during the late s and early s.

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    Robert Reinert , Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Decla-Film-Ges. Holz und Co. Bruno Rahn. His film theo- retical work thus remained unknown in Germany. Many, for instance, considered dreamlike aesthet- ics as most consistent with the essence of film. Rudolf Arnheim claimed that he first heard about The Photoplay in the s. They imagined cinema as an external manifestation of the soul, existing in a space between psyche and mechanized exterior reality.

    (PDF) The Spirit of Technology: Early German Thinking about Film | Katharina Loew -

    I can dream. I live in the world of wonder, and yet this world comes alive only through my dreams. The filmic world engulfs the spectator and is simultaneously the product of his or her imagination alone. In R. It is the bold attempt to replace our poetic and dreaming imagination with an artificial mechanism. As a result, they fell short of expanding the links between cinema and mind into a full-fledged theory.

    The article appeared in April In the absence of spoken words, cinema was deemed inca- pable of conveying character psychology.

    It cannot go beyond situation, movement and bare action. Early audiences and filmmakers were acutely aware of the two-dimensionality of cinematic representations. None- theless, all of them connected the spirit of cinema to a utopian realm. Relieved from the burden of human experience, the filmic realm was described as dynamic, boundless, anarchistic, and creative. The association of unreality, play, and freedom, which characterizes the work of these critics, traces back to Schiller, who understood playful aesthetic semblance as distinct from actual, deceitful semblance as the basis of all art.

    Far more so than any other device, the cinematograph increases our visual acuity in ways that appear preternatural. The powers of cinematic vision transcend space, time, and even physical reality. We expand our optical horizons or wipe them out in order to lay eyes on the light of the world almost without any obstacles. The flounder has eyes that can go for a walk.

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    But man of the twentieth century has the cinematograph. He not only sees the visible.

    He sees what he wants to see. John Lastly, film exceeds the limits of time.


    Unaffected by human finitude, the cinemato- graph occupies a liminal space between death and life: The modern eye [the cinematograph] looks beyond death into the past and the ravages of time. It gazes backward and forward. It sees the dead as living and the living as dead. The realm of death no longer borders directly on life. The realm of death now lies on the border of the cinematograph and the gramophone.