AbstractsPolitical Science

Politics and the moving image: contemporary German and Austrian cinema through the lens of Benjamin, Kracauer and Kluge

by Leila Mukhida

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: School of Goverment and Society, Department of Political Science and International Studies, Institute for German Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: JA Political science (General); PN1993 Motion Pictures
Record ID: 1405880
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5669/


This thesis charts the trajectory of a strand of film-theoretical optimism in texts by Walter Benjamin (1882-1940), Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966) and Alexander Kluge (1932–) from different moments in the twentieth century; the empirical corpus looks to post-reunification German and Austrian cinema to find evidence of this theoretical optimism in contemporary filmmaking practices. The thinkers advocate the leftist-political potential of film to stimulate a critical mode of spectatorship, and are to varying degrees influenced by Brecht and the neo- Marxist politics of the \({Frankfurter Institut für Sozialforschung}\). The objective of this thesis is thus twofold. First, it illustrates the continuing relevance of the following principal strands in the film-theoretical texts of Benjamin, Kracauer and Kluge: the representation of the figure of the worker in the \(Arbeiterfilm\) genre; the possibilities and limits of capturing reality using different modes of realism; the imperative of challenging viewers in order to transform them from ‘consumers’ into collaborators; and, following on from this, notions of shock and distraction, focusing on Benjamin’s concept of the ‘Schockwirkung’. Second, it shows how this diachronic, neo-Marxist approach can continue to illuminate facets of the political in contemporary cinema by German-speaking directors in an age of advanced capitalism and digital reproducibility.