Art, Cinema, and the Berlin School
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This dissertation argues that the Berlin School (Berliner Schule)—the most important development in German cinema since the New German Cinema of the 1970s—explores the relation between cinema and traditional art genres. The four genres that organize my dissertation—portraiture, landscape, still life, and history—also provide the key categories for analyzing their work. Each genre provides the cinema with historical forms of seeing and representation. The films, for their part, take up these forms and rework them in a new context. In my exploration of the films, I draw on a variety of texts (student work, non-narrative films, experimental films, narrative films, painting, photography, and video installation). This study does not provide a single “reading” of the films, nor does it simply classify them as a portrait films or landscape films, for example. Films can obviously cut across genres, creating a visual and referential richness that allows for even deeper engagement. I build upon discussions of the aesthetic context of the pictorial arts, drawing from art historians, as well as from literary and film scholars, to show how “ways of seeing” specific to these genres of art suggest a way of dealing with the problem of stasis in film. Consequently, this study suggests a revised understanding of the genres that emphasizes mobility and dynamism in relation to the stories being told. This dissertation offers a conceptual framework through art for exploring both the history and aesthetics of the Berlin School. It suggests an understanding of the Berlin School not just as art cinema, but cinema as a reflection on the history of art. Going further, it expands our understanding of film’s visual language and of cinema as an art of seeing. In doing so, it also demonstrates how narrative film is currently redefining the cinema’s relation to the arts. Ultimately, I argue that an understanding of the current German cinema through the framework of art history allows us to connect beyond the German context to film and visual arts more broadly.
- German