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The Emergence of Film Culture

The Emergence of Film Culture: Knowledge Production, Institution Building, and the Fate of the Avant-garde in Europe, 1919-1945

Edited by Malte Hagener
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Emergence of Film Culture
    Book Description:

    Between the two world wars, a distinct and vibrant film culture emerged in Europe. Film festivals and schools were established; film theory and history was written that took cinema seriously as an art form; and critical writing that created the film canon flourished. This scene was decidedly transnational and creative, overcoming traditional boundaries between theory and practice, and between national and linguistic borders. This new European film culture established film as a valid form of social expression, as an art form, and as a political force to be reckoned with. By examining the extraordinarily rich and creative uses of cinema in the interwar period, we can examine the roots of film culture as we know it today.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-424-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: The Emergence of Film Culture
    (pp. 1-18)
    Malte Hagener

    When film became a technological reality in the late nineteenth century, its future shape and role was far from obvious. Discussions regarding the theoretical nature, the aesthetic function and the social role of cinema began as soon as commentators took note of the medium, but conceptualizations remained fluid for the first decades. It was not until the 1920s that knowledge about film and cinema was systematically, consistently and reflexively articulated, gathered and disseminated on a broader basis. Over the course of two decades, the 1920s and 1930s, institutions, practices and arguments arose which have been crucial for any serious engagement...

  6. I. Formations of Knowledge

    • Chapter 1 Policing Race: Postcolonial Critique, Censorship and Regulatory Responses to the Cinema in Weimar Film Culture
      (pp. 21-45)
      Tobias Nagl

      German cinema – particularly the internationally recognized ‘art cinema’ of the silent and early sound period – for a long time was assumed to be completely ‘race-less’. This epistemological absence or uncritically assumed whiteness of the German screen, however, should neither be simply understood as a scholarly oversight, resulting from the scarcity of archival material that would prove otherwise, nor be seen solely as a long-lasting after-effect of the paradigms inaugurated by Siegfried Kracauer and Lotte Eisner, who interpreted German cinema of the 1920s either as a ‘retreat from reality’ and the demonic foreboding of the things to come after...

    • Chapter 2 The Visible Woman in and against Béla Balázs
      (pp. 46-71)
      Erica Carter

      In July 2011, U.K. radio audiences gained a rare insight into the life of a famously undemonstrative political dissident when the Burmese opposition leader, Aang San SuuKyi, delivered two BBC Reith Lectures on the subject of ‘Liberty’.¹ Although she cited Max Weber as one source of her conviction that political opposition is driven above all by personal passion, Aang San SuuKyi began on a more intimate note. ‘The first autobiography I ever read’, she confided, ‘was … perhaps prophetically …Seven Years’ Solitary… [the autobiography] of a Hungarian woman [caught up in] the Communist Party purges of the early...

    • Chapter 3 Encounters in Darkened Rooms: Alternative Programming of the Dutch Filmliga, 1927–31
      (pp. 72-117)
      Tom Gunning

      At the end of the 1920s, in a number of countries, diverse energies seem to coalesce in a novel and polemic task: the definition of film as an art form. The most obvious forms this definition takes are theory (a number of essays and books, the first classics of what we would now call ‘film theory’) and practice (a body of films produced in the late silent cinema by an international avant-garde that provided models for a radical form of filmmaking – the work of Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Jean Epstein, Hans Richter, Germaine Dulac, Walter Ruttmann, Joris Ivens and...

    • Chapter 4 When Was Soviet Cinema Born? The Institutionalization of Soviet Film Studies and the Problems of Periodization
      (pp. 118-140)
      Natalie Ryabchikova

      The birthday of the cinema is traditionally celebrated on 28 December, in commemoration of the first public séance by the Lumière brothers in Paris in 1895. While the Russian film community, along with the rest of the world, participated in the festivities that marked cinema’s centennial, the Day of Cinema that is celebrated every year in Russia is 27 August, which was the date in 1919 when Vladimir Lenin signed the decree allowing the nationalization of all photo and film trade and production – so, like the date of Russian Orthodox Christmas, it does not correspond to that of the...

  7. II. Networks of Exchange

    • Chapter 5 Eastern Avatars: Russian Influence on European Avant-Gardes
      (pp. 143-161)
      Ian Christie

      The history of avant-gardism offers an instructive challenge to those who like to know where they stand. The concept is frankly contentious, and to be meaningful really requires qualification in terms of ‘when, where and for whom’? Above all, it’s a relative term, defining artists in relation to what is not considered or self-defined as avant-garde – the tradition or body of work they are reacting against; the new direction they are taking, with its attendant risks and likelihood of failure; and also relative to the point of view of the observer. What is often forgotten is that where we...

    • Chapter 6 Early Yugoslav Ciné-amateurism: Cinéphilia and the Institutionalization of Film Culture in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during the Interwar Period
      (pp. 162-179)
      Greg de Cuir Jr.

      The International Union of Non-Professional Cinema (UNICA) was founded in 1931 with the goal of promoting non-commercial film, which was achieved by organizing yearly festivals and congresses. Five countries participated in UNICA’s first international amateur film competition held in Brussels in 1931, among them the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In his study on the emergence of film culture, Malte Hagener states that ‘[w]hile the movement of film societies evolved slowly but steadily over the 1920s, there was a sudden upsurge and boom of film societies in the time between 1928 and 1931’.¹ This upsurge marked the flowering of a phenomenon that...

    • Chapter 7 Soviet–Italian Cinematic Exchanges: Transnational Film Education in the 1930s
      (pp. 180-198)
      Masha Salazkina

      The development of film education in Europe in its formative stage in the 1920s and 1930s was largely state-supported. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that it was both shaped by and formed part of the state nationalist modernizing agendas of industrialization, rationalization of labour and institutional practices, and mass education which characterize the social and political history of the first half of the twentieth century. In this way, the new media was integrated into the consumerist capitalist (technological, economic and political) hegemony of modernity, and of state nationalist projects. The development of national cinemas as well as...

    • Chapter 8 The Avant-Garde, Education and Marketing: The Making of Non-theatrical Film Culture in Interwar Switzerland
      (pp. 199-224)
      Yvonne Zimmermann

      This chapter examines the emergence of film culture in the 1920s and 1930s as an outcome of an informal network of various institutional strands – among them the avant-garde – that shared ideas and practices about film and cinema as an instrument for social interference. In the following, the cinematic avant-garde is considered along with educational and corporate milieus to uncover the intersections, cooperation and alliance of the art film movement with coalitions whose contributions to non-theatrical film culture have largely gone unnoticed in cinema studies. To illustrate this point, we only need to look at two historical events that...

  8. III Emergence of Institutions

    • Chapter 9 Interwar Film Culture in Sweden: Avant-Garde Transactions in the Emergent Welfare State
      (pp. 227-248)
      Lars Gustaf Andersson

      This epigraph is from a chapter on the future of film art inFilmens roman(lit. ‘The Novel of the Film’), a Swedish account of the history and aesthetics of film from 1920, written by the prolific crime writer and critic Julius Regis. His enthusiasm is shared by many of his contemporaries among critics and writers. As the critic Sven Stolpe put it in an article in the popular journalFilmnyhetersome years later: ‘Cinema is the art of the future’.² Paradoxically they upheld this optimism concerning the new medium in a decade when domestic film production was declining; the...

    • Chapter 10 Building the Institution: Luigi Chiarini and Italian Film Culture in the 1930s
      (pp. 249-267)
      Francesco Pitassio and Simone Venturini

      The 1968 Venice Film Festival was to be Luigi Chiarini’s last. Having been responsible for the event since 1962, he resigned because of the protests of the leftist Italian filmmakers and students who were asking for a more prominent space for art films in the selection – protests that in a general climate of political turmoil also affected the festival. Chiarini, however, was effectively dismissed by the political apparatus that had appointed him six years earlier, as a result of the producers’ pressure and of the discontent of the Venetian tourism industry. Luigi Chiarini had denied producers a role in...

    • Chapter 11 A New Art for a New Society? The Emergence and Development of Film Schools in Europe
      (pp. 268-282)
      Duncan Petrie

      The interwar period represents a high-water mark in the development of film culture in Europe. On one hand, the aesthetic possibilities of cinematic form were being explored and significantly advanced in innovative ways by filmmakers in France, the Soviet Union and Germany. And while regarded by some as a fundamentally regressive development, the introduction of synchronized sound in the early 1930s provided new creative and technical challenges and proved to be something that further consolidated the popularity of cinema as a true mass medium. At the same time, serious appreciation of film was being promoted by numerous clubs and societies...

    • Chapter 12 Institutions of Film Culture: Festivals and Archives as Network Nodes
      (pp. 283-305)
      Malte Hagener

      What constitutes film culture these days appears to be obvious – film criticism and film theory, festivals and prizes, archives and repertoire cinemas, film schools and museums – all spawn a network that is so familiar that we tend to forget that the shapes and contours of these institutions and networks were far from obvious in the 1920s and 1930s. Film festivals and film archives are both important aspects of this validation of cinema as an art form and as a productive cultural force. By putting forward two case studies I want to examine what the conditions for the existence...

    • Chapter 13 The German Reich Film Archive in an International Context
      (pp. 306-338)
      Rolf Aurich

      For a long time, film copies and negatives were destroyed once they had fulfilled their economic purpose and there was no storage space for them. To stem this loss, enthusiasts, companies, and private and public institutions collected films in Germany and elsewhere that they considered important or useful. German newspapers of the 1920s in particular were full of items reporting how towns and cities had set up agencies of their own to preserve film copies. In Germany in the 1930s, screenings of earlier film productions organized by intermediaries such as Ernst Angel, Alfred Jungermann and Johannes Eckardt, or by collectors...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 339-342)
  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 343-364)
  11. Index
    (pp. 365-380)