Dimensions of Violence and Legitimation in Cinema
As a narrative and visual art form rooting in photography cinema is fundamentally concerned with the possibilities of illustrating actual and historical social conditions. By way of its capacity to create worlds and their human inhabitants by moving images it is not only able to debate aspects of existing social orders but also to introduce new or simply different forms of experiencing socially constituted phenomena to its viewers.
In our proposed panel we would like to discuss this potential of cinema with particular attention to the cinematic treatment of (legitimate or illegitimate) violence. Obviously, the depiction of violence is one of the dominant preoccupations of film. Many films focus on the characteristic relations between concrete cases of individual violent behaviour and correlating social structures. They do so by providing different ways of experiencing these presentations of violence. Accordingly, we aim for a discussion of the possibilities of cinematic legitimation or de-legitimation of violent behaviour by taking into account a.) the elements of its audiovisual narrative presentations and b.) the kind of experience these presentations offer.
We would welcome speakers that submitted related papers to join this panel.
a.) Jochen Schuff
Beyond The Military Man
Just after the seminal textbook passages of The World Viewed, Stanley Cavell turns to describing so-called staples of cinema, consisting of figures extracted from what he sees as a proto-theory of cinema: Baudelaire’s little 1863 book The Painter of the Modern Life. One of these figures is ›the military man‹, who shares the chapter of his appearance with ›the woman‹, what leaves him only little room, unsurprisingly, given Cavell’s cinematic interests. What Cavell seems to claim through his cursory remarks, however, is that (a) classical war cinema draws an image of society defining itself against the backdrop of male comradeship while it (b) leaves the core cinematic work of screening subjectivity to films about women.
I want to argue that contemporary war cinema tends to highlight the decay of comradeship and the isolation of the individual (see e.g. The Hurt Locker, D: Kathryn Bigelow, USA 2008), while simultaneously questioning the reliability of its own images, undermining, as it were, their capacity to project a world (see e.g. Redacted, D: Brian De Palma, USA 2007). Most recently, Kathryn Bigelow’s widely discussed Zero Dark Thirty (USA 2012) twists intuitions like Cavell’s further by showing a military woman on a more or less isolated crusade, disclosing no hints to her motivations and personal development. The features mentioned seem to block simple justificatory strategies common in cinematic war narratives, but instead demonstrate how normative uncertainty precipitates in readjustments of patterns of filmic narration.
b.) Frederike Popp
It seems to be undeniable that the cinema enables its recipients a radical different mode of experiencing art. Nevertheless Robert Sinnerbrink goes one step further. Under the banner of a romantic film-philosophy he argues for a cinematic mode of thinking which cannot be reduced or translated to philosophical claims (Re-enfranchising film: towards a romantic film-philosophy (in: Carel, New Takes in Film Philosophy, New York 2011); New philosophies of film (London 2001)). The viewer is able to reach this mode through his affective involvement with the virtual world of the particular film, which in turn allows him to get singular insights into the real world and its natural and social relations. These theoretically insights can only be gained via this involvement though they could be relevant for philosophical discourse.
Because of its specific possibilites to enable affective and judgemental processes, I would like to substantiate this approach on the basis of the cinematic presentation of violence. It is my aim to consider the question how cinema of the stated kind is able to take a stance toward social conditions of violence by confronting its recipients with a singular experience that has the potential to change their relation to violence comprehensively. The film Waltz with Bashir (D: Ari Folman, 2008) will serve as my main cinematic example especially because of its performative presentation of violence.