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The Politics and Poetics of Cinematic Realism$
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Hermann Kappelhoff

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231170727

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231170727.001.0001

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After the War

After the War

Cinema as the Site of Historical Consciousness

(p.58) 3 After the War
The Politics and Poetics of Cinematic Realism

Hermann Kappelhoff

Columbia University Press

Against the backdrop of the Second World War and the ubiquitous instrumentalization of cinema in propaganda battles, the aesthetic potential of cinema is radically reconceptualized. By examining Kracauer's theories and Visconti's history films, it is made clear that this reconceptualization primarily emphasizes a different idea of the spectator, who is no longer addressed as a mass subject, but as an individual, while the cinema seeks to provide this new spectator with the means to question the position of his or her subjectivity in history and society. In Kracauer the consciousness of a catastrophic history is manifest in the figure of the reading subject of history who, in all the powerlessness of a real individual existence, regains a space of reflection in the cinema. Here, viewers see themselves enclosed in a social reality that has lost sight of active social struggle. With a similar social diagnosis, Visconti's films open up the cinema as a space in which the sensibility of a past time is understood as a lost possibility of history.

Keywords:   Kracauer, Visconti, Bazin, Benjamin, Neorealism, post-war cinema, historical consciousness

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