Book review – Frontiers of Screen History

Lees hier het pdf van dit artikel. The beauty of film is that it can open the mind of people to new ideas and different people. Frontiers of Screen History discusses how film might have changed our perspective on European borders. By Ouke Arts The European Union is officially an economic and political union, but it might be argued that its future success is also dependent on whether or not it is able to become a cultural union as well. Member States need to share certain values, norms and ideas in order to cooperate smoothly. The discussion about the accession of Turkey is illustrative in this respect: is Turkey too ‘different’ from the rest of Europe? In 2007, a Turkish- German filmmaker named Faith Akin directed the film Auf der anderen Seite. In this film, German and Turkish cultural values confront each other and are to some degree reconciled. The film is a collection of powerful scenes that capture the long Turkish path to European accession. By captivating our imagination and moving borders in how we think about similarities and differences, filmmakers help create and recreate ideas and possibilities. How different movies do so is discussed in Frontiers of Screen History (2013). This book is a collection of thirteen essays that inspire the reader to think about the power of film, but, unfortunately, it lacks topicality. The beauty of film Frontiers of Screen History is a collection of essays on cinema published by the British academic publisher Intellect. The common denominator in the essays is the identification, confrontation and imagination of European borders in fiction films set between 1945 and 2000. These borders come in many forms: national, political, social, ethnic, religious and gender-related. This chosen denominator is broad enough to include practically any film set in the given timeframe and to no surprise, the collection seems to have been assembled somewhat by coincidence. To bring structure to this kaleidoscopic collection of essays, the editing team of four Finnish research fellows introduced a number of sub themes: 1) Worlds divided by the Iron Curtain, 2) Alternative cultural locations, 3) Borders crossed, borders within and 4) Post-colonial borders and cultural frontiers (see Table). The essays in Frontiers of Screen History all share one comprehensive argument, that the beauty of film is that individual viewers are able to identify themselves with the actors and the story and by doing so, transgress borders in their minds and revise their individual opinions within the time frame of a couple of hours (and without having to get up from their seats). The sum of all such individual revisions can emerge as a significant collective impact on what we call our zeitgeist or concept of modernity. Indirectly, any given film can have an impact on our society as a whole. The contributors to Frontiers of Screen History connect their individual experiences with a number of films to academic opinions in the field, but only partially discuss this great potential for impact on society as a whole. Back to history Unfortunately, the collection of essays in Frontiers of Screen History focuses on films set between 1945 and 2000 and takes a historic rather than a forward-thinking perspective. Current issues are largely missing in the thirteen essays. In my opinion, more recent films lend themselves much better to political reflection. Consider, for example, films that are not included in Frontiers of Screen History. These include films such as Disconnect (Henry Alex Rubin, 2012), which captures the impact of media technologies and social media on human interaction, and Broken (Rufus Norris, 2012), which looks at the limitations of an engineered society. Other recent films not in the collection revise our ideas on economic issues, including Inside Job (Charles H. Ferguson, 2010), Unter dir die Stadt (Christoph Hochhäusler, 2010) or Margin Call (J.C. Chandor, 2011) on the origins of the financial crisis that started in 2008. Reconstructing European borders In my experience, the impact of these films is hard to describe in words or to translate into logic, but is easy to understand on an emotional level. This impact can lay the foundation for a generation of political ideas. Politicians use arguments and rhetoric to try to convince the collective imagination of the rightness of their ideas (and it usually takes politicians more than a couple of hours to do so). To some degree, politicians have a direct impact on our society. Both the comparison between film and politics and the concept of history as liquid inform the idea that film as a medium and cinema as an art form are very powerful tools for reconstructing our interpretation of current and past events. More often than not, film is a medium that influences our thinking about social or political issues. Consider another number of films that are unfortunately not included in Frontiers of Screen History such as The Patience Stone (Atiq Rahimi, 2012), which reimagines religious borders regarding women in Islam, or the documentary Armadillo (Janus Metz Pedersen, 2010), which depicts the absurdity and relativity of distinctions between civilised versus barbaric in international conflicts. Other examples include the film Detachment (Tony Kaye, 2012), which knocks down conventional ideas on the borders between parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities and the film Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010), which succeeds in connecting undesirable events and those responsible for them across geographical borders. But perhaps the most powerful (and least verbal) recent example is the film ¡Vivan las Antipodas! (Victor Kossakovsky, 2011). In this mesmerising film, straight lines are drawn through the centre of the earth and at both ends of the line, people and landscapes are documented and intertwiningly presented. Even with the biggest distance between two borders on earth thinkable, the essence of humanity and the rhythm of nature remain astoundingly equal. If there is ever a sequel to Frontiers of Screen History, I vote for ¡Vivan las Antipodas! to be placed on the book cover. In conclusion, leaving aside the absence of more current issues in the essays, only reading about films and their context in Frontiers of Screen History is not recommended. You will have to goand see films like the ones mentioned in the collection of essays or in this review for yourself, before reading more about them. See them preferably on a big screen in a local theatre so you are invited to completely focus your attention, but watch them on a smaller screen if that is your only option. Go to, stream, download or rent the films that are discussed in Frontiers of Screen History and in this review, and as you watch them, observe how your personal frontiers begin to shift. Your observations will provide great starting point for a political discussion with other viewers.   Ouke Arts is partner at Thaesis, a consulting firm that specialises in new trends in media and technology.   Bibliographic information Raita Merivirta, et al. (2013) Frontiers of Screen History: Imagining European borders in cinema, 1945-2000 Bristol, United Kingdom: Intellect Books ISBN: 9781841507323   Heeft dit artikel uw interesse gewekt? Klik hier voor meer info en abonnementen. – – Dit artikel verscheen in idee nr. 6 2013: Crossing European borders, en is te vinden bij het onderwerp cultuur