— Written by Vitus Bachhausen —
I love cinema. I really do. But today I learned that, maybe, accidentally, killed cinema and even built a gravestone for it! Sorry, but I was young and naive — to say something in mitigation.
Back in 2013, in the idyllic student town of Marburg, a friend and me founded our own party series. Offering some danceable music to the people wasn’t enough to create a whole consistent world — we wanted a celebration for all senses, a real experience! And so, just for the sake of its oddity (which was the purpose of the otherworldly experience we were about to create), we decided to build this movie wall:
Admittedly, it was quite easy to get all those tube TVs. Nobody wanted them anymore. Then we needed something to play on them. Again, just for the sake of its oddity, we decided to go for Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis. Generously, somebody uploaded it to YouTube and, in return, we downloaded it. Not knowing that Anne Friedberg used that very movie and its digitization as an example to famously declare the “end of cinema” (Friedberg, 2009), we prominently placed the whole installation on a stage. No wonder, that for our guests it has never been the centre of attention. After rewatching a promotional movie I’ve made, I can understand why:
Without even knowing at that time, the fleeting appearance of our movie wall (here) perfectly symbolizes cinema’s status quo. For a brief moment the camera, just like our guests, pays attention to this gigantic wall of screens — in all their former glory. But the short attention span is interrupted by the overwhelming sensory overload of the surrounding world, full of pumping music, surreal sculptures and even more shiny screens, all tinted in screaming neon. I took some photos:
And so the camera excitedly pans away and, briefly, it even seems like the proud but fragile monument would fall off the edge of its stage. Has cinema lost its irresistible glamour? Luckily, Casetti is there to exonerate me (Casetti, 2015):
“Conceiving of the dispositive as an assemblage is extremely useful. It allows us to avoid the dead end toward which the concept of the apparatus steers us. We no longer have to deal with a “machine” that is prearranged once and for all, but rather with something that is repeatedly re-formed another pressures of circumstance, and the elements of which are free to recombine. And we no longer have to deal with a machine that captures whoever enters into its field of action, but rather with one that creates tension between its single components and their complex whole. The assemblage is coherent and solid without being inflexible; it determines its components without being a trap from which nobody and nothing can escape.”
Maybe I didn’t kill cinema, but just the apparatus (Baudry, 1978) and its ideology? Maybe I didn’t build a damning gravestone, but a venerable memorial in honour of an old medium that has simply lost its hegemonic authority by now. I think, I it dawns on me now. Maybe cinema has become a sidenote in the techno rhythm of our experience culture, yes. Nevertheless, it is still part of an ensemble that, if attuned in harmony, comes together as an assemblage that is able to orchestrate a really immersive experience. Cinema is not dead. I think, I’m innocent, after all. Phew.
Baudry, J.-L. (1978). L’Effet cinéma. Paris: Albatros.
Casetti, F. (2015). The Lumière galaxy: seven key words for the cinema to come. New York: Columbia University Press.
Friedberg, A. (2009). The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change. In: Braudy, L. and Cohen, M. (eds.) Film Theory and Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 438-452.
Dewey, J. (1934). Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch & Company.
Shane, D. et al. (2016). Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film. Falmer: REFRAME Books.