Sunday, April 26, 2009

Group #8

In Elsaesser’s essay regarding double occupancy, he says that double occupancy “wants to be the intermediate terms between cultural identity and cultural diversity, recalling that there is indeed a stake: politics and power, subjectivity and faith, recognition and rejection, that is, conflict, contest” (Elsaesser 110). How do you think these concepts, as well as the theme of homogenization that Elsaesser discusses in his essay, are reflected in the post-national films we watched this week? Are these ideas portrayed in a positive or negative light, and what does that in turn contribute to the film?

In “The Edge of Heaven” the tensions between nations in the European Union and nations not in the European Union is brought to light in the relationship between Lotte’s mother and Ayten. How does the film portray these tensions, and what solution or situation does it offer up? How does this relate to Elsaesser’s arguments about the European Union and its effect on the film industry and director’s motives?

In Elsaesser’s essay “ImpersoNations”, he discusses the concept of “self-othering” and self-reflexive irony that becomes apparent in post-national cinema and multinational culture. To what extent does “Irma Vep” feature these processes, taking into account the bizarre final sequence, and the relationships between Maggie and filmmakers? Do you think this act of self-reflection and self-mockery is unique to this genre, or is it found in other types of cinema?

How does post-national European cinema deviate from such genres as American Independent cinema (specifically “Do The Right Thing”, which features many similar concepts to European double-occupancy), third cinema, or counter-cinema? In response to section discussions last week, what do we do with all these genres, and what information does categorization into genres give the viewer? What is the benefit in creating a genre and how does it affect the course of cinema in history?


  1. question 4:
    It seems that Naficy's discussion of interstitial cinema is helpful when considering the Post-National movement. For Naficy interstitial films are those produced by filmmakers with 'double consciousness' , that is those filmmakers who migrated voluntarily or involuntarily from the country of their origin and produces films dealing with transcultural issues. The directors' notion of differences in cultures, mentalities, ethnicities or races permit them to compare how representatives of different nations look at each other and so reproduce it in films. These films reveal an abundance of prejudice and stereotypes people have in relation to people of a different religion, ethnicity or race.
    These films differ significantly from American Independent cinema primarily because the latter do not deal with the issues of conflicting ethnicities and nations on a large, transnational scale. The films of American Independent Cinema do deal with controversial issues of minorities, yet the minorities discusses in these movies are usually situated in America, which emphasizes America's hegemony and the unequal powers and rights of minorities and the rest of the nation. Post-National Films, on the contrary, discuss misunderstandings and cultural prejudice between nations, and concern with relation between countries and nations.

  2. I think that Double Occupancy, as the intermediary concept, with its stake in conflict, politics, rejection, and the like, is most obviously prominent in Edge of Heaven. I feel that there is a great sense of balance in this movie, though actual balance is never fully achieved, and that this can be equated to the rebalancing of nationality, or the "shift in the terms of reference by which the conflicting claims of nationalitty, sovereignty, ethnic identity, victim hood and satehood, solidarity and self-determination could be renegotiated." Anyways, the great opposition is between Turkey and Germany, and with regards to double-occupancy, Turkish-Germans and German-Turks. With regard to that, most obviously there is the Bookstore owner who sells his shop to Nejat, and even remarks upon the oddity therein (a German-Turk selling his German shop in Turkey to a Turkish-German). My favorite is at the end of each of the two Death sections, as designated by the intertitles, we have a shot from the same position of first Yeter's coffin being unloaded, then of Lotte's coffin being loaded onto the plane. There is a trade. There is also an unbalance in terms of sexes, if we take Nejat and Ayten as the representatives of each, though we could as easily see Nejat representing Germany and Ayten Turkey. Here, Ayten loses her love as well as her mother, and these are the two principle deaths of the movie. If we extrapolate the ideal narratively fulfilling ending, where all are united as a happy family, Nejat gains a love (Ayten) and a mother (Susanne [Hanna Schygulla's character]). What Ayten has lost, Nejat will gain. Also, Ali gains a wife, and Susanne loses a daughter. The favoritism here is for the male sex. But the narrative ending does not occur, and in that sense perhaps our expectations, which are not fulfilled, entail a loss of Mother and love. In this there is balance. In fact, the last scene shows Nejat all alone, and even his father is missing. If the expected narrative closure had taken place, Nejat would have gained and Ayten lost. This did not happen, and I think that reflects very closely the rebalancing, the losses and gains, that come with trading "borders" for "markers of difference found in Double Occupancy" as the foundation for identity.

  3. Self-reflection and irony is something that very clearly exists in virtually all types of film, not just European post-national cinemas. That said, Irma Vep is a great example of such. To begin with, it is a movie about making a movie, directing about directing, acting about acting, etc. Within the text itself it makes reference to the state of French cinema, and this in itself, combined with the rather radical techniques used in the film, is making a case for a new type of French cinema, one which is aware of itself and its motives, not one that is overly fetishized (as described in the film) or one so solely anchored in the past as to have nowhere else than back to look for future projects (like remaking Les Vampires). It is really fascinating to watch movies like this, ones that "practice what they preach," i.e. do themselves what their inner-workings are aspiring towards. The model of films (or other media) mocking and highlighting their own conventions goes back many many decades, and i'm quite sure that it's found its way into virtually every niche of filmmaking. The fantastic ending sequence in Irma Vep seems to me to be a sort of bridge, a moment where the film does not only become aware of itself (for self-mockery or irony or whatever) but actually attempts to step out of itself, to become something entirely different. It is this, not only realizing but breaking from one's conventions, that is rather rare in film today, or any day for that matter.

  4. I feel as if categorization of this sort detracts from the films themselves. It gives the audience unnecessary expectations that may or may not correlate with the filmmaker's vision. In a perfect world, the spectator would have no prior knowledge about a given film so that it couldn't be ghettoized by titles such as post-national or independent. These titles really pigeon-hole these films into specific, unrealistic categories that may or may not have anything to actually do with the film itself.

  5. I agree that trying to firmly categorize films and give specific definitions to certain genres can be insulting to the films themselves, as well as limit the scope of certain genres. A good film, I think, transcends the ability to be placed within a single genre. Post-National European cinema definitely shares traits with all the genres mentioned: it has the political charge and modest(er) budget means of independent film, the national recognition of third world cinema, and can incorporate counter-cinema techniques (I'm thinking the lack of closure/irresolution of the characters' relationships at the end of Edge of Heaven). A good film like Edge of Heaven effectively mixes traits from all these genres. However, I think a film like this gets labeled Post-National Euro Cinema due simply to the subject matter of the film, in that it deals with national and ethnic tensions in Europe, and has an over-arching subject of national politics. And because of the informative political nature of such a film, I think it attains value beyond its mere artistic merit as a film (cinematic technique, character/plot development, etc.)--but becoming valued more for its message about the charged political situation of the countries it chooses to study.