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What the World Needs Now: Rancière, Ethology, and Christian Petzold's Toter Mann (2001) and Wolfsburg (2003)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Emily Jeremiah
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer in German at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Frauke Matthes
Affiliation:
Lecturer in German at the University of Edinburgh.
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Summary

Moral ist immer das, worum es im Kino geht,

aber die Filme selbst sollten nicht moralische

Positionen untermalen und propagieren, sondern

darstellen, so wie sie in den Menschen existiert

und in den Systemen, denen sie folgen.

—Christian Petzold

The Ethical Turn

As Thomas Elsaesser has argued recently, European cinema since the end of the Cold War foregrounds ethical, rather than directly political, concerns. For Elsaesser, who refers to a body of work that ranges from Fatih Akin to Michael Winterbottom, from Dogville to the Dardennes Brothers, this is a cinema that largely foregoes offering political solutions to the tensions its central characters experience. Even on the occasions when its focus expands beyond the personal narratives of the protagonists, when its stories address “spaces to be redistributed, and power-relations to be re-negotiated,” it remains, for Elsaesser, primarily an ethical rather than a political cinema. Elsaesser argues that many recent films address a radical encounter with the other, an event that brings with it the risks of violence and of a process of destabilization, yet also opens up the possibility of a genuinely new social awareness.

Elsaesser's account of contemporary cinema rests on categories proposed by the French philosopher Jacques Rancière. Rancière's work has been taken up recently across a number of disciplines, from political philosophy to literary and film studies. Rancière's work is of particular significance for an analysis of the contested areas of contemporary thought where questions of politics, ethics, and aesthetics merge.

Type
Chapter
Information
Edinburgh German Yearbook 7
Ethical Approaches in Contemporary German-Language Literature and Culture
, pp. 29 - 46
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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