Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space

Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space

Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space

Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space


In this cross-cultural history of narrative cinema and media from the 1910s to the 1930s, leading and emergent scholars explore the transnational crossings and exchanges that occurred in early cinema between the two world wars. Drawing on film archives from around the world, this volume advances the premise that silent cinema freely crossed national borders and linguistic thresholds in ways that became far less possible after the emergence of sound. These essays address important questions about the uneven forces-geographic, economic, political, psychological, textual, and experiential-that underscore a non-linear approach to film history. The "messiness" of film history, as demonstrated here, opens a new realm of inquiry into unexpected political, social, and aesthetic crossings of silent cinema.


Jennifer M. Bean

Not by chance, the problematics that would intrinsically expose the multicul
tural and multilinguistic fabric of silent cinema—i.e. cross-national commer
cialisations and “influences”—have for a long time received scant attention.

Giorgio Bertellini

Spatialising the story of modernity … has had effects—it has not left the story
the same.

Doreen Masey

IT SEEMS PRUDENT to begin with a simple statement: Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space offers a cross-cultural history of narrative film and related media objects in the years loosely dating from the early 1910s through the early 1930s. That single sentence sounds sensible, the kind of summary I have tossed around on several occasions when describing this collection and its contents to curious friends. But the stand-alone adjective “cross-cultural” doesn’t quite capture the editors’ and contributors’ shared belief that “film history” marks a constellation of uneven forces (geographical, economical, political, psychological, textual, experiential) that display neither the coherence of an integral entity nor the continuity of a successive lineage that develops over time. We are fascinated by the messiness of cinema’s dispersed existence in these years: by the cross-pollination of images in diverse parts of the globe; by the international penchant for piracy (and piracy’s cheeky cousins, modification and appropriation); by the recycling of obsolete or junk prints in so-called peripheral markets; and by the refashioning of iconic identities and events as they cross media forms and geographic borders. Such a perspective inevitably shakes things up. It provides methodological entry into unexpected political, social, and aesthetic constellations that just as quickly skitter into alternative pathways, effecting a spatial disorientation of “silent cinema” as we know it.

We find this disorientation extremely stimulating, in part because it expands the geopolitical terrain of English-language film and media histories to encompass non-Western cinemas and cultures. The phrase “in part” is an especially . . .

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