Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World

Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World

Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World

Apocalypse-Cinema: 2012 and Other Ends of the World


Apocalypse-cinema is not only the end of time that has so often been staged as spectacle in films like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Terminator. By looking at blockbusters that play with general annihilation while also paying close attention to films like Melancholia, Cloverfield, Blade Runner, and Twelve Monkeys, this book suggests that in the apocalyptic genre, film gnaws at its own limit.
Apocalypse-cinema is, at the same time and with the same double blow, the end of the world and the end of the film. It is the consummation and the (self-)consumption of cinema, in the form of an acinema that Lyotard evoked as the nihilistic horizon of filmic economy. The innumerable countdowns, dazzling radiations, freeze-overs, and seismic cracks and crevices are but other names and pretexts for staging film itself, with its economy of time and its rewinds, its overexposed images and fades to white, its freeze-frames and digital touch-ups.
The apocalyptic genre is not just one genre among others: It plays with the very conditions of possibility of cinema. And it bears witness to the fact that, every time, in each and every film, what Jean-Luc Nancy called the cine-world is exposed on the verge of disappearing.
In a Postface specially written for the English edition, Szendy extends his argument into a debate with speculative materialism. Apocalypse-cinema, he argues, announces itself as cinders that question the "ultratestimonial" structure of the filmic gaze. The cine-eye, he argues, eludes the correlationism and anthropomorphic structure that speculative materialists have placed under critique, allowing only the ashes it bears to be heard.


And truly, I saw something, the likes of which I never saw.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

What in daguerreotype must have felt inhuman, not to say deadly, was
the (moreover prolonged) looking into the camera, since the apparatus
[Apparat] records the human image without returning its gaze.

—Walter Benjamin, On Some Motifs in Baudelaire

The apocalypse is in fashion. Ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when it first became evident that human beings had acquired the power to destroy life on earth, and to destroy it in a spectacular and rapid manner, apocalyptic thoughts and images have increasingly proliferated and, at least in certain parts of the world—a world soon to be “globalized”—progressively fascinated what was once called the popular imagination. No wonder, then, that the most popular medium of the post-Second World War period—cinema—and today its audiovisual successor should have become the vehicle for deploying visions of the end of all visibility and for providing material for imagining the unimaginable. In an essay that . . .

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