Academic journal article Arthuriana

Filming the Middle Ages

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Filming the Middle Ages

Article excerpt

Bettina bildhauer, Filming the Middle Ages. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2011. Pp. 264. ISBN: 978-1-86189-808-1. £25.00.

Unfortunately, Bettina Bildhauer's monograph delivers much less than it promises or than one might hope, given the repeated claims it makes. For instance, the dust jacket's claim that it is 'the first book to define medieval films as a group' is simply balderdash. The repeated claims that the monograph will discuss several hundred films are also a bit disingenuous, depending upon how one defines the word discuss. And the multiple film stills used throughout the book are often too small, too out of focus, or both to be of much use as supplements to any points made about the films from which they come.

Bildhauer's announced intentions are to enter into the continuing critical dialogue about 'medieval film,' a dialogue dating at least from the 1950s, but one that has increased markedly since the 1990s. What interests Bildhauer is the attempt to expand our understanding of what constitutes a 'medieval film,' specifically a 'German medieval film.' Such an interest is, of course, valid and could add an interesting contribution to the ongoing dialogue. But again, we do get less than we are promised from this monograph. Individual chapters-'The Non-linear Time of Medieval Film,' 'The Medieval Dead Reanimated,' 'Queer Time,' 'The Dangerous Power of Writing,' 'The Printing Press vs. the Cathedral,' 'Detecting the Middle Ages,' 'The Birth of the Leader from the Collective,' 'The Nation's Lost Past,' and 'Animation and the Human between Animal and Cyborg'-each mainly discuss one film and then make tangential connections between that film and several other films. But these connections many times seem little more than add-ons. 'Queer Time' discusses a 1921 film version of Hamlet starring a cross-dressing Asta Nielsen as the eponymous hero. Among the films linked to this decidedly interesting Shakespearean film is the Nazi Joan of Arc film-also decidedly interesting but not for its queerness as much as for the fact that it represents a pre-war Nazi attempt to appropriate the national symbol of France, unless we are meant to understand that Nazi + Joan of Arc = queer. …

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