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Thinking Images

The Essay Film as a Dialogic Form in European Cinema


David Montero

The essay film – ‘a form that thinks’ – serves to create a self-reflexive space for contemporary society by challenging expectations and demanding the creative involvement of the spectator. Using film to provoke thought has never been more important than now, when non-fiction films are gaining in popularity and playing a growing part in debates about culture and politics. This timely publication argues that the appeal of the essay film lies primarily in the dialogic engagement with the spectator and the richness of the intellectual and artistic debate it stimulates.
The book focuses on the work of three key European film directors associated with the essay film: Chris Marker, Harun Farocki and José Luis Guerín. It provides a detailed analysis of several films by each director, exploring the relationship between dialogism and essayism in their work and placing this in the wider context of debates on the cinematic essay as a genre. Central aspects of essayistic filmmaking are explored, including its radical approach to knowledge, its distinctive patterns of subjectivity, its challenging of the formal representation of reality, and its contribution to new understandings of spectatorship. Written with clarity and perception, this volume offers new insights into the rise of the non-fiction film and the essay film, in particular.


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Chapter 4 - Unfinalizability, Addressivity and Tact: Harun Farocki’s Videograms of a Revolution 103


Chapter 4 Unfinalizability, Addressivity and Tact: Harun Farocki’s Videograms of a Revolution Using the notion of dialogic knowledge, this chapter foregrounds the way in which essayistic discourses advance by means of comparison and juxtaposition. Through a close analysis of Harun Farocki’s Videograms of a Revolution, the text addresses a number of theoretical issues raised by the essay film in an attempt to deepen perceived notions of the form. The focus will be on ‘visual dialogism’ rather than on the more widely stud- ied counterpoint between images and voiceover. In Farocki’s non-fiction films, images are assessed as fully f ledged utterances, informed by specific intentions, addressed to concrete audiences and pervaded by ideological intonations. It is only by putting these images side-by-side as embodiments of a socio-ideological worldview that Videograms of a Revolution can be said to be an essayistic undertaking. Harun Farocki’s and Andrei Ujica’s Videograms of a Revolution deals with the five days of popular demonstrations in Bucharest leading to the over- turn and later execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena. The Romanian revolution of December 1989 has frequently been deemed a ‘televized’ one, not only because of the abundance of events being captured by the cameras and released internationally on TV (from the clashes between demonstrators and Securitate forces to the corpses of the Ceauşescus), but also because these images themselves played a pivotal role in the way political events unfolded. One of the first actions taken by demonstrators in the Romanian...

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