Transparencies on Film Author(s): Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Y. Levin Source: New German Critique, No.

24/25, Special Double Issue on New German Cinema (Autumn, 1981 - Winter, 1982), pp. 199-205 Published by: New German Critique Stable URL: Accessed: 24/05/2009 13:10
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of manufactured an industrial on scale. is parativelyawkwardand unprofessional inscribedthe hope that the so-called mass media might eventuallybecome art different. a film by VolkerSchlindorff." Representatives of the latterin turncould come up with no betterretortthan "Kiddy's Cinema.Die Verwirrungen des Zoiglings Tiirless (translator's footnote). Derjunge Torless(1965/66). Adorno Childrenwhen teasingeach otherin theirsquabbles. It would only demonstratethat those supportedby the power of routineandhighlytrainedspecialistscoulddo betterin capital. of footnote). 18 November1966.technological some respects than those who rebel against the colossus and thus must of necessarilyforego the advantages its accumulated potential.OhneLeitbild(Frankfurt/M. Adorno.However.Whatis repulsiveaboutDaddy's Cinemais its infantilecharacter. The sophistry thedefenders regression insistson the very type of achievement conceptof whichis challengedby the the opposition. as the cosmetictradeeliminatesfacial wrinjust kles .follow the rule:no faircopycat.even if therewere somethingto thatreproach if films thatdid not play along withbusinessreallywere in some ways clumsier than the latter's smoothly polished wares." This cat.In themthe flaws of a prettygirl's complexionbecomethe correctiveto the immaculate face of the professionalstar. It appears Suhrkamp.does not whenthe issue is the copy. vis-a-vis the cultureindustry whose standard excludes everythingbut the predigested and the alreadyintegrated.In this comof cinema.have a ing as a result somethingconsolingly uncontrolled liberating quality.workswhich have not completelymastered theirtechnique. 199 .then the triumphwould be pitiful.The Oberhauseners tion of the film industrywith the epithet:"Daddy's Cinema. It is knownthatin the T6rlessfilm' largesegmentsof Musil'searlynovel * Basedon an articlein Die Zeit. as once againthe saying goes amongchildren.conveyand accidental.While in autonomous anythinglagging somethingqualitatively behindthe alreadyestablishedtechnicalstandard does not rate. How patheticto pit experienceagainstimmaturity of very immaturity that experienceacquiredduringthe adolescenceof the medium.Transparencies on Film* by TheodorW. uncertain its effects.: herein Englishwiththe 1967). permission Suhrkamp Verlag(translator's 1. this in essay was published Theodor W.basedon RobertMusil.Theirwisdomseems to be lost on the all too thoroughly grownold attacked nearlysixty-year trashproducthe up adults.

200 Theodor Adorno were incorporated the dialoguealmostunchanged. Siegfried Kracauer. Film.In utter. Musil's sentencesalso tend to soundartificialas soon as they are heard. meansof reproduction. Thus. 1960). . which no living personwouldever superior havebeen ridiculed American critics. The mostplausibletheoryof film appears impossible to derive normsof criticismfrom cinematographic techniqueas problematic.andwhich in the meantime by theirown way. The late emergence of film makes it difficult to distinguishbetween and technique technologyas clearlyas is possiblein music. into They are considered to the lines by the scriptwriters.they become aesthetically autonomous. Cf. in must searchfor othermeansof conveyingimmediacy: which improvisation surrenders itself to unguidedchanceshouldrankhigh among systematically possible alternatives.reminiscent old-fashioned rightfromthe photographs start. the spoken by adapting wordis not directlyspokenbut is rather distancedby the act of narration even by the typography andtherebyabstracted fromthe physical perhaps never resembletheir presenceof living persons.the semblanceof immediacy cannotbe avoided. in is film as well as in music.the sound structureof the work. Such distanceis abolishedin film: to the extent that a film is realistic. Thisequation. psychologyof the periodexposedas a rationalization.As a result. this is hardlythe whole point.not read.This may be to some extentthe faultof the novel which incorporates type of rationalisticcasuistryinto the internal a of movement its textunder guiseof a psychologythatthe moreprogressive the Freudian Nevertheless.thatwhichfocuseson the movement of objects.slapstickroutines or otherperformances. The artisticdifferencebetweenthe media is thanexpectedby thosewho feel ableto avoidbadprose obviouslystill greater good prose.In fact. Even when dialogueis used in a novel. Expertsin cinematographic referto the techniques factthatChaplin eitherunaware or purposely was of thesetechniques. pp. 41 ff. 2.As a consequence.was distinctfromits performance. the Film the equationof techniqueand technologysince. as Benjaminobsuggests on served.' Nowhere but on the screen could this of enigmaticfigure.however. therefore. it empiricalcounterparts that may be due to the very precisionof theirpresentation they are removed even furtherfrom empiricalreality. however. negativeform.the cinemahas no originalwhichis thenreproduced a mass scale: themassproduct thethingitself.havedevelopedits concept.soundpompousand inauthentic film.phrases justifiedby the dictionof narrative whichdistinguishes themfromthe false everydayness of merereportage. the intrinsic technique.2 bothprovocatively is in deniedandyet preserved. Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (New York: Oxford University Press. ignored of beingcontentwith the photographic rendering sketches. In musicupto the electronic period. This in no way lowers Chaplin'sstatusand one can hardlydoubt that he was 'filmic. fictional characters no matter how minutelythey aredescribed.

pp. pp.While intentionis alwaysdirectedagainst the playboy. Irrespective the technological aestheticsof film'will do betterto base itself on a subjectivemodeof experience which film resembles and which constitutesits artisticcharacter. Such movementof interiorimages may be to film what the visibleworldis to painting the acousticworldto music. Adorno. of and as of reprinted "Televisionandthe Patterns MassCulture. landscapesconsolingly coming These images do not merge into one anotherin a continuousflow. heterodox ideologymustbe depictedin a muchbroader andjuicier fashionthansuits the moralof the story. If accordingto the analysis of "Television as Ideology"3film accommodatesvarious layers of behavioralresponse patterns.eds."Fernsehen Ideologie.repressed a varietyof taboos. the of Overlapping official modelsarea number inofficialones whichsupply the attraction are intendedto be neutralized the former. problemswhich could lead to some results."in Eingriffe: NeunKritische als Modelle(Frankfurt:Suhrkamp. spends a few weeks in the mountains abstainingfrom all work. this one would meritpriority. 474488 (translator's footnote). an elementof collective approval. the of originsof the cinema. W.this would imply that the ideology providedby the industry.the emptinessof time.the opportunity beholdthem to 3. after a year in the city. maybecomeart.pp. 213-235. the dolce vita and wild parties. may by no means automatically correspond those thataffect the If empiricalcommunications researchwere finally to look for spectators. Rosenberg D. but are muchlike rather off againsteach otherin the courseof theirappearance. reflect by patterns. by necessity. reliedprimarily on the intentionsof a film and neglected the potentialgap between such intentionsand their actual effect. Based on an English-language original:"How to Look at vol.if you will. is inherentin the medium. Whatever 'uncineof La is matic' in this film gives it the powerto express. however. This gap.1936). as if with hollow eyes.It is in the discontinuity their movementthatthe images of the interiormonologueresemblethe phenomenon of writing:the lattersimilarlymovingbeforeoureyes while fixed in its discretesigns."in: B. As the objectifying or recreation this type of experience.Transparencies on Film 201 in the staticcharacter films like Antonioni's Notte.In orderto yet by capturethe consumersand provide them with substitutesatisfaction.the tabloidnewspapers furnishweekly examples of such excess. 81-98.The technological of medium excellenceis thus intimately relatedto the beautyof nature(tief par verwandt dem Natursch6nen). Manning The White. may unexpectedly experiencecolorful images of over him or her in dreamsor daydreams. VII(Spring1954).A personwho. set of the magic lanternslides of our childhood.the unofficial."TheQuarterly Film. . One would expect the public's all since libido. If one decides to take the self-censorsmoreor less literallyand confront films withthe contextof theirreception. 1957).to respond themorepromptly by thesebehavioral theveryfactthattheyareallowedto pass. its officially intended to models.RadioandTelevision. will haveto proceedmoresubtly thanthose traditional contentanalyseswhich. MassCulture: PopularArtsinAmerica (New York:FreePress.

andprobably more.Tending to the surfaceof society. phenomenal any attemptto penetratethat surfaceas a romanticendeavor.the aestheticsof film is thusinherently canbe no aesthetics the cinema.always retain values.noteven a purelytechnological of one.this may have been its secretpurposegaining freedom from him.otherwiseantiformalism turnsinto formalism. then kissingeach otherunembarrassed. these films infuse the object with exactly that meaningwhich they are tryingto resist. Prague.even in conservative andgirlscrossingthe streetslockedin eachothersarmsand boys everywhere.Kracauer ironicallyplays with the resolve of his earliestyouthto celebratefilm as the discovererof the beauties of daily life: such a program. Kracauer's theoryof film whichpracticessociologicalabstention compelsus to considerthatwhich is left out in his book. as foreign to subjectivity.Due to this something representational. In its the attemptsto manipulate masses the ideology of the cultureindustryitself becomesas internally as antagonistic the verysocietywhichit aimsto control. is the retarding aspectof film in the historical processof art.than autonomous this aesthetically techniques.prior of to the aestheticrealization an intention.which the cameraeye impartsto the film would alreadyinvalidatethe law of the cameraand thus violate Benjamin's taboo.are imbricated characterwhich his theory opposes.Every meaning . If today you can see in in Switzerland in CatholicRome. No otherplea could be made for its defense. Benjamindid not elaborateon how deeply some of the categorieshe for withthe commodity postulated film . There object. The reactionary natureof any realist aesthetictoday is inseparablefrom this commoditycharacter.Consequently.That whichis irreducible abouttheobjectsin film is itselfa mark society. thedisintegration nevercomplete.includingcritical meaning. The ideology of the cultureindustry containsthe antidoteto its own lie. and Germany. they have learnedthis. conceived as it was with the explicit purposeof outdoingthe provocativeBrechtand thereby.than into advancedpaintingor literature. from the films which peddle Parisianlibertinageas folklore.By virtueof this relationship the of to concerned with society. does not is it its permitabsoluteconstruction: elements. places a higher intrinsicsignificanceon the object. howeverabstract.exhibition.society projectsinto film quitedifferently farmoredirectlyon account of the objects. which would not include the sociology of the cinema. primarilyrepresentational.By choosing objects presumablycleansed of subjectivemeaning.affirmatively.Evenwherefilm dissolvesandmodifiesits objectsas muchas it can. realism dismisses reinforce.test .202 TheodorAdorno seems to be relished more than the hasty verdict. was a of to program Jugendstiljust as all those films which attempt let wandering clouds and murkyponds speak for themselvesare relics of Jugendstil.however. The photographic process of film. areneverpurelyaesthetic they difference. Film is faced with the dilemma of finding a .

Ethel Merman. meaning will emerge from the reproduced material itself. music resembled film strips. especially the cinematically inherent renunciation of psychology. in the early days of radio. 1966 by NDR III. prior to all content. by way of revision.GraceBradley(sic!) and others. dir. . The movements which the film presents are mimetic impulses which. Pure montage. which is linked to the formal characterof film facilitates the ideological misuse of the medium: the pseudorevolutionary blurring in which the phrase "things must change" is conveyed by the gesture of banging one's fist on the table. inheres in the innermost elements of film. prior to all content and meaning. however. this 'anything' captures the very substance of film's formal movement. For the time being. Nonetheless. Lewis Milestone. does not derive intention merely from the principle itself. the gap between the most progressive tendencies in the visual arts and those of film continues to exist. April 1. Antithese:Film for one performerwith electronicand everydaysounds (1965). among its functions. themselves merging into film. such as certain kinds of music. however.songs by Cole Porter(translator's footnote). The individual subject who remains silent speaks not less but more through silence than when speaking aloud. compromising the latter's most radical intentions. The viability of a procedure based on the principle of shock. Hamburg 5. is that of montage which does not interfere with things but rather arranges them in a constellation akin to that of writing. That. first broadcast (translator's footnote). however. film provides models for collective behavior is not just an additional imposition of ideology.on Transparencies Filmn 203 procedure which neither lapses into arts-and-crafts nor slips into a mere documentary mode. rather. In this respect. It would not be incorrect to describe the constitutive subject of film as a "we" in which the aesthetic and sociological aspects of the medium converge. with Bing Crosby. The indeterminatenature of this collective "anything" (Es). incite the viewers and listeners to fall into step as if in a parade. raises doubts. is in itself a subjective act and as such a priori significant. it joins the current of all those who are responding to the same appeal. The liberatedfilm would have to wrest its a priori collectivity from the mechanisms of unconscious and 4. AnythingGoes (1936. Such collectivity. It may be. Anything Goes5 was the title of a film from the thirties with the popular English actress Gracie Fields. As the eye is carried along. film resembles music just as. that the entire issue is rendered obsolete by the insight that the refusal to interpret. absorb this insight into their working methods. Paramount). The obvious answer today. film's most promising potential lies in its interaction with other media. One of the most powerful examples of such interaction is the television film Antithese4 by composer Mauricio Kagel. to add subjective ingredients. without the addition of intentionality in its elements. as forty years ago. evidently. It seems illusory to claim that through the renunciation of all meaning. Those filmmakers ostracized for being too intellectual should.

the venerable roughness andidiocy of suchhybridsof circensesandburlesque popular so during the lateRomanempiredo notjustifythe revivalof suchphenomena afterthey have becomeaesthetically sociallytransparent. the favoriteargument the whole.The identity thesetwo phenomena.may end up in contradiction its own internallogic.which the to disregards natureof film as language. while certainlynot missingin of the low artof the past. canonof whatthey do not want.204 Theodor Adorno irrational influenceand enlist this collectivityin the serviceof emancipatory intentions.Moreover. Thecultureindustry contains elementof rationality an -the calculatedreproduction the low . somethingdifferentfromwhatthey are presentlybeing fed.which.the cultureindustry could not have becomea untrue.thatculture is the artof the consumer. In any case. and also. is the ideologyof ideology.Amongthesearesoft-focus shots . frequently. materialand content does not mix well with the fetishism of means.In commercialfilm production.Nevertheless. such cinematographic tact The divagations require particular on thepartof thefilm-maker. Whether createsthe sameeffect in the contextof montage extradiegetic is and associationshas yet to be examined. perhaps. it industry Eventhe reductive withthe low artof all ages equationof the cultureindustry does notholdup.e. lessonto be learned fromthisphenomenon dialectical: is technologyin isolation. of however. Emancipated film production should no longerdepend of in uncritically upontechnology(i.values of their own.and half-hearted of apologists.It is abouttime to recognizethe ludicrousness of such effects and get rid of them because these techniquesare not in worksbut in mereconvention. The demandfor a meaningful between relationship technique. was not its rationale.Since these techniques almost always contain some expressive.flashbacks. the aestheticlogic in inherent the material caughtin a stageof crisis even beforeit is given a is chanceto really unfold.or.a long outdatedarty custom in photography superimpositions. thatis. a discrepancy conventional of sign. and Even if considered apart . This is whatgives these insertsthe appearance kitsch. Otherwise. It is undeniablethat Daddy's Cinema indeed corresponds what the to consumers rather it provides that themwithan unconscious notso assumesas long as it focuseson the aspectof beyonddoubtas criticalthought and production refrainsfrom empiricalanalysesof reception. the mereequipment its profession) the manner a by no meansstill 'new objectivity'(einerkeineswegs of mehrneuen Sachlichkeit). grounded the necessitiesof individual they informthe viewer as to what is being signifiedor whatneedsto be addedin orderto comprehend whateverescapes basic cinematicrealism.however. Filmtechnologyhas developeda seriesof techniques whichworkagainst the realisminherent the photographic in process.even if commonarises betweenexpressionand place .

couldclaim thatthe less films appear be worksof art. for its own purposes: actuallyprevents consciousit that ness fromchangingon its own. In integrated cannoteven dependon the dregs. underthe present one circumstances. to distinguishthe fromthe mainfilm for whichone is waiting. The separation from empiricalreality which pertainsto the constitutionof art from the outset requiresprecisely that moment. they are advertisements meansthe renunciation all interferof ence with the syrupysubstance the current of idiomand.The consumers madeto remainwhattheyare:consumers. previewof a 'comingattraction' This may tell us somethingaboutthe mainattractions. unadmittedly are Thatis desires. Translated by Thomas Y. one mustguardagainsttaking such optimism too far: the standardized Westernsand thrillers to say of the products German of humorandthe patriotic (Heinothing tear-jerkers cultureone matschnulze)-are even worsethanthe official hits. to One is especially drawn to this conclusion in reactionto those snobbish class-Apictures whichthe cultureindustry forcesitselfto make psychological for the sake of culturallegitimation.thatis.Everycommercial film is actuallyonly the preview of that which it promisesand will never deliver.which likes to is as masquerade humanitarianism.the cultureindustry this reifiedconsciousness changes all the more. One will have observedthat it is difficult.Even so.Artistically.Transparencies on Filmn 205 from its historicalperspective. initially. Levin . Its proponents depict the as betweenartandits reception staticandharmonious.the validity of the argument consumerfor orientedart can be attackedin the very present. Likethe previewsand like the pop hits. as it secretlyand.the morethey wouldbe just that.with the reifiedconsciousnessof the audience. thecultureindustry notthe artof theconsumer rather projection is but the why of the will of those in controlontotheirvictims. How nice it wouldbe if.on the contrary.bearingthe comfor like moditycharacter a markof Cain on theirforeheads. as a result. deep down.The conformityto the consumer.By reproducing latterwith hypothe criticalsubservience. relationship according to the principle itselfa dubiousmodel. nothingbut the economic techniqueof consumerexploitation.The automatic self-reproduction of the status quo in its establishedforms is itself an expression of domination.Artunrelated of as to the objectivespiritof its time is equallyunimaginable art withoutthe momentwhich transcendsit.

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