Join us Wednesday, October 2, for the next event in the IASH Fellows’ Speaker Series. Associate Professor of Cinema and Art History Brian Wall will present “What Cinema Isn’t: Will and Blindness in Fritz Lang” at noon in the IASH Conference Room (LN 1106).
The idea of cinema as manipulation has a history that extends from its beginnings to the present. In Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922), the titular super villain claims, “There is no fortune—there is only the Will-to-Power”; and he asserts his will via his hypnotic gaze, a gaze that allegorizes film as a medium, even suggesting its own will-to-power. Cinema here seems less a representation of reality than an intervention within it, as it lays claim to the ability to pull strings both psychic and social and so shape the world. But if this is so, what then do Lang’s assorted blind characters come to suggest about the will, the gaze, and especially about cinema itself? The balloon vendor in M (1931), the spy on the train in Cloak and Dagger (1946), and the medium Cornelius in Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960) cannot see us: they refuse to mark a place for the spectator, and so seem to disdain the hypnotic and indeed even visual purview of the cinematic apparatus. Equally unconcerned with realism and manipulation, these blind figures evoke a confounding negative ontology I wish to explore: what is a cinema without mimesis, gaze, will, or audience?
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