Urban Realities

The city and its specific places and structures are not merely the “natural scene of the filmic happening” [1]. Film has always been an expression of modern life, as such it reveals the habitat of modern people: the city in all its facets; the town centre and the outskirts. An emphasis on the city as a “deliberately staged co-actor” [2], in the way it appears in a whole range of feature films, is also the case in Meggie Schneider’s “Module 002/Restraum”. In it, a number of ‘moving stills’, taken from the vantage point of an observer, examine a well known place in the German metropolis Berlin – concentrating on the communication between urban elements and men.

More often, however, the city serves as a projection screen, describing a field of action or emotion by amplifying the mood or the statement.[3] In her work “balance”, Ruth Kaaserer leads the actors through an unidentified urban area, whose authenticity is enhanced by the personal conversation of the young women. In essayistic works[4], such as those of Jem Cohen and Bill Seaman, city panoramas and scenes are given a special treatment by depicting the declarations of a narrative, mostly spoken by an off-camera voice. Corine Stübi and Jan Verbeek have chosen specific urban places, which only need to be suggested to the viewers for them to augment the film’s images with pictures from their inner eye and their visual experiences. In his filmic collage “Trip”, Jakub Nepraš also refers to this visual memory when he lets houses built of industrial and technical scrap pass across the screen. The range of the illustration and integration of urban reality covers a wide spectrum: from acting as a mere backdrop, through a screen full of attributes and associations, all the way to being the actor.

Johanna Hoberg

[1]      German: „selbstverständlicher Ort des filmischen Geschehens“. Knut Hickethier: Filmische Großstadterfahrung im neueren deutschen Film, In: Irmbert Schenk (Hg.): Dschungel Großstadt. Kino und Modernisierung, Marburg 1999, S. 186-200, S. 186.

[2]      German: „bewußt inszenierter Mitakteur“. Guntram Vogt: Die Stadt im Kino. Deutsche Spielfilme 1900-2000. Marburg 2001, S. 27.

[3]      „Stadt ist einfach häufig 'da', ist Hintergrund und Folie für den Plot. Sie gibt den Figuren Raum, setzt Signets für das Agieren der Handelnden, stiftet Bilder für Stimmungen, Gefühle, Befindlichkeiten.“ [The city is frequently just ‚there’, is a background of the plot. It gives the figures space, is a background for the characters’ actions, provides pictures for moods, feelings and states of mind] (Hickethier 1999, 186f.)

[4]      Cf. Paul Young, Paul Duncan (Hg.): Art Cinema, Hong Kong 2009.

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