Guest-lecture by Professor Malte Hagener University of Lünenburg, Leuphana, Germany

The Birth of Film Culture from the Spirit of the Avant-garde -
How the European avant-garde invented film theory, art-house cinemas and film festivals

If one believes historiographic accounts, the European film avant-garde of the interwar period is a field of research closed unto itself: film history largely agrees that this movement was an exciting, nevertheless short-lived and ultimately failed attempt at establishing an alternative film aesthetics. Contrary to such received wisdom, I will argue that the film avant-garde of the period 1919 to 1939 continues to be an important and central part of media history as the movement innovated and introduced a number of features that continue to shape film culture until today: the first festivals took place under the auspices of the avant-garde (which led to the establishment of the Venice Film Festivals) and the first major attempts at theorising film originated within the circles of the avant-garde. Film journals and art-house cinemas, film schools and archives can all be traced back to the film avant-garde. My argument will thus open up a perspective on the avant-garde not only as an aesthetic movement, but also as a political, social and cultural force of lasting influence until the present day. We would not be today where we are without the film avant-garde.

Malte Hagener is associate professor Media studies at the Department of Media and History, Lüneburg University, Germany and visiting professor at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.. He studied media, literature and philosophy in Hamburg (GE), Norwich (GB) and Amsterdam (NL) where he received his PhD with a dissertation on the European film avant-garde (Moving Forward, Looking Back. The European Avant-garde and the Invention of Film Culture, 1919-1939, Amsterdam University Press 2007). Co-author (with Thomas Elsaesser) of Filmtheorie zur Einführung (Hamburg: Junius 2007, Italian translation 2009; to be published in English by Routledge as Film Theory. An Introduction through the Senses in early 2010). (Co-)Editor of Als die Filme singen lernten: Innovation und Tradition im Musikfilm 1928–38 (Munich: edition text + kritik 1999), Geschlecht in Fesseln. Sexualität zwischen Aufklärung und Ausbeutung im Weimarer Kino (Munich: edition text + kritik 2000), Film: An International Bibliography (Stuttgart, Weimar: Metzler 2002), Die Spur durch den Spiegel. Der Film in der Kultur der Moderne (Berlin: Bertz 2004), Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2005).