This book embraces studies of cinematic realism and nineteenth-century tradition; the realist film theories of Lukács, Grierson, Bazin and Kracauer; and the relationship of realist film theory to the general field of film theory and philosophy. It attempts a rigorous and systematic application of realist film theory to the analysis of particular films, suggesting new ways forward for a new series of studies in cinematic realism, and for a new form of film theory based on realism. The book stresses the importance of the question of realism both in film studies and in contemporary life.
RealistFilmTheory and Cinema is
the second in a planned trilogy. In the first part of the trilogy, entitled
European Film Theory and Cinema: The Intuitionist Realist and Modernist
Tradition (2001), an attempt was made to explore the relationship
between two major traditions within European film theory and cinema. One of
these was referred to as the ‘intuitionist modernist and realist
feminism, phenomenology, art history and ethnography, have also been drawn
on by film theorists in recent years. In this process of connection with
important intellectual disciplines and traditions, ‘classical’
realistfilmtheory also has an important role to play, because the
approaches developed by the classical realist theorists are directly linked
to historically important traditions of thought, including those of Kant
The origins, characteristics and theoretical foundation of the nineteenth-century French realist, and naturalist tradition
During the 1970s and 1980s, when
anti-realistfilmtheory dominated much of the critical agenda, the
nineteenth-century realist tradition was habitually regarded with misgivings
by those intent on the development of a progressive, critical film practice.
This was partly as a consequence of the adoption of nineteenth-century
realist aesthetic models by a totalitarian culture within the Soviet Union
Cinematic realism, philosophical realism and film theory
which they adopt. Following this, the chapter will relate these realist
traditions to two different theoretical contexts. First, cinematic realism
will be placed within the context of philosophical realism, and an attempt
will be made to establish the extent to which the realistfilmtheories
explored here can be defined in philosophical terms, and what the value of
such an enterprise might be. Second, cinematic realism will be compared to a
mass in peace’. 61 None of these films provided the model for the social
realist imagist film, whereas that model was provided by both
Drifters and Turksib .
It seems apparent from what has been argued so far that any
convincing rearticulation of Griersonian cinematic realism must return to
Grierson’s early position on realistfilmtheory, as set out in his
writings of the 1918–36 period, and as embodied in Drifters
This chapter discusses the influence of the naturalist tradition on early French cinema, covering the pictorialist naturalist school of the 1920s, the cycles of Zola adaptations that appeared between 1902 and 1938, and the ‘social-realist’ cinema of Renoir. The categorical map of the significant realist French film production of the 1930–8 period is meant to be neither exhaustive nor definitive. The chapter emphasizes that La Bête humaine focuses on a disturbing and morally corrupt social order, which conforms closely to one of the most important features of the critical realist/naturalist tradition in its employment of an indeterminate aesthetic style. It concludes by accounting for Renoir's La Bête humaine in terms of the model of critical realism.
This chapter describes the model of aesthetic realism developed by the Hungarian theorist György Lukács, and sets out the parameters of a Lukácsian theory of cinematic realism. It discusses one of the most trenchant criticisms levelled against Lukács: that the model of realism is umbilically associated with a particular form of literature: the nineteenth-century realist novel. As a consequence of this concentrated focus, the chapter dismisses some of the most vital artistic movements of the nineteenth and twentieth the nineteenth-century realist tradition and examines the two central aspects of Lukács's theory: the notion of alienation and the model of the intensive totality. Lukács's writings on cinematic realism are also considered and contradicted for the type of naturalist/impressionist realism.
Lukácsian cinematic realism in Danton (1990) and Senso (1954)
This chapter applies Lukácsian models of literary and cinematic realism to an analysis of Wajda's Danton and Visconti's Senso, arguing that, whilst Danton is at variance with Lukács's models of ‘classical’ and ‘democratic-humanist’ realism, Senso can be considered a work of ‘inverse democratic humanist realism’, rather than ‘classical realism’. Senso can also be regarded as closer to the Lukácsian model than Danton in the sense that, in Senso, ‘the great social-historical antagonisms’ are embodied within the guise of relatively commonplace figures, as opposed to the ‘world-historical’ figures of Danton. The Lukácsian cinema is categorized in two types: films that employ the focused naturalist orientation of the Novelle, and films that employ the more ‘mediated’ framework of the novel. Thus, the chapter concludes by arguing that Lukács's theory of filmic realism can be associated philosophically with a naturalist, phenomenological model of cinematic realism