Utilizing the ‘Ideological Antiquity’: Rethinking Brecht and Film Theory

Angelos Koutsourakis


Bertolt Brecht’s writings have been influential in film theory and cinema. Yet Brecht’s enthusiastic reception on the part of 1970s film theory has been followed by skepticism and criticism on the part of contemporary cognitivist film theory. For many years film scholars understood the adjective “Brechtian” to characterize a set of stylistic devices which are radical in themselves yet not a method. One of the reasons for this has to do with the fact that film scholarship relied on Brecht’s writings on theatre (which have so far only been available in unsatisfactory selection in translation) and not on his film essays. Marc Silberman’s brilliant translation, published as Bertolt Brecht: on Film and Radio (London: Methuen, 2001) has not changed Brecht’s critical reception in the discipline of film studies, because film scholars tend to associate Brecht with his reception within 1970s film theory. This article goes back to Brecht’s writings on the film medium so as to trace the misunderstandings of his reception in the field of film studies. I suggest that Brechtian film theory and cinema remains an “unfinished project.” (AK)

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