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The Europeanization of Cinema: Interzones and Imaginative Communities

0 Comments 🕔15.Oct 2015

The link between geography and cinema has been thoroughly studied and well documented in past scholarship, mostly in the interfacing of film and nation – the former offering a text to be analyzed in the context of the nation-state that produced it, while the latter is usually seen as a scalar analytical tool to illuminate cinema’s (post)nationality in the era of globalized interconnectedness and accelerated mobilities. In Randall Halle’s fascinating study of European cinema – with ample discussions on Poland and Germany – he introduces a refreshingly novel re-conceptualization of the interzone as a space of and for “in-betweenism” and as a way to characterize the complex set of relations that continue to exist in Europe. Halle defines an interzone as “an experience not limited to geographic proximity but rather an ideational space, a sense of being somewhere that unites two places, if even transitionally or temporarily” (4-5). His book, entitled The Europeanization of Cinema: Interzones and Imaginative Communities, offers an insightful understanding of an imaginative spatialization of European cinema which constantly crosses borders that form (and re-form) other imaginative communities.

Organized in six chapters, the book’s introduction begins with a narrative account of travel in the Oder-Neisse border as a prelude to the ideational and material relationships between the German and Polish sides of the river. The bridge connecting the two cultures not only embodies the materiality of this architecture (and should not be treated as some anodyne and neutral non-space), but is a “marker of a space of becoming, of interzones” (4). Halle also devotes time and space to understanding Europeanization as going beyond the formal body of the European Union. He argues that Europeanization “retains the nation-state and yet unleashes the potential of other forms of social organization to exist in increased significance” (22). It is in this context that cinema is highlighted as an intersectional vehicle that represents and produces various imaginative communities not only in Poland and Germany, but also in many other European nation-states. The visual language of cinema not only illustrates specific spatial relations between European countries, but the cinematic apparatus also captures and documents these transitions.

The book also discusses the political economy of European films with regards to other film markets and other institutions, as well as their circulation and consumption. The connective capabilities of film draw attention to the technological and cyberspace-aided possibilities in the increasingly digitalized era, as well as the creation of counter-publics and the filmmakers themselves, whose involvement in movements and struggles has aided in the prominence of new and emerging forms of cultural and social productions. By extension, it also engenders new forms of cinephilia.

Although my own interests focus more on the diasporic/migrant/exilic politics of cinema in their continental, archipelagic, and island configurations in Southeast Asia, I find the fourth chapter, “Interzone Dis/continuous: The Borders of Europe,” to be the book’s most revelatory in the deployment of abjection, using Hans-Christian Schmid’s film Lichter. The reel/real binarism that rationalizes the regulation of German borders and the creation of the Other is effectively and expertly written and narrated. Halle’s textual reading and careful analysis bring the diegetic space of Lichter to a much wider cinematic space where the real/reel abjection may prevent successful border crossings, but it also engenders creative solutions and counter-cartographies to forge alternative paths.

The Europeanization of Cinema, while excellent in its textual analysis of specific films that brilliantly discuss the omnipresence of abjecting borders and divisive forces, falls short with regards to its filmic analyses which could illuminate other exilic/accented European cinema. However, it is still recommended to scholars of film and visual culture, cinematic geographies and communication media, as well as cultural and European studies. I would be interested to read a chapter devoted to the cinematic output between the Germany and Turkey diaspora, especially since there are brief mentions of this in Chapters five and six. The book is at its strongest when it discusses the geopolitical transformations in Europe and how cinema reflects and mirrors this complex becoming. Overall, the book’s meticulous, insightful, and effective writing, which illuminates the ideational spaces of cinematic interzones from a European context, should have no trouble finding several imaginative communities of active readers.

Reviewed by Joseph Palis, University of the Philippines-Diliman

The Europeanization of Cinema: Interzones and Imaginative Communities
by Randall Halle
University of Illinois Press
Cloth / 240 pages / 2014
ISBN: 978-0-252-03845-7

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