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Violence in the Age of Digital Reproducibility: Political Form in Valeska Grisebach's Longing (2006)

Leila Mukhida

Keywords: BERLINER SCHULE; FRANKFURT SCHOOL; GERMAN FILM; MEDIA; VIOLENCE

While public discussions about media and violence tend to be defined by the negative psychological effects attributed to exposure to mediated depictions of violence, this article argues that the mediated violence in Valeska Grisebach's 2006 film, Longing, (Sehnsucht) instead seeks to heighten viewers' sensitivity towards violent acts in moving images. Grisebach rejects the so-called MTV aesthetic and instead employs formal and narrative devices that may be read in political terms. To illuminate the connection between film aesthetics, violence, and mass (dis)engagement with politics, this article draws upon the argument rehearsed in Walter Benjamin's oft-cited essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility” (1936). Given that we are witnessing changes in the ways that we experience and re-present our reality now that are arguably as significant as the birth of the moving image itself, it is pertinent to look to early twentieth-century cultural theory in order to gain a better understanding of the significance of these transformations in a historical context. By reading the violent incidents in Longing through a Benjaminian lens, this article suggests that the film is a political act by Grisebach, as well as a key political work in the field of contemporary German-language cinema.

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