Rich in implications for our present era of media change, The Promise of Cinema offers a compelling new vision of film theory. The volume conceives of “theory” not as a fixed body of canonical texts, but as a dynamic set of reflections on the very idea of cinema and the possibilities once associated with it. Unearthing more than 275 early-twentieth-century German texts, this ground-breaking documentation leads readers into a world that was striving to assimilate modernity’s most powerful new medium. We encounter lesser-known essays by Béla Balázs, Walter Benjamin, and Siegfried Kracauer alongside interventions from the realms of aesthetics, education, industry, politics, science, and technology. The book also features programmatic writings from the Weimar avant-garde and from directors such as Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau. Nearly all documents appear in English for the first time; each is meticulously introduced and annotated. The most comprehensive collection of German writings on film published to date, The Promise of Cinema is an essential resource for students and scholars of film and media, critical theory, and European culture and history.
Anton Kaes is Professor of German and Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley. He has written and edited numerous books, including Shell Shock Cinema and The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, and is coeditor of the Weimar and Now series.
Nicholas Baer is Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and Philosophy at Purchase College, State University of New York. He has published many essays on German cinema, film theory, and the philosophy of history.
Michael Cowan is Reader in Film Studies at the University of St. Andrews. He is the author of numerous books and collections including, most recently, Walter Ruttmann and the Cinema of Multiplicity: Avant-garde - Advertising - Modernity.
“This extraordinary book expands all horizons of cinema. Its utopian vision inspires us to imagine a film art for the twenty-first century.”—Alexander Kluge, filmmaker and author of Cinema Stories
“A treasure trove of insights and ideas, this book uncovers the excitement cinema generated as the art form of modernity. Film studies may take years to digest the richness this volume contains—and I believe it will never be quite the same afterward.” —Tom Gunning, author of The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity
“Opening entirely new pathways to the research and teaching of German film culture, this carefully edited sourcebook reveals the fantastic wealth of early ideas and thoughts on cinema.”—Gertrud Koch, author of Siegfried Kracauer: An Introduction
“On page after page, a vibrant debate, previously lost in archives, comes to life again. This book changes our idea of what cinema was and is.”—Francesco Casetti, author of Eye of the Century: Film, Experience, Modernity
“An indispensable and revelatory resource for all who are exploring the political and aesthetic genealogy of the media culture we inhabit today.”—Jonathan Crary, author of Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture
"This remarkable collection appearing at this historical moment invites us to think about cinema before its first German theorists knew what it might become, just as we wonder what the cinema will become today as it transforms itself all over again." —Jane M. Gaines, author of Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice, and the Law
"Any form of memory worthy of the term ought to address the future even more than the past. The great strength of this collection lies in its ability to make one century speak to another, thereby evoking the future of film today."— Raymond Bellour, author of Between-the-Images