Alexander Zons: Fritz Lang, the Enlightened False Consciousness, and The Acknowledgment of Silence


According to Stanley Cavell film entertains a specific relation to what he defined as Skepticism. Cinema seems to satisfy our “wish for the magical reproduction of the world by enabling to view it unseen” and automatically reproduces this condition in which “we do not so much look at the world as look out at it, from behind the self.” He even claims that this automatization accounts for its peculiar reality effect: “Hence movies seem more natural than reality.” His answer to this problem is acknowledgement, accepting the limits of film: “in this case, its outsideness to its world, and my absence from it.” Fritz Lang’s oeuvre seems to be especially suited for a historical examination of this position. He was a leading figure who explored the ways the medium of film was put to use. As Tom Gunning has stated, we can confront in his films “the agon of authorship as an encounter with the language of cinema.” Following Thomas Elsaesser who discussed in detail Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler with focus on what Peter Sloterdijk called Weimar’s Enlightened False Consciousness I will address Lang’s films as expressions of what Helmut Lethen coined “The Conduct Code of the Cool Persona.” How is this distance —or to evoke Cavell “outsideness” —achieved in his films and to what ends? Thus I will take a close look at films from a historical juncture when two decisive ruptures appear: the transition to sound and his experience of exile.