Karin Janker: Images of Reality and the Dream of Total Cinema


In the era of the expansion of the moving image literature and film theory explore the (imaginary) potentials of the new medium dreaming of »cinéma total« (Bazin). Cinematic projections emerge as a motive in literature examining the possibilities of cinema to reproduce and create reality. Challenged by its new rival literature highlights transgressions between image and text questioning the contingency of reality and the real.

Novels such as Adolfo Bioy Casares’ »La invención de Morel« or Aldous Huxley’s »Brave New World« are saturated by an uncanny fascination for the moving image and reflect on how the cinematic dispositif creates mimetic, life-like images. But also movies like »La Jetée« and »L’Année dernière à Marienbad« react on the notion of the living image. These works show that the pygmalionesque gesture of creating life means forming reality and that the myth of »cinéma total« is above all a phantasma of literature and film theory. The metalepses performed by the images in the texts arise the question of the contingency of narration and diegesis, of time and space. Reflecting the possibilities of fiction and of the cinematic dispositif the literary representation of the moving image asks "What is film?" and also "What is real?".

Evoking but overcoming the 19th century’s image of the "femme fatale" literary representation of cinema constructs a moving and lifelike image of a woman, that is hence uncontrollable. Mimetic lifelikeness becomes a threat for the work of art as representation of virility. The talk focuses on the agency of the moving image and its potentials for reproducing reality by exemplifying, analyzing and testing the dream of Total Cinema in readings of texts and movies.