Cultural Problems of Classical Film Theory: Béla Balázs, 'Universal Language' and the Birth of National Cinema

Frey, Mattias (2010) Cultural Problems of Classical Film Theory: Béla Balázs, 'Universal Language' and the Birth of National Cinema. Screen, 51 (4). pp. 324-340. ISSN 0036-9543. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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The heyday of classical film theory is predominantly understood to have been concerned with ontological and formal matters and with promoting film as an art. Pursuing the shapes and contours of the new medium, many writers on cinema from the 1920s heralded cinema as a ‘universal language’. Examining the ‘universal language’ thesis, one finds a remarkable variety to the various arguments. By undertaking a close prospect of just one version of the ‘universal language’ thesis by a single writer, Béla Balázs, this essay intends to complicate the enterprise of 1920s ‘classical film theory’. Tracing back the messy trail of reception and production and returning to the heart of Balázs's output, one finds a universal language which is neither truly universal, nor technically a language. Balázs's writings on cinema and language form the basis of a Janus-faced philosophy caught between future and past, film theory and human history, between an anthropology of the person and a prescription for various peoples. Re-examining Balázs and interrogating the ‘universal language thesis’ draws attention to the various modes, functions and addressees of what is called ‘classical film theory’ and to the need for new historiographical paradigms which take material matters of production and reception into account. At the same time, Balázs serves as an example for what unites many of the 1920s classical film theorists: the tension between the universal and the nationally specific and between their proposed theories and implied histories of film.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages (inc film, TV and radio studies) > PB2994 Film Studies
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of Arts > Film
Depositing User: Mattias Frey
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2012 15:32
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2014 05:25
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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