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Avant-Gard Film and Its Role in Understanding the Space of the City

Fontana-Giusti, Gordana (2008) Avant-Gard Film and Its Role in Understanding the Space of the City. In: Hallam, Julia and Kronenburg, Robert and Koeck, Richard and Roberts, Les, eds. Cities in Film: Architecture, Urban Space and the Moving Image. University of Liverpool, Liverpool. ISBN 978-0-9557884-1-3. (KAR id:9609)


This paper addresses the relationship between the city and film, by means of analysing selected examples of the avant-garde film production. It will concentrate on the work of the Constructivists in order to highlight their contribution to urban design in the twentieth century when the role of film was established.

All representations, including film, are unstable categories and are always in a state of flux. Consequently the way we perceive and represent space in various media, including film, changes. Our visual models for negotiating space are always slightly out of time and in need of renegotiation and reconstruction. This mutation of spatial representations is therefore paramount.

From the point of view of the subject, there is always a need for new generation of physical and mental spaces, in which creations can happen and where dichotomies, as oppositions between rival entities, may be understood as belonging to metaphysics. Film can provide such a space.

One of the main novelties about film, had been the fact that it was apparently able to capture the forth dimension –time. In doing so, it depicted movement as it unfolded. By depicting movement, film was able to become involved in the exploration of space and its experiences in a qualitatively new fashion.

Concerning architecture, urbanism and representation of space, major contribution is to be found in the early works of the film makers such as Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein. Their works exhibited ambition and imagination that have shown the potential creative power of the new medium. The Man with the Movie Camera, for example, could be seen as an exploration of space, cities, movements, speed, and experience of everyday life. Indeed some of its sequences became part of the seminal film syntax in the mainstream production.

If we consider leading architects at the time such as Le Corbusier, who applauded the use of film, we notice that his utilization of moving images was rather limited - mainly to promote his own buildings.

In relation to the contemporary condition of virtual spatiality the following questions could be raised: What are the changing geometries of our changing places and what is the role of film? What are the mechanisms of this new technological and theoretical space? Is the notion of identity challenged?

Item Type: Book section
Additional information: This paper has been delivered at the Cities in Film Conference in Liverpool. It has been published in full in the Conference Proceedings as mentioned. It will also appear as a chapter in the book Cities in Film, compiling selected papers. This is due in 2008/2009. Editing and agreements have been completed.
Uncontrolled keywords: film, architecture, urbanism, space, avant-garde
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
N Visual Arts > NX Arts in general
N Visual Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (
University of Liverpool (
Depositing User: Gordana Fontana-Giusti
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2009 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Fontana-Giusti, Gordana.

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