What is the relationship between cinema and spectator? That is the central question for film theory, and renowned film scholars Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener use this question to guide students through all of the major film theories – from the classical period to today – in this insightful, engaging book. Every kind of cinema (and film theory) imagines an ideal spectator, and then imagines a certain relationship between the mind and body of that spectator and the screen. Using seven distinctive configurations of spectator and screen that move progressively from ‘exterior’ to ‘interior’ relationships, the authors retrace the most important stages of film theory from 1945 to the present, from neo-realist and modernist theories to psychoanalytic, ‘apparatus’, phenomenological and cognitivist theories.
'Any publication with Thomas Elsaesser's name on it is cause for anticipation. This jointly authored volume reaffirms not only Elsaesser's comprehensive command of the diverse theoretical projects that constitute "film theory" but also the creative capacity of both authors to reframe concepts and debates in a way that shakes up and rejuvenates the field.' - Felicity Collins, Screening the Past
'…the book presents a coherent argument while at the same time exhibiting a breadth of theoretical expertise.' - David Sorfa, Liverpool John Moores University
'Film Theory possesses a robustness to match its sophistication, and an approach that feels as though it has been road-tested. This book stands a very good chance of wide adoption in introductory film studies courses, as preparatory reading, or as a text to be worked through chapter by chapter, supplemented by close analysis of the theories at issue, and screenings of the films discussed. The combination of sophistication and robustness should ensure that it will prove effective both at undergraduate and at graduate level.' - David Trotter, Cambridge University
'With admirable concision, Elsaesser and Hagener's book manages intelligently and insightfully to use its own new and unique framework to cover virtually all of film theory, suggest the schools it divides into and their stakes, and to relate this to film history, to broader philosophy, and to transformations that film is undergoing in the age of the digital.' - Dana Polan, New York University
Praise for the German version of Film Theory.
'Each chapter begins with a succinct sequence analysis that provides a foundation for the theoretical discussion that follows. Instead of foregrounding the theory and then "applying" it to the film, the authors invite the student to refer back to the film as the chapter progresses, critically considering how the practical enunciation of key theoretical concepts might (or might not) occur. The authors argue that this act of reflection should not terminate with the film that prefaces each chapter, but rather should inspire the student to draw connections between the theory and other films they have previously seen. This productively encourages the student to familiarize itself with theory by connecting it to his or her own larger framework of experiences with cinema.' -Medienwissenshaft 2/2008