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Audio-Visual Histories of Cinema


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Dorota Ostrowska (subject to change)
  • Assessment: an essay of 5000 words (100%)

    Module description

    From the end of the World War Two until the early 1990s, Europe was gripped by the Cold War and divided by the Iron Curtain. While Western Europe was aligned with the United States, Eastern Europe found itself under the influence of the Soviet Union and its alternative model of cultural production inspired by the communist ideology. Although national cinemas on both sides of the Wall followed their own rhythms and were cut to the measure of their diverse political, social and economic circumstances, they remained in a dialogue with each other and followed surprisingly similar aesthetic trajectories. Almost immediately after the war, Italy's neo-realism attracted worldwide attention and inspired experiments in new forms of 'realism' in France, Russia and Poland. These realisms became vehicles for coming to terms with recent history, before they gave way to the modernist experiments which flourished in Italy, France and Germany.

    This module places several key films each week in their social, historical and critical contexts, with the aim of arriving at an overview of post-war European cinema's strengths and weaknesses. The module draws on a range of audio-visual critical material such as film essays, TV and cinema documentaries in order to understand and critically assess the advantages and limitations of the audio-visual criticism and knowledge in presenting and conveying the history of cinema. The presentation and exploration of the post-war history of European cinema is placed in a wider context of Hollywood and world cinema which the audio-visual critical material enables and encourages.

    Indicative module content

    • What's film history? A cinema of liberation: Italian Neo-Realism
    • After Stalin: 'thaw' in the USSR and Eastern Europe (Poland)
    • France: coming to terms with the Occupation
    • New Realisms around Europe: Sweden, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia
    • Realism on British screens
    • A French fascination with Hollywood and European Realisms: cinema according to Cahiers
    • Italy and the discontents of modernity
    • Returning to zero: the German New Wave
    • Back to basics? Dogme and a renewal of realism in the digital age
    • Cinema of 'New Europe' - history made present