“Moving images, moving times”: Why film? And why this column?

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Text by Benedict Gehlken
Translation by Boris Orban
Photo by Jeremy Yap

When Philosophy student Benedict Gehlken is not overseeing the important questions of life, his attention is preferably turned to the big screen. In his column „Moving images, moving times“, the film aficionado dedicates himself to the classics, such as works of the modern age, takes a look behind the curtains and shows us how the moving picture is moving us nowadays. To be continued…

“Photography is truth. And Cinema is truth 24 times a second.” This often-quoted sentence dates back to Jean Luc-Godard’s Film “The little soldier”. But what does the director mean when he claims that cinema, eventually films, therefore also the moving image itself, does not only contain truth but is truth? in this column, I’m going to address this question and many others. 

Finding the truth in turbulent times 

We live in turbulent times: One trend is following another, a tweet can bring us to the brink of a new world war, we are destroying our planet and in return, our planet is going to destroy us and we barely know which media we can trust. “Post-factual-times” that is. There’s no right or wrong anymore, there are only opinions, emotions and the desired. However, one searches in vain for the “truth”. We live in times when everyone can reach everyone. We are connected, with friends, family, strangers, basically the whole world, and yet we feel lonelier than ever before. In this chaos, is it even possible to find the truth Godard once spoke of? Perhaps. I will try and start where Godard thought he would find it: In movies. Only one question remains unanswered: Why all the effort?

The moving image is one of the most influential media of our time, if not the most influential. The royal class of the moving image is film. It comes in all forms, shapes, and lengths, from feature films to documentaries and from action to arthouse. The main characteristic of today’s films is the show and entertainment value, you just don’t want to take risks or put anything at stake. One falls back on well-known formulas and usually, today’s film does not offer any fall height. Thanks to Marvel – but maybe more about that later. 

Our columnist Benedict Gehlken will dive into the world of film. (Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash)

Emotions are instruments

At any rate, movies can do more than just entertain, they are more than trashy love films and mediocre action blockbusters. And they are more than the “oh so funny” comedies like “Norbit” or “Jack and Jill“. Aristophanes would probably turn around in his grave. (It’s an old historian joke for polis lovers.) Yeah sorry I know, I know, we’re moving on to the main program: So, films can do more than just entertain. They can also inform, provoke thought, criticize existing ideologies and present counter-drafts or legitimize existing ideologies.

The whole thing usually happens in a very perfidious way, so that the viewer doesn’t even notice how it affects his subconsciousness. And although the medium film is still a very young one, the creative people working in the background are well aware of how they have to use aesthetic, narrative and audio-visual elements to cause certain reactions in the viewers. For example, Oscar-winning director Quentin Tarantino once said that he feels like a conductor and that the emotions of his audience are his instruments.

Column: “Moving images, moving times”

That leads me to what you can expect in my column: A lot! For example, I will critically analyze socially relevant films based on selected examples and present directors whose complete works provide possible answers to questions that people. And of course myself as a philosophy student have always asked: Is man good or evil from the ground up? Is there a God and if so, why does he not speak to us? What is morality? What is art? What is the meaning of life? I will also take a look into the economic and political aspects of films and the film industry because there is a hell of a lot of them. In short, from now on there will be blazing hot insights into the world of cinema. It’s the most investigative journalism Hollywood has ever seen (no guarantee given).

And of course, I will also offer well-founded analyses from the perspective of a Berlin-based, ideology criticizing, philosophy student. Anyone interested in accompanying me into this incredibly exciting cosmos of the film is hereby cordially invited. We will find this truth somehow. So: lights, camera, action!