Introduction to "Genre cinema and sense of community"

Every film has an idea of its viewer—not only as someone exposed to a certain media technology, but also as a social individual. Different film’s aesthetic concepts differ greatly—at least at first glance—in the way in which they address this social individual. Most consumers of film make this differentiation intuitively. The terms that they use are “auteur film" and “art film” on the one hand and “genre film” and “entertainment” on the other hand.

Even if these terms are often connected to a judgment about the “quality” of the film, the viewer is first and foremost differentiating between the ways in which the films meet them.

On one side is a poetics of film meant to allow the viewer to experience the societal conditions of experience. Cinematographic images are used to highlight these conditions, otherwise hidden in our everyday perception. Generally speaking, these are poetics that attempt to bring the conditions under which viewers live as social individuals to their attention.

On the other side is a poetics of film that aims to allow the experience of emotions. These are poetics of affect that speak to the viewer as an individual whose feelings make him part of community life. This is our particular research interest. Our heuristic term for the emotional participation in community life is “sense of community” (Gemeinschaftsgefühl).

We are primarily interested in how the different poetics of affect connected to genre cinema concretely shape and deal with this sense of community.

Are there genre-specific differences?

Do the genres taken together perhaps build something like a system of a poetics of affect?

To answer these questions, using the eMAEX system we analyze the emotionalizing effect of the images of varying genre films in detail. Alongside this analysis, we are also investigating a theoretical question:

If genre cinema speaks to its viewers as individuals who participate emotionally in their community, can it be compared to other social practices that aim to stimulate the individual’s emotional attachment to society?

What is the relationship of genre cinema to, for example, public rituals of commemoration?

Finally, in our research area “Genre cinema and a sense of community” we also focus on our research objects from a historical perspective. In the European context, the relationship of genre cinema to auteur cinema, of the entertainment industry to art films is of great importance.

After World War II, in European auteur cinema the experience of a disintegrating society joined with the expectation that cinema could aid in the foundation of a new political culture. How is the genre cinema that developed in Western Europe after the 1950s related to this expectation? And which role does Hollywood genre cinema play, referred to not only by popular Western European movies, but also in the film poetics of “New Realisms” and “New Waves”?

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