Author: René Rieger
Walter Benjamin on Film and the Senses
During the late 1930’s the philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote its widely influential essay ‘The work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility’. While describing a general shift in the arts and their perception and warning about the possible exploitation for political purposes his work examines carefully the medium, especially photography and film, and its sensual aspects. He attributes a tactile and palpable quality to film that elevates the medium and stresses its meaning for the human collective.
Benjamin formulates a historical task of film, ‘which is to gain control over technology and its effects.’ For him, film is an exercise for the senses to adapt ourselves. It were the ‘successive changes of scene and focus’ that were ‘a true training ground’ of modern perception. Film thus corresponds to the changes that each passerby experiences in big-city traffic. On the one hand the ‘filmic stimuli transcend the category of purely optical impressions’, on the other hand they stay safely or visually enframed in the screen.