Dr Guido Kirsten is the PI of the Emmy Noether Research Group “Cinematic Discourses of Deprivation: Analysing the Representation of Precarity and Exclusion in European Fiction Film and Documentary” at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Potsdam). His research interests include questions of representation and audio-visual discourse and narration, questions of proximity and distance in cinema, and the history of film and film theory. He is the author of Filmischer Realismus (2013), co-editor of Christian Metz and the Codes of Cinema: Film Semiology and Beyond (Amsterdam University Press, 2018; with Margrit Tröhler), and editor of Étienne Souriau’s collected film-related writings, Das filmische Universum: Schriften zur Ästhetik des Kinos (Fink, 2020). Since 2007 he has been an editor for the film and television studies journal Montage AV, for which he co-edited issues on André Bazin (2009), the sociology of film in French filmology (2010), film and politics (2014), Roland Barthes’ film-related writings (2015), new film distribution (streaming and BitTorrent; 2017), and questions of proximity and distance (2019). His newest book is Découpage: Historische Semantik eines filmästhetischen Begriffs (Marburg: Schüren, 2022). Also appearing in 2022 is, as the first volume in the new book series „Film, Class, Society“ the edited volume Precarity in European Film: Depictions and Discourses (Berlin/Boston: DeGruyter, eds. Elisa Cuter, Guido Kirsten, Hanna Prenzel).
Kirsten is working on a monograph with the working title Cinema and Class in which he develops a theory of cinematic discursivity and traces historical stages in the representation of social phenomena related to class society (such as exploitation, poverty, unemployment, and housing shortages). Central to his theory of cinematic discursivity is the differentiation of three semantic dimensions: the intensional, the extensional, and the referential dimension. They correspond to the textual systems of audiovisual style (as the result of découpage, mise en scène, editing, and sound design), narration (ordering, sequencing, and linking diegetic events), and discourse (representational, argumentative, and persuasive references to social reality). In discursive readings of films, the referential dimension is privileged over the other two, so the focus is on references to social reality and references to other discourses about this reality (both can be distinguished categorically, but not separated from each other).
Kirsten unfolds problems of analyzing cinematic class discourses on the basis of five stages: Lois Weber’s socially critical films Shoes (US 1916) and The Blot (1921); the class-conscious cinema of the late Weimar Republic from Mother Krausens Fahrt ins Glück (1929) to Kuhle Wampe (1932); negotiations of housing problems in L’onorevole Angelina (1947), Il tetto (1956) and Le mani sulla città (1963); political narratives of wildcat strikes in Coup pour coup and Tout va bien (both 1972); finally, the so-called “cinema of precarity” of the late 1990s until today. Kirsten’s theory of cinematic discursivity is intended to open up new approaches to the problem of the cinematographic representation of social issues in film studies.