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234 × 140 × 24 mm
264 pages
100 illustrations
01 Feb 2011
  • £25.00

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Filming the Middle Ages Bettina Bildhauer

In this groundbreaking account of film history, Bettina Bildhauer shows how, from the earliest silent films to recent blockbusters, medieval topics and plots have played an important but overlooked role in the development of cinema.

Filming the Middle Ages is the first book to define medieval films as a group and trace their history from the silent films of Weimar Germany to Hollywood productions and then to recent European co-productions. Bildhauer provides incisive new interpretations of classics like Murnau’s Faust and Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, and rediscovers some forgotten works, such as Douglas Sirk’s Sign of the Pagan and Asta Neilsen’s Hamlet. As Bildhauer explains, both art house films like The Seventh Seal and The Passion of Joan of Arc and popular films like Beowulf or The Da Vinci Code cleverly use the Middle Ages to challenge modern ideas of historical progress, to find alternatives to a print-dominated culture, and even to question what makes us human. Filming the Middle Ages pays special attention to medieval animated and detective films and provocatively demonstrates that the invention of cinema itself is considered a return to the Middle Ages by many film theorists and filmmakers.

Filming the Middle Ages is ideal reading for medievalists with a stake in the contemporary, and film scholars with an interest in the distant past.

‘In this seriously smart book Bettina Bildhauer demonstrates that medieval film is a genre that, far from merely providing an escape hatch for a pressured and disillusioned modernity, takes up and meets head on the challenges modernity poses . . . In a series of brilliant readings Bildhauer opens up the strange temporalities and posthuman bodies of medieval film, situating them at the heart of twentieth- and twenty-first century concerns.’ — Carolyn Dinshaw, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and English, New York University

Filming the Middle Ages maps a cinematic landscape of surprising compass, directing our gaze from the Weimar films Faust and Destiny to the CGI spectacle of Beowulf. Space and time, the perennial subjects of film study, acquire a charged potential in this exceptional book, which marks a fresh beginning in genre analysis. With lucid intelligence, Bettina Bildhauer has created a brilliant, engaging work that will define the field.’ — Robert Burgoyne, Professor and Chair of Film Studies, University of St Andrews

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Bettina Bildhauer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of German, University of St Andrews. She is the author of Medieval Blood (2007), and co-editor of The Monstrous Middle Ages (2003) and Medieval Film (2009).

What is Medieval Film? An Introduction
(film: The Blind Director)  

Part I: Time’s Bow
1. The Non-linear Time of Medieval Film
(films: Faust and Destiny)
2. The Medieval Dead Reanimated
(films: Golem, Hard to Be a God, Waxworks, The Seventh Seal, and Siegfried)
3. Queer Time
(films: Hamlet, Lady Venus and her Devil, Dreamship Surprise, Abelard, Joan of Arc, Ferryman Maria, and The Immortal Heart)
Part II: Lethal Letters
4. The Dangerous Power of Writing
(films: The Secret of Kells, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Pope Joan, and Sign of the Pagan)
5. The Printing Press vs the Cathedral
(films: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Copernicus, and The Adventures of Don Quixote)
6. Detecting the Middle Ages
(films: The Da Vinci Code, A Canterbury Tale, The Name of the Rose)
Part III: Human Limits
7. The Birth of the Leader from the Collective
(films: Condottieri, Luther, and Alexander Nevsky)
8. The Nation’s Lost Past
(films: Nibelungen Films, 1924, 1966, 2004)
9. Animation and the Human between Animal and Cyborg
(films: Jester Till, Beowulf, and The Adventures of Prince Ahmed)

Film’s Reliance on Medievalism: A Conclusion
Index of Medieval Films
General Index