Considering Adorno in Film
Throughout my digging into film paradigms and lenses (not for the camera!), I was most struck by Adorno’s perspective on Cinema.
It should be known that Adorno was a member of the Frankfurt school, a German school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research. For him, Art could barely co-exist outside of “Industry”/production, consumption. This assigns it a sort of social responsibility. For Adorno, art is both an Autonomous Entity & Social Fact.
Works of art do not lie; What they say is literally true. Their reality lies in the fact that they are answers to questions brought before them from outside. The tension in art only has meaning in relation to the tension outside.
Cinema takes up a definite position in relation to reality by stepping outside of its spell and quarreling against the conditions of society at a particular point in time. And if art exists only for Aesthetic enjoyment – for Adorno, it’s inebriating. For him, Art cannot be fully grasped if one is not focused on the object/if distracted by aesthetic enjoyment.
Element of pleasure in art is mediable – those who vanish into works of art, vanish from the destitution of life.
If art cannot be grasped, neither can its social content. With increased social responsibility, time in leisure should be spent expanding and developing thought and awareness, not based solely on dissociation and enjoyment. Films inform and help us to understand our relationships, give insights into politics/the social economy, and can elicit a drive for personal reform. I love that art poses problems, offers solutions, or answers its own questions, becomes a question itself – an argument for its existence. I believe films are one of the largest socioeconomic influencers in art today, historically prodding their audience (regardless of whether or not the films directors had that in mind) and asking questions of its viewers.
Written By: Devon Canal
March 30th, 2021