Toward a Media-Technological Approach to Films: Meaning-Making, Objects, and Procedures

Date of Award

Fall 10-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Germanic Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Peucker, Brigitte


Film is a technological medium, and as one which is also mimetic, it often includes other technologies and media among its representations. The dissertation focuses on the intermedial encounter that occurs when film hosts other media and argues that the hosted media have the potential to inflect modes of expression and determine discourse and meaning in films that incorporate them.For the purpose of studying the intermedial encounter as a generator of discourse, the dissertation concentrates on the operation of technologies and media as they are remediated through the medium of the moving image. Within the intermedial encounter the specific operations of these media and technologies enter into negotiation with the specific affordances and characteristics of film, thereby inflecting discourse, meaning, and modes of expression. Focusing on case studies by four auteurs whose films are markedly populated by technological media, the thesis explores the discursive implications of a variety of encounters between film and the media hosted by it. Chapter One explores the discursive functions of the door and the written message in eight of Ernst Lubitsch’s German films. It examines discursive ramifications of the door and its operation concerning law, the circulation of knowledge, and the inclusion and exclusion of bodies. At the same time, the written message emerges in the films under discussion as a prominent means for movement between spaces, for social mobility, and for the distribution of and control over desire. Chapter Two investigates the nexus of media and destiny in Fritz Lang’s German films. It traces a process which involves the distribution of functions related to destiny, and which in Lang’s films are associated with the clock, to a variety of media. The analyses of four films with attention to the media that take center stage within them show that issues of precision, abstraction, repetition, and the trace of the body gain predominance in forging the conception of destiny in these films. Chapter Three investigates Werner Herzog’s concept of “deep truth.” It examines two sequences that are centered on an autopsy, and presents Herzog’s concept of the true image as one that manifests itself in the tension between the unfathomability of death and the attempt to embed it into discourse by procedural and technological means. Chapter Four scrutinizes the value of video technology in three of Michael Haneke’s films. The chapter shows that Haneke’s speculation on cinema, video, and their intermedial encounter is tied to developments in technologies of image production, and it purports that the medial changes that it traces determine truth-value with respect to the moving images featured in the films, and that this determination also impacts the ethical value of the cinematic medium in each of them.

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