Re-presenting histories: Documentary film and architectural ruins in Brutality in Stone

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Guerin, Frances
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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This article rereads Alexander Kluge and Peter Schamoni’s short film Brutality in Stone (1961) in light of more contemporary scholarly interest in the architectural ruin. This leads to an analysis that challenges, or recasts cinematic assumptions about the past. I begin my analysis through attention to Brutality in Stone’s radical strategies of montage, marriage of archival stills and newly-shot documentary moving images, merging of real and imagined, past and present, sound and image. These formal strategies are observed through the lens of theories of ruin, Kluge’s own writings on cinema and history, the references to the historiography of Nazi architecture, and contemporary theories of ruination in architecture. I then reveal the film as a type of counter-memory, promoting a critical awareness of, rather than espousing an ideologically motivated enthusiasm for the histories and memories of the past as they have been represented in architectural monuments, cinematic and historical narratives. Specifically, a contemporary reconsideration of Brutality in Stone contributes to rethinking the relationship to the ongoing lessons of German history and its cinematic representation in the contemporary moment. Keeping alive the memories of the past has never been more urgent as we move into an historical moment when memories of the Nazi past are becoming ever dimmer.
Architectural ruins , Spectator cinema , Representing traumatic historical events , Cinematic memories , Counter-monument
Guerin, F. (2021) 'Re-presenting histories: Documentary film and architectural ruins in Brutality in Stone', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 21, pp. 13-34.