The Other as the Self: Legibility of Body Language in Film and Americanisation of Europe

Oksana Bulgakowa

Abstract


Film quickly developed not only into the first medium that preserved body language, gesticulation, and facial expressions, but, for the first time, it also modeled body images and influenced changes in viewers’ body language. As an apparatus which fixes movement – as observed by physiologists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, sociologists, ergonomists, and cultural philosophers – cinema enhanced and trained spectators’ imitative abilities in terms of motoric expression. After the Second World War, thanks to accelerating film circulation, a certain unification of body language rapidly spread in different European cinematographies. Germany had a unique position in this process. At this time, film was playing a prominent role in the American programme of “re-education of Germans to democracy”, developed by psychologists, anthropologists, and politicians. Hollywood was interested in making a profit, and the politicians pursued their ideological programme, which was based on Margaret Mead’s anthropological research and on the proposals of such psychiatrists as Richard Brickner. Although American entertainment films were not part of that particular programme, they, too, nonetheless, were teaching Germans the body language of democracy. These changes in body language and behaviour, which could be observed in the Italian, French, German, and Soviet media spheres of the early 1950s, were influenced by foreign media images and patterns – this was then called “Americanisation”. The result was a destabilisation of hierarchies, an increase in alternative lifestyles, new political parties, and new educational models.



Keywords


Walter Benjamin; Marcel Mauss; Marcel Carné; Marlon Brando; Marlen Khutsiev; USA; GDR; FRG; Soviet Union; Italy; France; film; gesture; body language; americanisation; techniques of the body; genre film; imitation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17892/app.2017.0005.92



Apparatus. ISSN 2365-7758