Béla Balázs and the Haunting of Weimar Film

11Apr2017 19:30 - 21:00


We can all list the name of film actresses and film directors. Few of us will remember the name of a scenarist. And yet, the scenarist might be responsible for every cut of every shot of every scene of a film. The first draft of the film comes from their hand, in the black and white of ink on paper. Planning every image in their imagination and writing instructions to members of both cast and crew, the scenarist could easily consider him/herself the film's mastermind. But in expecting to receive any recognition at all for their labors, the scenarist will inevitably be disappointed.

This talk is about the Weimar-era Béla Balázs, arguably the world's most misunderstood film scenarist. Balázs is widely received as one of the first theorists of film as an art form. His film aesthetics are routinely reprinted alongside major statements on film by thinkers like Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin. This talk will argue that it is not with this work that he made his name. As scenarist, Balázs was one of the stars of Weimar film production. He worked on several dozen film sets alongside major directors, cinematographers and actresses. In high demand for his world renowned theoretical understanding of the image, Balázs nevertheless is almost entirely unknown for his work in the film studio. Drawing on actual films by Balázs I have retrieved from archives, this talk hopes to recover not just the travails of the scenarist, but the aspects of the film image that he or she haunts. 


Eszter Polonyi is a PhD candidate at the Art History department of Columbia University, currently Visiting Researcher at the Film department of the University of Amsterdam. She has recently authored articles and translations for The New Review for Film and Television Studies and the film journal Apertura. Her work has been supported by the CV Starr, the Matisse Foundation, the SSRC, Pepsico and DAAD. She is writing her dissertation on the film theorist Béla Balázs.  

Venue: Common Room
Amsterdam University College
Science Park 113, 1098 XG Amsterdam
Convenor: Dr. Christina Buckley

Published by  Amsterdam University College