Redeeming Kracauer’s Theory of Film: An Examination of the Importance of Material Aesthetics


As is perhaps more well-known than the contents of the book itself, Siegfried Kracauer’s Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (1960), while deemed an important work of “classical” film theory, has never been fully embraced by film theorists.1 Agreeing with Miriam Bratu Hansen that Kracauer’s work is “often misread as ordaining a ‘naively realist’ theory of film” (xxv), the purpose of this article is to examine what Kracauer actually means when he writes, “My book differs from most writings in the field in that it is a material aesthetics, not a formal one. It is concerned with content. […] Films come into their own when they record and reveal physical reality” (qtd. in Hansen xlix).

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