Observation und Objektivität

Was kann an einem Fiktionsfilm „faktisch“ sein?


  • Georg Schmid




feature films as historical source, deceptiveness of visual evidence, fiction versus reference to facts, theory of (cinematic) narrativity, logic of representation


Feature films have in principle long been accepted as a major historical source. It is all the more astonishing that they are not more widely used by professional historians. An important reason for this regrettable neglect is the equivocal relation between fictional stories and veritable “evidential” material all movies manifest. The actors and actresses as well as “real-life” exteriors used in films are indisputably factual, but the former play roles and the latter are rearranged according to the plot, the problems discussed and all the subsequent dramaturgical constraints. Movies dealing with historical incidents (such as Greengrass’s United 93) are, in addition, confronted with a number of specific problems, most prominent among them their “borderline” position between referring to facts while remaining ultimately fictitious constructs. Consequently, a skilful theory of cinematic narration and narrativity, conducive to a better understanding of historical realities as well as their depiction, has to face up to the challenges a logic of representation inevitably poses. The respective problems are aggravated both by the “engrossing” character of movies (they deal not least with and in emotions, after all) and their evidentiary character (which always is, to some degree, deceiving). Particularly films that in one way or another, however circuitously, refer to historical frameworks (e.g., The Manchurian Candidate, The Siege, Master and Commander) can teach us a lot about a number of unsolved problems of objectivity and factuality.





Schmid, G. (2013). Observation und Objektivität: Was kann an einem Fiktionsfilm „faktisch“ sein?. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, 24(3), 14–34. https://doi.org/10.25365/oezg-2013-24-3-2



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