Editorial Reviews


“The film pioneers Fritz Lang and Hans Richter would be thrilled by the texts in this rich book. As for me, it motivates me toward the possibility of a film art in the twenty-first century. One day the ‘promise of cinema’ will be redeemed. ‘Utopia gets better and better while we’re waiting for it.’”

—Alexander Kluge, author and filmmaker


“A treasure trove of insights and ideas, this collection of German essays on the cinema, from its origins to the rise of the Third Reich, offers a kaleidoscope of speculation rather than a coherent body of theory, attempting less to define the nature of cinema than to glimpse its multiple possibilities and promises. Far from gathering a dusty archive of the cinema’s past, this book uncovers the excitement cinema generated as the art form of modernity. The major theorists — Kracauer, Balázs, Benjamin, Arnheim and Eisner — are here as well as filmmakers like Lang, Murnau, Lubitsch, Moholy-Nagy, Ruttmann, Richter, and Reiniger. But perhaps most invaluable, the book assembles views of the cinema by the intellectuals, journalists, cameramen, poets, film stars, novelists, architects and composers who made German modernity perhaps the most complex and fascinating of all the modern movements. Reading through these witnesses to cinema when it was a new medium may teach us much about the promises offered by our current period of transition and transformation. Film studies may take years to digest the richness this volume contains — and I believe it will never be quite the same afterwards.”

—Tom Gunning, University of Chicago


“Opening entirely new pathways to the research and teaching of German film culture, this carefully edited sourcebook reveals the fantastic wealth of early ideas and thoughts on cinema.”

—Gertrud Koch, Freie Universität, Berlin


“Page after page, a vibrant debate, previously lost in archives, comes to life again. An impressive portrait, depicted with strokes of love, hate, hope, disillusion, unfolds before our eyes. After this book, our idea of what cinema was—and is—will no longer be the same.”

—Francesco Casetti, Yale University


“An indispensable and revelatory resource for all who are exploring the political and aesthetic genealogy of the media culture we inhabit today.”

—Jonathan Crary, Columbia University


“This remarkable collection appearing at this historical moment invites us to think about cinema before its first German theorists knew what it might become, just as we wonder what the cinema will become today as it transforms itself all over again.”

—Jane M. Gaines, Columbia University


“Any form of memory worthy of the term ought to address the future even more than the past. The great strength of this collection lies in its ability to make one century speak to another, thereby evoking the future of film today.”

—Raymond Bellour, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III


Print and Online Reviews

Review in This Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory (2017) by Angelos Koutsourakis

Review in Film Comment, issue 52-1 (January-February 2016) by Noah Isenberg

Filmbuch des Monats. Review by Hans Helmut Prinzler (April 2016)

Review by Jan-Christopher Horak, UCLA Film and Television Archive (July 2016)
German version of Horak’s review published in Filmblatt (2017)

Thomas Gladysz on the “Best Film Books of 2016” (Huffington Post, 1 December 2016). Scroll down for discussion of Promise of Cinema.