A Cultural Ecological Perspective on the Purpose of Film – Floris Paalman

A Cultural Ecological Perspective on the Purpose of Film (AIM meeting 28-06-2013)

Floris Paalman (f.j.j.w.paalman@uva.nl)

During the past fifteen years there has been a growing debate on the relationhip between mediatization and urbanization. At first, attention was paid to the representation and imagination of metropolises through feature films, and to aesthetics and modes of perception. More recently, sociological approaches have highlighted how films have contributed to urban development. Some recent studies have shifted the focus to different cities, and to other (sponsored) films, which serve particular purposes. Due to their sheer numbers, I argue, the question goes beyond individual purposes, to frame the general function of audiovisual media in urban society. I have applied the theory of cultural ecology on the case of Rotterdam. I have followed network connections to explain reasons of productions, and their relationship with other cultural manifestations.

While I present an ecological perspective, my argument is that conditions and content are directly connected, which should have relevance for research on the text-based level. Out of thousands of titles, I have selected one that suits the discussion on multimodal arguments and rhetorical figures, especially metaphors, while it will exemplify cultural ecological principles. It concerns the short film Rotterdam-Europoort (1966, Joris Ivens), which can be seen as a film-essay, city symphony, ciné-poème, a modern interpretation of a legend (of the Flying Dutchman), or as an autobiographical narration, as critics have done, but also as a commissioned film, as I will do. This case illuminates a ‘double dialectic of modernization’, between society and technology, and between different media. It will show that rhetorics do not only play out at the textual level, but also at the level of genres or media categories, and, moreover, at the level of the city as a cultural ecology which integrates different social-economic and cultural realms.

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