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“From Recording to Ritual: Weimar Villa and 24 City”

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-24
Number of pages14
JournalIAFOR Journal of Asian Studies
Issue number1
PublishedJan 2016


King's Authors


This paper’s title is inspired by Guttmann’s 2004 book From Ritual To Record. It
examines the remedial and ritual role of cinema in artist film Weimar Villa (Bernd Behr,
2010) and critically acclaimed Chinese film 24 City (Zia Zhang-ke, 2008). The
cinematic documentation of newly sprawling urban spaces and of dismantling an old
military factory in post-socialist China in these two films, well complements the
“xiangchang”—or being on the scene—rhetoric that has governed contemporary
independent Chinese documentaries. The function of these two films, I argue,
progresses from recording of the actual to the performing of the ritual.

Both of the films’ aesthetics and their relationship with modernity provides a
comparative framework to forge an interesting relationship between these two films
and the modernist city films; Weimar Villa alludes to the Weimar culture via the
temporal and spatial displacement of Bauhaus style architecture in China, while some
of the aesthetic strategies employed in 24 City resemble the Soviet modernist cinematic movement. I discuss how the modernist and post-socialist “city films” echo each other yet forge diverging relationships to the “promised” modernity, underscoring the historical and ideological disjuncture between these two eras.

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