Paris, capital of the 19th century (2011)

'Paris, capital of the 19th century' is a short movie (essay/experimental film) based on the Walter Benjamin's Passagen-Werk. It's a thinking about the city, the cinema and the modernity.

(2010, black and white, sound, 10 min.)

Full Description

In his book "Paris, capital of the 19th century" the German philosopher Walter Benjamin attempts to outline a comprehensive interpretation of the 19th century along with its dubious modernity. He argues that “capitalism was a natural phenomenon which plunged Europe into a new, dream-filled sleep”. Therefore, in Paris, capital – through Haussmann’s work - reshapes urban space and time. All this brings about a new experience for town dwellers, a feeling very well described by Baudelaire in his poems – the large town shock. In his “Eternity by the Stars” Blanqui describes it a hellish vision, an endless return of the same.

At this time, new reproduction techniques emerge, such as lithography, photography and film-making, which enable us to understand the traumatic shock of urbanism by including it into their own devices (a film, after all, is a series of 24 shocks per minute!). As these techniques acquired art status, they create an urban and world-encompassing fantasy (by means of sample-sites such as the bourgeois interior, passages, department stores) and succeed in producing a perceptible and reassuring image. In short, they become phantasmagoric.

Nowadays, films should still make us dream. But current film-makers do not film reality, in the same way they didn’t film Auschwitz. If they did, they would relay the picture of a world in ruins. For this reason, film-making must serve as a wake-up call, and help mankind live in the present and no longer in the dreams and myths of the 19th century. In a sense, it must be political. As this film attempts to point out.

Work metadata

  • Year Created: 2011
  • Submitted to ArtBase: Tuesday Jul 12th, 2011
  • Original Url:
  • Work Credits:
    • benjamin_bardou, primary creator
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