Review: Europe and Love in Cinema

Europe and Love in Cinema

Luisa PASSERINI, Jo LABANYI & Karen DIEHL (eds)

Intellect Ltd., 2012, ISBN 978-1-84150-379-0

£19.95 (pbk), 281 pp.

This interdisciplinary volume is positioned at the interface of cultural history and film studies and departs from the assumption that cinema and the analysis of films is a particularly useful field for the study of the cultural imaginary of specific societies at specific historical moments. The editors on the one hand state that the aim of the collection is to “explore the cultural implications of the treatment of love in a number of European fiction films” (p. 3), on the other hand, they intend an exploration of the “triangulation of the concepts of ‘Europe, ‘love’ and ‘cinema’” (p. 4). A main point of departure for bringing together these three concepts is the assumption that the concept of ‘romantic love’ is one of the main characteristics of Europeanness. In their introduction the editors show how this concept has evolved over time and how, in this way, private feelings have always had public consequences.

The assumption that cinema has played “a crucial role in conjugating the relationship between Europe and love” (p. 11) is the basis for the following eleven chapters which explore the triangular relationship between Europe, love and cinema by applying an adapted version of Ernesto de Martino’s critical ethnocentrism, attempting to criticize Eurocentrism from within. The single contributions are not restricted to heterosexual concepts of romantic love and they furthermore go beyond the concept of romantic love in order to include also aspects such as friendship or attachment to place.

The volume is structured in four parts, each consisting of three chapters. It starts with ‘disciplinary and historical contexts’, continues with ‘impossible loves’ and ‘movements in time-space’ in order to end with ‘cultural re-inscriptions’. In this way, the first three chapters give the disciplinary, historical and theoretical context for the case studies which are to follow.

As anticipated in the volume’s introduction, very different kinds of ‘love’ are discussed in the various chapters. Thus, besides the love for the cinema, the common saying of ‘love at first sight’ is transformed to “first looks” (p. 246) explored by Karen Diehl. Seán Allen examines the love between mother and son in Good Bye, Lenin! (2003). And one part of the volume is dedicated to ‘impossible loves’, i.e. unfulfilled love stories, mainly set in colonial contexts. At times, however, the chapters’ focus is rather on two sides of the triangle, i.e. the authors concentrate for example either on film and love or on film and Europe. Still, conclusions to almost every chapter enable the reader to bring together the individual approaches and link them with the broader scope of the volume.

The volume will be useful to students and scholars of film studies, of European studies and of cultural history interested in any side of the triangle. Furthermore, it could become a starting point for the exploration of ‘love’ and ‘Europe’ also in other media.

Sandra Vlasta

Austrian Academy of Sciences, Research project “Literature on the Move”

Vienna, Austria

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