Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the Cinema

Date: July 17 - 19, 2003
Organizers: Mischa Meier (Bielefeld), Simona Slanicka (Bielefeld), Wolfgang Struck (Kiel)

The conference organized by PD Dr. Mischa Meier (Ancient History, Univ. of Bielefeld), PD Dr. Wolfgang Struck (Modern German Literature and Media, Univ. of Kiel) and Dr. Simona Slanicka (Medieval and Early Modern History, Univ. of Bielefeld) gathered a group of 25 participants in order to discuss a field which is widely known by the public, but scarcely investigated by modern scholarship. The main interest laid on the extent to which films treating ancient and medieval times can be seen as a medium to reflect contemporary issues, and on the question why specific reflections are referred to antiquity or the middle ages. In fact, the discussions in the sections showed that in these films history is presented only through quite elementary signs suggesting authenticity - such as dirt, blood and violence for the middle ages or red soldier-cloaks for antiquity. Thus, the films do not tell an authentic story against a 'real' background, but rather concentrate on playing with well-known signs, meanings, citations and interpretations. Furthermore, films treating ancient or medieval themes are a hybrid genre similar to operas, i.e., they recreate a reality of their own. They produce historical imagination rather than analyze history.

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