Transfiguration and Self-Conscious Narration: On Von Sternberg’s Last Films with Dietrich

George M. Wilson

in Seeing Fictions in Film

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199594894
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731440 | DOI:
Transfiguration and Self-Conscious Narration: On Von Sternberg’s Last Films with Dietrich

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In this chapter, further complexity is added to the possibilities of cinematic narration that the book investigates. In traditional movies, viewers assume that the fictional world of the movie has a certain kind of objectivity or ontological subsistence. That is, they imagine about the fictional world that it exists independently of the cinematic apparatus that has, in fact, been deployed to construct it. However, some movies systematically acknowledge the constructed character of the fictional constituents that make up its narrative world. The narration of such films is, in one sense of the word, self-conscious or reflexive. There is an indefinite number of self-conscious strategies of film narration, and it is impossible to survey the extensive range effectively. For this reason, the author examines closely the ways that the director, Josef von Sternberg, exploited a mode of self-conscious narration in his last films with Marlene Dietrich, especially The Scarlet Empress (1934).

Keywords: self-conscious; reflexive; David Bordwell; ontological self-subsistence; photographic transparency; Josef von Sternberg; Marlene Dietrich; screen persona; biopic; Blonde Venus, Devil Is a Woman; Scarlet Empress

Chapter.  13948 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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