Björn Þór Vilhjálmsson: Tales from the Wax Museum: Reflections on Cinema, Preservation and Memory
The article addresses the way in which the medium of film intersects with a variety of memory and preservation discourses, emphasizing in particular the image as it is reproduced through technological means and methods. The rise of the image in modernity is discussed in conjunction with a long history of philosophical distrust towards the image and its mechanical reproduction. The German film Waxworks/ Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Paul Leni, 1924), usually considered a keywork of cinematic expressionism, is consequently discussed in detail. It is argued that the film deals in a symbolic fashion with the technological capacity of cinema to be a “preservation machine”. This involves a discussion of memorials and memorialization, both in terms of the individual and events, and then often in tandem with notions of historical and communal memory. Finally, the article maintains that such a thematic narrative complex is in no way dependent on specific methods of representations; rather, it is based upon the unique mimetic capacity of the index.
Keywords: Film, Expressionism, Memory, Waxworks, Index