Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kings and Princes: A Thought Project of a Potential Aristocratic Film

Perhaps the greatest problem of film is it’s newness as an art form. Precisely because film was born around 1900, we have no film that exists outside of modernity – indeed, no film exists outside the most recent period of modernity. One result of this is we do not have films that exist outside of contemporary political ideas – whereas much of the greatest drama and poetry come from monarchic or aristocratic regimes (Shakespeare, Racine, Homer, Cervantes, Montaigne and many others). This means that the expanse of film experience is really quite limited because all films share a limited range of political ideas - the limited range of politics we’ve experienced inside of modernity.

That means that film, as it stands now, confines us to modernity the way that most other art forms do not. Even if an individual prefers modern architecture, for instance, his love of architecture and growing discernment in architecture will gradually lead him to acknowledge other eras of architecture. This will lead him to at least question his attachment to modern architecture more critically: it is not so easily answered if Frank Lloyd Wright is superior to Palladio or Borromini, or Faulkner greater than Cervantes, or Picasso greater than Memling. Meanwhile, every exploration in film history cannot escape that no films whatsoever existed more than a comparatively short while ago.

So, in the spirit of an outrageous thought experiment, what would an aristocratic film actually look like or exist as? Of course, there have been almost innumerable films about monarchs or aristocrats. However, none of them were made FOR aristocrats in an era where aristocrats actually ruled in a serious fashion. So, up till our thought experiment, no film has been made that takes aristocracy or monarchy as the best future politics – that advocates that aristocracy is not an glittering era now expired (the general trend of movies made about aristocracies) but that believes in aristocracy as the best political form simply. Even worse, we have no film which indicates how a future aristocracy would look like, moving from our current political regimes towards that future aristocracy (i.e., how would the aristocrat appear today and then moving forward in time to eventually assume power?).

Of course, we do have numerous (indeed, mountainous) literary and artistic materials from such eras. But no films. First, we must confront several misleading assumptions about aristocracy – that aristocrats would shun modern technology and thus not consume film. It’s true that artistocracies envision entertainment and consumption in extremely different ways than do modern people. It’s also true that the novelty of film as novelty would be less appealing to a potential aristocracy than it is to modernity.

But the evidence shows that aristocrats can and do absorb technological advances – including the printed book, the firearm, the stirrup and much else: and some technological advances increased their political power rather than reduced it. An aristocratic society must be one in which agricultural production is a very significant (and preferably predominate) section of the economy. This is not an economy that would easily support the production of a very advanced industrial product such as film.

Still, assuming that this difficulty has been overcome, it might be possible for us to project an aristocratic society that has film, since we do know that aristocratic societies can absorb and utilize technological advances.


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