Our concern with the space of experience in cinema is symptomatic of the changes cinema has undergone in the past thirty years. In film studies it points to a bifurcation of interest: For much of the 1950s and 60s, the focus has been on the makers – the directors as auteurs and artists; but since the 1970s more emphasis has been laid on audiences, reception and the physical spaces of cinema experience. But even within this shift to audiences, there are differences of emphasis: between “film” and “cinema”, between “ocular vision” and “embodied vision”, between “sight” in the cinema and its “sound-scape and sound spaces”, between the “visible” and the “invisible”, or as I would summarize this in-between-ness of cinema: between film as “text and narrative” and cinema as “event and experience”.
Thomas Elsaesser is Emeritus Professor at the University of Amsterdam and since 2013 Visiting Professor at Columbia University. Most recent publications: Film Theory-An Introduction through the Senses (with Malte Hagener 2nd ed. 2015) and Film History as Media Archaeology (2016).