16.04. ‐ 21.04.2024
Liebe zum Kino


Since its invention more than a hundred years ago, love is one of its central motifs.

When we think of love in film, we usually think of romantic films. Its classic subject is the love between two people. Usually, their love is fulfilled, the film finishes with a so-called Happy End. Less often, love remains unrequited, the film turns melodramatic. What is striking: the classic romance tells a story of infatuation and falling in love and ends at a point where something such as capital-L love can only just begin. “Love is an activity and not a passive affect”, notes psychoanalyst Erich Fromm from Frankfurt, “it is something that develops, not something you fall into.” One of the most famous directors for letting their work begin where life asks “Will you join everyday life?” is Ingmar Bergman. In films such as Scenes from a Marriage (1973) he portrays how couples in relationships who struggle and clash with each other, fight for and against one another, who master the obstacles of everyday life and fail at them. After its experimental beginnings, it took a few decades for cinema to noticeably step out of the boundaries of classic romantic films, to play with it or break the mould entirely.

At the beginning of cinematic history is Williams Heises The Kiss. As early as 1896 it shows a woman and a man in an intimate embrace kissing each other in a single shot. What became a scandal then is now considered to be the most famous American film of the 19th century. In the following decades, Hollywoods studio system in particular produced countless love stories for the big screen. For the most part, they weren’t about the narrative patterns of romantic or tragic love, well-worn and interchangeable, but served to elevate prominent movie screen couples.

From the 1960’s onwards, kitsch and cliché were increasingly broken out of, especially in European cinema. No longer was just the relationship between two couple subject, love was now also told in constellations of three such as in Jules et Jim (1962). In addition, relationships told on film now moved beyond the heteronormative man-woman constellations: After Romy played a boarding school student in Mädchen in Uniform in 1958 who develops feeling for a female teacher, The Boys in The Band (1970) featured almost exclusively homosexuals and thus became the cult film of the American gay scene. Furthermore, L'ultimo tango a Parigi (1972) explicitly shows the sexuality of a pair of lovers while transgressing boundaries, and Harold and Maude (1971) takes up love as a connection between generations. Finally, in Angst essen Seele auf (1974), Rainer Werner Fassbinder confronts the love of a woman for a much younger foreign man with the conflicts that arise due to a latently racist society.

Even though the classic romance and its repetition of ever similar patterns has survived to this day, there being an open socio-psychological need for Kitsch and the ignorance of complexities, the art of love on film has moved into ever more complex contexts and shapes. Spike Jonze outlined the fatal mechanisms of projections of love in the face of the rise of artificial intelligence in Her (2013). Film stalks love into all its spheres and offsides: as thrillers that develop toxic relationships, as sci-fi adventures in which the love between mother and daughter upsets the very fabric of the universe or as a documentary that speaks of spiritual-erotic love to trees.

But next to love on or in film, the passionate love for it should not be forgotten: the love of cinema. That which once, as cinephilia, formed a universe around the big screen – in which life between trips to the cinema turned into merely an in-between, missing, longing for and writing about what was seen - increasingly penetrated the projection room itself. Those lovers of film exchanged their previously founded film magazines with director’s chairs and started to produce their own films in 1960: passionate, euphoric, extravagant. As the years went own, the love of cinema also arrived at universities.

Cultural and media studies took up film completely. They thought, discussed and wrote on film, as the cinephiles had done all along: as a serious art form. With the dissolution of the cinematic dispositif brought about by the technological revolutions, film increasingly turns away from the cinema, dispersing in all digital directions and with it cinephilia. For some, it is possible to love film without meeting others in a physical space, others need the cinema to love film.

In its international film programme, LICHTER Filmfest will juxtapose about 20 positions of current world cinema on the theme of love.

A text by Kenneth Hujer