Brecht and Film Theory: How Brecht’s Theory and Method Impacted the Development of “Screen Theory”

In: Philosophizing Brecht
Author: Jeremy Spencer

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This intended paper will address the dialogue between Brecht’s theory and method and the authors associated with the development of so-called “Screen Theory” of the British film magazine Screen between 1971 and 1979. Authors such as Stephen Heath did not read Brecht to appeal to the authority of a person but to articulate a “truly dialectical practice” in a new situation, namely, the reflection on cinema and the intervention of the practice of film in ideology. Heath was concerned with how Brecht’s theory and practice could be used to understand film as an “ideological intervention” and therefore the “possible actuality” of Brecht’s dialectical work. This paper explores the actuality of Brecht’s ideas—his “critical lessons”—in the context of Screen, as part of the magazine’s defence of political modernism or the “politics of form,” how they were mobilised in relation to political cinema, semiotic theory, and psychoanalysis.