For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Verfremdungseffekt in Cinema

by Law
Verfremdungseffekt in Cinema by Law
Brecht’s widely influential Verfremdungseffekt or alienation effect is a theory where the artist aims to distance himself from the audience and vice versa and prevent attachment to the work so as to allow the audience to more carefully contemplate what the work is trying to express and the sociopolitical implications of it. This theory has been widely influential amongst various filmmakers. Let’s use Jean-Luc Godard as an example. This can be achieved by ignoring the fourth wall (the interviews and cuts in La Chinoise, Karina and Belmondo acknowledging the camera in Pierrot le fou), highlighting the fictional aspects of the work (the… Read more

Brecht’s widely influential Verfremdungseffekt or alienation effect is a theory where the artist aims to distance himself from the audience and vice versa and prevent attachment to the work so as to allow the audience to more carefully contemplate what the work is trying to express and the sociopolitical implications of it. This theory has been widely influential amongst various filmmakers.

Let’s use Jean-Luc Godard as an example.

This can be achieved by ignoring the fourth wall (the interviews and cuts in La Chinoise, Karina and Belmondo acknowledging the camera in Pierrot le fou), highlighting the fictional aspects of the work (the opening of 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, the deconstruction of the use of sound in Pierrot le fou), no sentimental dramatics (none of his actors are ever going to win Oscars), no method acting, simple and evident lighting and various other techniques. The goal is to purposely alienate the audience – intentionally prevent the audience from emotionally investing in the characters.

Does this work? It works for me.

“One forgets too easily the difference between a man and his image, and that there is none between the sound of his voice on the screen and in real life.” – Bertolt Brecht

“I don’t think you should feel about a film. You should feel about a woman, not a movie. You can’t kiss a movie.” – Jean-Luc Godard

There was even a famous Cahiers du Cinema article entitled “Towards a Brechtian Criticism of Cinema”.

Directors known to have been influenced by Bertolt Brecht:
Jean-Luc Godard
Lars von Trier
Nagisa Oshima
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Ritwik Ghatak (“Ghatak first translated Brecht into Bengali, before then making use of some of his key theories in the later films Cloud-Capped Star and Subarna-Rekha.”)

Please feel very free to contribute.

Special thanks to Apursansar.

Read less