Eurocinema / A Panel Discussion

in 20th Europa Cinema International Film Festival

by Andrzej Werner

There were some sceptical voices: is there any reason to organize one more conference about European cinema? How many times have we attended conferences and seminars concerning this subject? Some remembrances were rather sad and led us into the field of speeches that were boring and headed nowhere. But this time during the panel discussion organized in Viareggio by Luciana Castellina, the president of the Festival, along with Klaus Eder, the atmosphere was quite lively. The Panel participants consisted mainly of two juries: The International Jury and the FIPRESCI Jury members plus a few festival guests.

Klaus Eder’s preliminary intervention confronted us with interesting questions and problems. He suggested focusing our attention on differences between various European cultures rather than the common identity. Some of our colleagues tried to reveal the main traits of this identity based on the common roots of Judeo–Christian cultural tradition. But the mainstream of the discussion went in the direction proposed by Klaus Eder. There were no doubts that the values of the European Cinema are based upon the diversity of national cultures, and there is a considerable danger of mixing everything in one pot.

There was an answer to the question what are these specific values of the contemporary cultures of the nations who enter the European Community. Most of these countries have experienced two totalitarian systems one after another. But if we speak about the impact of the historical experience on the national cultures and on the cinema in particular we have to admit that there is one condition which makes this relationship between reality and film valid. Cinema must believe that the world really exists, and the main goal of artistic activity is to reveal the most important, most essential meaning of reality itself and the human presence in the world. The essence of reality is never obvious, always hidden, it is not sufficient to describe the world as it is for a normal human eye: this eye presupposes practical attitudes and interests towards nature, objects and human beings. The approach to reality by mimesis is not obligatory, there are other forms and methods to approach it. The opposite attitude is nowadays very common if not overwhelming: Cinema is one among other branches of something which we are used to calling art. According to this if the world really exists, literature, theatre or cinema have nothing to do with its poor existence. The only task is to entertain the public. The methods of action are: the free play of imagination, with the conventions, languages, vocabularies, images, with the prevailing role of the effects over the meaning. American cinema is obviously closer to the second attitude, but European cinema adopts it very often as well.

Then the discussion analysed the differences between European cinema and its tradition and the American (Hollywood) approach. The opinion that these differences mean quantity rather than quality were commonly shared. Some changes in the situation in several Central European countries (Poland, The Czech Republic) were noticed. The key to the difference was briefly put by Francesco Maselli: when directing a scene one doesn’t ask about the artistic truth of it but if it works with the public/audience.