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Retrospective Serialization: Remaking as a Method of Cinematic Self-Historicizing

Sub-Project 11

"Remaking" is one of Hollywood cinema's most efficient methods of telling a familiar story anew. While media with short-cycled rhythms of production and reception (newspapers, television, but also early film serials) encourage the ongoing serialization of narrative material, American feature films since the consolidation of the Hollywood studio system have been forced to employ slower and more laborious strategies of repetitive variation. Our project investigates remaking as an operation that, while being related to more explicit forms of narrative serialization in other media, generates specifically cinematic formats of continuation and organizes them in historically variable categories ("remake" in the more restricted sense of a filmic iteration, but also sequel, prequel, trilogy, franchise, etc.).

Compared to periodic series, which produce popular culture in close interaction with committed audiences, these formats operate at a more abstract level of imagined collectivization: they structure generational and media-historic sequences (rather than rhythms of everyday life), they foster far-ranging forms of knowledge, e.g. cinephile cultures, rather than concentrated fan cultures, and they provide expansive continuity markers that can inspire large-scale practices of self-performance, e.g. at the level of national (rather than merely personal) identities.

Against this backdrop, the subproject investigates a serial operation that can be observed particularly well in cinematic remaking formats: the retrospective serialization of initially unconnected "versions" of one and the same narrative. On the basis of influential case studies from the period of 1927 to 2013, the project asks for the most important fields of action (production, reception, aesthetic practice): (1) which formats of cinematic variation have been created by remaking, (2) how remaking always expands a story's possibilities of variation while integrating what has already been told and limiting its scope of action, and (3) how, in doing so, remaking contributes to cinematic and pop-cultural modes of self-historicization that might be described as second-order serial narratives.


Director: Prof. Dr. Frank Kelleter, American Studies, FU Berlin
Research Associate: Kathleen Loock, M.A., American Studies, FU Berlin