Film, Trauma, and the Holocaust

Joshua Hirsch
Book Cover

PB: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-209-6
Publication: Dec 03

HC: $81.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-208-9
Publication: Dec 03

Ebook: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0395-7

232 pages
6 x 9
23 halftones

How films on the Holocaust gave birth to a new cinematic genre

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).


The appearance of Alain Resnais' 1955 French documentary Night and Fog heralded the beginning of a new form of cinema, one that used the narrative techniques of modernism to provoke a new historical consciousness. Afterimage presents a theory of posttraumatic film based on the encounter between cinema and the Holocaust. Locating its origin in the vivid shock of wartime footage, Afterimage focuses on a group of crucial documentary and fiction films that were pivotal to the spread of this cinematic form across different nations and genres.

Joshua Hirsch explores the changes in documentary brought about by cinema verite, culminating in Shoah. He then turns to the appearance of a fictional posttraumatic cinema, tracing its development through the vivid flashbacks in Resnais' Hiroshima, mon amour to the portrayal of pain and memory in The Pawnbroker. He excavates a posttraumatic autobiography in three early films by the Hungarian István Szab√≥. Finally, Hirsch examines the effects of postmodernism on posttraumatic cinema, looking at Schindler's List and a work about a different form of historical trauma, History and Memory, a videotape dealing with the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

Sweeping in its scope, Afterimage presents a new way of thinking about film and history, trauma and its representation.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Hirsch is visiting lecturer in Film and Electronic Arts at the California State University, Long Beach.


In the Series

  • Emerging Media: History, Theory, Narrative edited by Daniel Bernardi

    Moving beyond the reductive and ambiguous conclusions that new media is either utopian or dystopian, this series will situate emerging media in the context of history, art, and theory. Books in the series will address the fact that new media is shaped by specific historic currents, from the history of communication technologies, to the history of mass entertainment, to the tradition-bound practices of multimedia design. These historical underpinnings of new media forms will also engage the insights of artists, storytellers, and theorists.