Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Nordeuropa-Institut

Patrick Vonderau (ed.): Film as History / History as Film


Working papers "Gemenskaper ­ Gemeinschaften" Volume 21 Funded by the National Bank of Sweden's Tercentenary Foundation
Contents :
Patrick Vonderau: Historiography and Film: A Dangerous Liaison?
Stephan Michael Schröder: History Without Diegesis. The Little Trumpeter (1909) as an example of a Danish historical film of the early silent film era
Claudia Beindorf: Film as Propaganda: Linking the Past to Politics. Ride this night! (1942) and the Swedish Politics of Neutrality
Erik Tängerstad: History and the Possibility of Representing the Past: A Reflection on Death in the Seine (1988)
Film can be regarded as being related to the history of the society in which it is produced. Film can function as history: as a source or a document not only of it's own aesthetic history, but of history in general. Vice versa, history can be presented as film: 'historical movies' compete with conventional written historiographic reports for public acceptance since cinema and television have become widely available.

'Film as History' and 'History as Film' do not stand for two entirely different resarch interests, but rather they mark a shifting of viewpoint which is related to different disciplinary approaches. Having a background in film studies, cultural studies, Scandinavian studies and general history, the contributors to this volume took part in a workshop organized in 1998 at the Department of History at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. They thereby were entering into a lively discussion originally going back to a debate among historians in the late eighties on the issue, a debate which meanwhile has found interest in other academic disciplines as well.

Where does the idea that film may be especially (un-) suitable as a historic source or report comes from? What is a 'historical film', what can and should it achieve? Are there any hints that it is especially susceptible to propaganda? To what extent can film challenge traditional historiographical notions of identity and representation? These and other questions have been dealt with in this volume.

Patrick Vonderau gives a short introduction to the ongoing discussion. He outlines the backgrounds of the interest general history has developed with regard to film as a subject of study and refers to the productivity and the limits of the debate. The focus of attention lies on an analysis of the theoretical concepts about the specificity of the film medium underlying the most well-known works on the issue.

Starting from a reflection on the discursive constructiveness of history, Stephan Michael Schröder asks to what extent film in general can be regarded as a medium for history. Critically distancing himself from the conventional definition of the 'historical film', he pleads instead for a historization of this definition. He then illustrates the necessity of historizing this notion with an analysis of the Danish film Den lille Hornblæser (The Little Trumpeter, 1909) which takes both the general historical as well as the film historical background carefully into consideration.

Claudia Beindorf develops her reading of the Swedish film Rid i natt! (Ride this night!, 1942) against the backdrop of Sweden's politics of neutrality during the Second World War. In her view, the film's reference to the past can be understood as a political comment on the Swedish situation in the 1940s. She tries to verify this thesis by above all pointing to what she calls the parable-like narrative style of the movie.

Erik Tängerstad reflects on the relationship between 'history' and 'the past', and between 'identity' and 'representation' in historiography. He illustrates his reflections on Peter Greenaway's Death in the Seine (1988), a film which in his opinion may challenge conventional epistemological and methodological concepts of history.

The four essays position the authors within the debate on issue as well as with regard to the basic premises of the research project "The Cultural Construction of Communities", which makes up the frame for this publication. The editor would like to thank Bernd Henningsen and Bo Stråth who head this project as well as James Kaye, Anne G. Lynch, David Randolph and Debora Weber-Wulff who patiently proof-read the English translations. The editor takes the sole responsibility for any grammatical mistakes which may have slipped in during the final editorial work.

Patrick Vonderau, November 1999
Patrick Vonderau: Historiography and Film: A Dangerous Liaison?

The theoretical debate about the relationship between film and history is almost as old as the inquiry into the basic relation of film to reality. Along with these questions, consideration has usually been restricted to one single technical device of film making: the camera. The discussion has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century, when Fox Talbot described photography as an extraordinary invention as he regarded it as a "pencil of nature", that is, a process through which nature portrays itself "without help from anyone who is familiar with the art of drawing".(1) Accordingly, the reception experiences of the first cinema-goers were not characterized so much by the feeling of being the victims of a deception whose suggestive powers overran them like Lumières famous train.(2) Instead this new experience resembled what Vaughan called an "invasion of the spontaneous into the human arts".(3) The film camera apparently made a picture of nature possible, that originated not from an artist, but from nature itself; the singularity and unpredictability of the movements shown obviously exceeded conventional artistical craftmanship.

Similar ideas shaped one of the theoretical reflections on the issue of film and history which comes down to us from the early days of cinema. In 1921 August Wolf praised the "film as historian":

Film, that is, the carrying on of history in accordance with Xenophon, who went among the people, to prostitutes, manual workers, and whoever crossed his path. [...] Without arrogance, every area seemed to him good enough to allow something of interest to develop. [...] Film has also been invented with some understanding of movement. Its memory is the camera with the unreeling picture, a memory which exactly records and in slow motion shows to what degree of clarity the observations can be made. And what a fortunate memory! It thinks existentially, shows the tree as tree, without mood stimulants, with the pleasure of naive watching. [Film] doesn't need any imploring gestures, to allow nature to come forward, it lives in the pictures as natural as it is. Fortunate film, that doesn't need any skills of portrayal.(4)

Film appears, therefore, to be the 'more fortunate' historian, because it is supplied with a memory, such that all the very different and unique phenomena of the world are, without human assistance, registered equally. In a way, with the camera he possesses a privileged technique of historistical 'thinking' since the photographic recording of the world will always depict more than a normal observer would even be able to intend to show.

Wolf's approach predicts in two respects the coming debates. First, he bases, as do many historians of later generations, his reflections on a widespread idea of cinema which focusses on a certain experience of reception. Secondly, he writes his observations in the direct context of a wave of so-called historical monumental films;(5) also, in view of concrete 'historical movies', the historiography of the future will get reflexive. This essay tries to describe the situation in which the occupation with the audiovisual media would be of necessity to historical science, as well as to analyze the film theoretical concepts which this occupation is based upon implicitly.(6)
The interest that the historical science of the future would invest in film became apparent to D.W. Griffith by 1924. The director of The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916) expressed in an article his conviction that film would acquire, with continuing technical developments, its actual meaning in a different context than cinema. According to Griffith, in a hundred years, not only school lessons would "almost exclusively make use of filmstrip as a medium for unsurpassable visual lessons", also "historians and other academics [...] will concentrate on film with their whole spirit and their total work capacity".(7)

Indeed, Griffith actually underestimated the dynamics of the development in his science fiction considerations. Seventy years later innumerable academic texts have been published which examine feature films with reference to their view of history.(8) As different as these works, written for the most part by historians, are, they nevertheless share a common experience, which was more or less forced upon them by the technical developments of audiovisual media: the experience of contingency.

Television especially made clear, certainly by the time such series as Roots or Holocaust were broadcast worldwide, that history is no longer a territory reserved for specialists. As Benjamin once aptly noted, it depends on the "technique of film, as well as of sport, that everyone who attends the achievments they display does so as a semi-expert".(9) Historical science cannot demand control of either the choice of the supply of memories in film and television, or over its individual use in cinemas and living-rooms. It is troubled by the observation of this "double contingency"(10) of history constructions in, and with, the audiovisual media, without, however, being able to compete with its popularity. If history today is most lively outside of the schools and universities, then the historian is obliged to critical self-reflection.(11)

This developing reflectivity of historical science and its associated insights of only being able to deliver views of history which also could be (and constantly are) both differently produced and evaluated does not have to do only with the experience of being defeated in its own territory by film and television. It was also caused by film and media studies which with its institutionalization integrated history as a subject area, and as was the case with other similar art and cultural academic disciplines, called into question the idea of maintaining a general historical science.

Historical science as a countermove, tried to work off its own contingency experience with film. In many ways this proved to be quite productive. Feature films can be used in lessons in order to illustrate abstract historical doxa. Moreover, they contribute to the emotional engagement of students, whose personal aesthetic experiences can become starting points for an academic engagement with history. The contact with film serves not only important pedagogical functions, but also stimulates the historiographical discussion. Film can be used as a metaphor that helps to clarify general considerations of methodology. Michèle Lagny, for example, used the metaphor of film images in order to argue for the giving up of the ideal of factual truth and the use of multiple viewpoints: "History resembles an image, as it requires ­ as in photography or the moving picture ­ the selection of framing and lighting options. As with film, it requires an editing process."(12)

Even if the attempt to integrate film into the subject area of general historical science has lead to this and other advantages, certain central expectations have not yet been fulfilled. First, it must be stated that film is usually only perceived by film studies as an occasion to mediate information between the two disciplines. Film studies have long since developed a consciousness of historiographical methods, while historical science usually has great difficulty with film studies terminology and theory formation.(13) In addition, it must be accepted, that its occupation with movies does not change the fact that it continues to be accessible to only a limited part of the public. While feature films are received not only in the context of cinemas, for which they are designated, but also at historical seminars etc., the consumption of historiographical production continues to be limited to the academic field. Feature films are open enough in their meaning structure to be 'read' outside of their intended reception contexts, while in the reversed case, historical science studies are usually only accepted in the mass media if they adapt to the technically 'thin descriptions' of infotainment.

Last but not least, many historians still have not found a satisfying answer to the question of what historical value can be attributed to film representations of the past. Here the answers have to be revised constantly in so far as they always only refer to a specific historical form of cinematic, as well as historiographic production.(14) In this way, until the beginning of the 1970s documentary films were mostly preferred over feature films by historians. While the latter type of film generally was under suspicion of representing history falsely, it was said that documentary films are indeed accurate, but, as a result, dull.(15) At the time of the 'linguistic turn' in historical science, the distinction between documentary and feature films became problematic.(16) Now one assumes, along with Marc Ferro, "that film, image or not of reality, document or fiction, true story or pure invention, is History".(17) Ferro's assumption that every type of film can be perceived as a document of its context of origin still has many followers today.(18) Since the beginning of the 1990s Robert Rosenstone has also been gaining influence. He believes he has found, in the postmodern aesthetics of experimental 'historical films', a new and original representational medium of history.(19)

Ultimately, all these assumptions to define the historical source value of films appertain to the attempt to relate them to the traditional source typology of historical science. As is well known, 'reports' and 'remnants' are differentiated here. While intentional traditional reports are on principle subject to the historians suspicion to be documents about their point of time rather than of actual events, in contrast, unintentional traditional recordings appear more dependable.(20) Accordingly, it was at first assumed that the showing of audiovisual 'remnants' in documentary films was superior to the narrative 'report' of so-called historical feature films. Later, Ferro demanded that both intentional and unintentional sources be analyzed with regard to their contexts of origin. And Rosenstone would like to have the discussion about film reduced to one limited body of aesthetically particularly qualified 'reports'.(21)

From this, it is possible to implicitly gauge some of the methodological debates with which historical science has been occupied over the years. The question of the status of the film as a source, however, cannot be answered most of all because it has been wrongly posed. For this debate is not about substantially different film types, but about different applications of film in specific communication situations. Movies do not 'contain' history as an unchangeable meaning. Rather, it is their meaning which is always historical. As with all other sources, the material structure of film is only the cause for subject-bound semantic operations.(22) If denotations always are historical, it is just in a specific communication situation and only on condition that a specific prior knowledge(23) exists that film is denoted to be historical. Accordingly, the problem of the historical feature film cannot be separated from the general question of the source value of the moving pictures, also in so far as the historian's examination of both is the result of the same 'historiographical response'(24) of a particular communication community. All films can consequently be interpreted by historians as documents of their contexts of origin. In addition, a historian can, as long as he recognizes the film as 'historical'(25), assess this as a "report on written past".(26)

Why, however, is film so often made out to be a document, while, for example, the historical novel hardly receives any attention from historians?(27) Interest in film is obviously not only related to the popularity of cinematic history representations, but also to popular ideas of film's specificity.
The actual appeal of films for historical science is based on the general tendency to see the camera as a means of representation by which the world is portrayed directly and seemingly without human intervention. Ferro's works are the most important theoretical points of reference for many later discussions. He uses the historical feature film as an opportunity to ask about the function of traditional historical writing in society. From Ferro's ideological critical perspective, historical science is controlled by the interests of the ruling class, and accordingly, he expects from the mass media a means "to de-structure what several generations of men of state and thinkers have built into such a beautiful harmony".(28) The use of historical films for a 'counteranalysis of society' presupposes, however, that they themselves, in accordance with their relationship to dominant ideologies, as well as to social and historical memory, will be classified. Such a classification is possible, most of all with the help of the treacherous spontaneity ("a little girl's scream or a frightened crowd"(29)), which the film involves, contrary to the intentions of the producers:
These lapses of a creator, of an ideology, or a society constitute privileged significant signs that can characterize any level of film, as well as its relationship with society. Discovering them, seeing how they agree or disagree with ideology, helps to discover what is latent behind what is apparent, helps to see the nonvisible by means of the visible.(30)

We are dealing here with the structuralist inspired variation of an old view, which was quoted at the beginning, and which is based on the assumption that the camera always portrays more than the person filming intends. Robert Rosenstone's theoretical contemplation on the theme is based on a similar camera-centered understanding. His approach is in many respects symptomatic enough to set him in the center of the following observations.(31)

Rosenstone's theme is not so much historical film itself, "but the new sorts of history that are made possible by the medium of film. The new ways of thinking about the past."(32) As with Ferro the examination of audiovisual media serves at first as a border to the traditional historiographic practice. 'Film' is not only understood as a cause for metahistorical reflections, but, at the same time, also as its medial more suitable transformation. Finally, according to Rosenstone, the postmodern, "visual media" releases one from the thought "that perhaps history is dead in the way God is dead"(33):
Filmmakers to the Rescue: If you long for new kinds of history, if you think we need ways of relating to the past, don't despair. Postmodern history has been born and is currently alive and well. It exists not on the page but on the screen, and is the creation of filmmakers and videographers.(34)

The proclamation of the resurrection of history in the 'paradise' of the mass media has two premises. One is that film has at its disposal an essentially different media specific characterization than do books. The other is that this is fixed. And so Rosenstone is certain that "a film is not a book". However, he does not want to hold forth anything more about the specific characteristics of film. After all it has to do with "a visual and aural realm that is difficult to capture adequately in words".(35) A more exact definition of the object film can not be achieved here, because in the end film is no more than an argument brought to bear against mainstream historiography. Nevertheless, Rosenstone's arguments are based on concrete views of the nature of films and film studies.
Film as History as Vision
While Ferro believed that the historical feature film is "a filmic transcription of a vision of history which has been conceived by others"(36), for Rosenstone film itself is "history as vision".(37) His assertion that films are especially suited as a means of postmodern historiography is grounded on the drawing of an analogy between film technique and human perception. In this way he defines the historical film as "a mode of thinking that utilizes elements other than the written word: sound, vision, feeling, montage".(38) However, even the "visual media" neither sees anything nor has visions, and it is doubtful whether it feels or nurses the idea of history as thoughts.

A similar anthropomorphization of the camera turns up in V.I. Pudovkin, who equates the filming apparatus with the eyes of an omnipresent invisible observer.(39) As is the case with Pudovkin, Rosenstone assumes that the camera-observer is identical with a film's narrator. The model of the invisible observer is used because it promises to be the solution to the problem which is central to historical science's occupation with film: the problem of authorship. As seen above, in connection with the typology of 'unintentional' and 'intentional' sources, the identification of the author and his intention is a decisive precondition for the historiographical classification of a document. By drafting the camera as a human narrator, Rosenstone simplifies this classification. Feature films now seem to be easily distinguished as suitable and unsuitable, or more precisely, as 'serious' and 'non-serious' ­ because history is innate in them as correct or incorrect 'thought'.

The emphasis on 'vision' and montage as primary means of expression of the film-'language' is accompanied by the assumption that the camera might stand for the representative function and montage for the constructive function of the cinematic sign.(40) Nonetheless, both the activities of representing and constructing do not begin at the first moment of film recording. The total denial of, among other things, aspects of mise-en-scène leads here, not least, to a narrowed concept of film style.
Standard Film vs. 'Serious' Film
In accordance with the logic of his allegorical argumentation, Rosenstone rejects not only mainstream traditional historiography, but also mainstream cinema. Even though he assumes there is an essential difference between the two media he sees a striking concurrence in the respective types of their representation. Accordingly, traditional historiography, as well as Hollywood history films, claim to show history as it once truly occurred. Mainstream films want to "make us think they are reality", they want to suggest to us "that we can somehow look through the window of the screen directly at a 'real' world".(41) This type of movie does not uncover the constructed nature of its historical images. On the contrary, the masking of its own discourse is used to consciously deceive the viewer. Rosenstone's contrasting model of the "'serious' historical film" "that parallels [...] the 'serious' or scholarly written history", defines itself accordingly "in opposition to the mainstream Hollywood film". All these 'oppositional' films "struggle in one or more ways against the codes of representation of the standard film. All refuse to see the screen as a transparent 'window' onto a 'realistic' world."(42) Rosenstone supports his argumentation not only with a canon of films, which he himself compiled by means of a conventional aesthetic value judgement;(43) he indirectly also refers back to mainstream models of film theory from the 1970s, most of all to Colin McCabe's work.

McCabe took up Pudovkin's idea of the camera-observer under structuralistic conditions.(44) According to his theory, 'realism' is a structure which can be found not only in nineteenth century literature, but also in Hollywood feature films. Just as realistic literature strove "to achieve perfect representation ­ to let the identity of things shine through the windows of words",(45) so did commercial feature film endeavor to make its narration appear as reality. In this connection, the camera was central, as a "visual discourse which guarantees truth",(46) in steering the audience unobtrusively through the plot.

The ideological critical impulse, which Rosenstone follows, leads him to a romanticization of film production which overlooks the fact that film is generally a profit-oriented collective work. Doubt also remains about whether Hollywood fiction renounces self-reflexivity in order to manipulate the passive subjects in the movie theater with suggestions of reality.(47) If the deception was flawless, how did Rosenstone see through it?

Most problematic however seems to be the basic idea of describing methodological questions of historical science based on a parallel with aesthetics and politics in film production. Even if Hayden White popularized the comparison between the realism debate of the nineteenth century and historiography,(48) neither the one nor the other has anything to do with Hollywood. 'Realism' in film is related less to a textual structure, than to a reception experience which is linked to a certain knowledge of camera technique. That is, based on the cultural conviction "that every photograph is a portrait signed by a sitter".(49) However, this representation of the world is also only one of many that can be ascribed to film and for its portrayal film uses more than only a camera.(50)
Empirical Facts Exist
If the "visual media" are a "set of institutions which lies wholly outside the control of those of us who devote our lives to history",(51) then Rosenstone questions the competence of those institutions to deal with history. This is true of the commercial film industry and especially of film studies, which is allegedly too laden with theory in its disciplinary core: "Current theories of cinema [...] all seem too self-contained and hermetic, too uninterested in the flesh-and-blood stuff of the past, the lives and struggles of human individuals and groups, to be directly useful to the historian."(52) Rosenstone's critique is paradoxically truer of the structuralistic concept, which is the basis of his approach, than it is of that which presently is understood as film theory.(53)

Since the author never explicitly deals with film theory or film history in his argument one comes away with the impression that his concepts of film are, in the end, only components of a hegemonic discourse by which the actual Challenge of Film to our Idea of History, that is the challenge of interdisciplinary arguing, shall be dismissed. Film studies and its object are obviously seen as an existential threat, not as a challenge for the historian. Rosenstone's observations have as their starting-point the knowledge of the contingency of historiographical working. However on the last page of his essay collection he declares his unshakable belief in empirical method, thereby returning to the status quo ante of his metahistorical considerations:
My need is to bring this [film] theory down to earth, to personalize, humanize, historize it. To admit that as a historian, I believe in the reality of the signified ­ which is to say, the world. Believe that the empirical facts exist and insist that if we let go of that we are no longer historians.(54)
The belief in the world does not contradict the knowledge of the contingency of the experience of the world. Anyway, the acceptance of the interdisciplinary challenge should, in my opinion, lead less to a personal creed than to the formulation of a scientific question. Precisely because neither historians nor film academics can avoid their own reception experience with film, it is essential for them to reach an agreement on how to deal with their audiovisual subject.

In summary, it can be said that all films could be interpreted as historical documents, even if this is not their primary cultural function. Film can, in a specific context, be attributed the function of illuminating contemporary ideas about the present and the past.(55) On the one hand, this presupposes that preoccupation with film does not occur for the sake of film alone. On the other hand, dealing with film history, film theory, and film analysis would even be indispensable for the historian. Finally, any study must start with the sobering assumption that film allows statements on the 'system of film', rather than on a positivistic ascertainable world. In other words, in comparison to other documents and historical science itself, film is dispensable for the academic construction of history.(56) Also, the "limitations of traditional history"(57) cannot be overcome by a simple change of the media, since the historiographical analysis of film is indeed subject to its own methodological constraints.(58)

Under these conditions a heuristic model could be developed regarding the construction of history with/in film, which should take at least the five following factors into consideration: (1) context and function of the study of film as document; (2) discussion of the film's concrete production and reception history; (3) analysis of the style of the movie in question and (4) of the specificity of its narration(59), among others, through a (5) construction of a series of intertextual references to other films.

Even when every spectator carries about the claim, as suggested to him by the mass media, to be his very 'own' historian (thus himself being confronted with historiography's experiences of contingency), historical science's occupation with the moving image seems of special interest. Not least because the 'historiographical response' to film can in itself be interpreted with regard to its context of origin. In this view, the theoretical debate on the relation of the audiovisual media to history can also be understood as the result of a self-observation of the historian in postmodernity and thus as part of the history of science and culture.
Stephan Michael Schröder: History Without Diegesis. The Little Trumpeter (1909) as an example of a Danish historical film of the early silent film era
Extra Datei, separate file, separat dokument
Claudia Beindorf: Film as Propaganda: Linking the Past to Politics
Ride this night! (1942) and the Swedish Politics of Neutrality
After the occupation of Denmark and Norway by German troops on April 9, 1940, Sweden, which remained neutral during World War II, found itself surrounded by belligerent and annexed nations. Before the Allies decided to march into Normandy, their opening of a Scandinavian front seemed not unlikely. The transporting of German troops through Swedish territory, blackouts, rationing of food, as well as the conscription of men and women to so-called stand-by duty contributed to keep alive the feeling of being direcly threatened. In addition, Sweden became the playground for agitators. Numerous German, Russian, and Allied propaganda writings were published; politicized radio programs were broadcast, as were feature, documentary, and short films ­ often circumventing national censors ­ at cinemas of labor unions and society events.(1)

The politics of neutrality at the price of widespread concessions to individual warring nations seemed the only possible means of keeping the country out of war. Numerous books and essays devoted to the politics of the all-party coalition government formed in 1939 under the minister of state, Per Albin Hansson, are testimony to the complexity of the occurrences which happened under the protection and label of neutrality.(2) A deliberate stance existed of refusing to take sides and of thereby avoiding taking responsibility, since to do so would almost certainly have meant war for Sweden ­ a war whose outbreak seemed a matter of time anyway. This position was not infrequently viewed as cowardly, indeed a policy which weakened the nation and played into the hands of the enemy. Discontent in Sweden found expression, not least of all in artistic form and spread across income and educational barriers. What began with official requests for Swedish solidarity gradually changed into public vigilance and perseverance, before culminating in just that unambiguous agitation for open resistance and active protection of the home of the people (folkhem), which the government had hoped to avoid. Statements with the latter intention contradicted the decree for Swedish neutrality, and yet it was not possible to stop even obvious calls of this sort.

Along with the press and radio, film played an important role in propagandizing such inofficial political goals. The medium's tendency to be perceived as 'realistic', allowed and still allows films to be produced whose function goes beyond entertainment. Certainly, little can be said about the effect of these films on the film-goers, much less whether the comprehension of the film's message led to any kind of action. One indicator of a film's impact could, however, be the degree of public interest it inspired. High attendance at such a film might well indicate that the public was concerned with the themes implied and that a need for discussion and clarification existed. Not least of all, the success of the film with the public would indicate that such themes were successfully 'translated' into an entertaining form.

The film to be dealt with here is Gustav Molander's Rid i natt! (Ride this night!, 1942)(3), which has been called "the most obvious stand-by film of the epoch".(4) It seems to have been an almost exact answer to what public opinion 'requested', if the high level of public interest is any indication. The story of the movie had simultaneously been made available to the public in three other forms, which were also frequently consumed. It adapted a novel published by Vilhelm Moberg in 1941.(5) The book version had sold 50.000 copies within a short period of time; in 1942 the author converted it into a radio play and a theater play. Then it became the basis for the screen version, which was succeeding at the box-offices, while the play simultaneously ran in large theatres in Stockholm, Göteborg and Helsingborg.(6) This timely material, which appeared concurrently, and not as a sequence of changes in medium, could through its ubiquitous presence significantly intensify public discourse on Swedish foreign policy ­ and thus today be regarded as 'propaganda'.(7)
Three Levels of Narration
Ride this night! organizes narrative information at three different levels, to which most of its motives, characters and conflicts are allocated; other characters mediate between these levels where they overlap.

(1) The first basic level is that of the 'historical' situation presented in the plot. In the small 17th-century village of Värend, a number of free farmers who up till then had been directly subject to the crown, fall under the authority of German nobles, who force them to compulsory day labor. Besides being subjected to what they consider humiliating forced labor, they are forced to leave their own fields fallow which means their village, once quite well-to-do, is now plagued by hunger. This poverty seems to demoralize a large number of the villagers. However, the inhabitants of Värend see that it is more honorable to follow the example of an upright farmer who prefers to risk his life rather than to give himself up to a foreign authority, and thus decide to fight for a life worth living, instead of bowing to their loss of freedom and as cowards enduring their 'fate'.

(2) A second level consists of Christian motives. Ragnar Svedje (Oscar Ljung), the main positive character, is an uncompromising Swedish Son of God, who sacrifices himself for the well-being and for the inner, as well as the external liberation of his village community ­ in other words, for his people. Even his name is meaningful: 'sveda' in Swedish means something similar to 'burning pain, burning', but also 'singe, scorch, and burn'. When the world still seemed normal, he walked with his fiancée, Botilla (Eva Dahlbeck), an equally flawless and pure person ('bot' can be translated as 'medium, healing action', but also as 'penance'), through the blossoming forest, leading a bull, which symbolizes fertility ­ a promise which, however, will not be fulfilled. Ragnar and Botilla walk purely and virginally into death ­ for she, too, will be 'sacrificed' later in the film. Ragnar and Botilla meet death both still pure and virgin. She is, however, not killed at the hands of a superior opponent (as is Ragnar), rather she returns quietly and undramatically again into the bosom of nature, which had never been her antagonist.

The tall, blond forms of Ragnar and Botilla are shown again and again rising up before the sky with the sun shining through their hair. Malevolent and deceitful people may well take their lives, but still their sacrifice makes unavoidably clear to viewers their symbolic meaning ­ the message survives the mortal remains of the two. Ragnar's symbol is the morning star, which appears on the 'bodkavle'(8), which ­ passed on from farm to farm ­ is the sign for the uprising against foreign domination and promises the freedom, which will be recovered, after privation and struggle, in the final victory. The village elder buried this 'bodkavle' in order to save himself and his daughter. When the time came for the revolt, he could no longer find it, because it had freed itself from its grave and made its own way into the appropriate hands. The film image shows the message as it is once again being carried from house to house, passing through innumerable hands, even as the village elder is still searching for it.

(3) A third level of the film might be seen in its pantheistic conception of nature. Nature is in league with the just demands of the people of Värend. However, nature also stands above the events, in such a way that all its powers seem to be capable of transforming everything to bring forth good ­ but for this people are held responsible as well as for disaster. The frequency of nature motives should not to be underestimated: when evil reveals itself, a thunder storm builds up. Crows sit on roof-ridges to announce, to those who are familiar with the signs, that the threat of death and destruction are at hand. While taking a walk, Botilla finds a nail, from which Ragner surmises, while shuddering, that a murder must have occurred at that location. Not suspecting anything, his fiancée pockets the murder weapon, which in turn can trigger associations with Christ's crucifixion. At home, a spark from the open fire attracted by the 'fateful' nail burns her above the heart. This wound will convince Annika (Gerd Hagman), who is pursuing Ragnar and hopes to separate the engaged couple, that Botilla is a witch. The basic antagonism between fire and water characterizes Botilla's fate because she cools the burn with water again and again, in vain, until a spring at the edge of the forest speaks to her and convinces her to bring an end to the suffering and at the same time prove her innocence. Botilla voluntarily undergoes the trial by water and by drowning refutes the accusation of witchcraft. Meanwhile Ragnar is hunted and struck dead in the boggy forest by the steward's pursuers, recruited natives, and a satanic traitor. Since he is not burried in consecrated earth, but in the forest, Ragnar will find no peace, and instead will return to become an even more forceful symbol of the call for rebellion.

As already sketched out, characters (and groups of characters) can be assigned to these three discourse levels of Ride this night!. Transitions are fluid and not all characters are clearly defined. This is especially true at the (first) level of historical 'reality'. Here one finds practically all the players who are on the side of the rulers, and also those who, out of fear or laziness, have been subjugated to them. Among them are the steward Lars Borre (Erik Bullen Berglund), the farmers, and above all, the village elder Jon Stånge (Lars Hanson), also the witch-like Annika, who betrays Ragnar and drives Botilla to her death, as well as the benign tramp, Ygge (Nils Lundell), known as the Bläsmåla thief, who takes in the wounded Ragnar for a while and cares for him.

The 'Christian plot' is based on Ragnar and the parish priest, Petrus Magni (Hugo Björne). The priest travels to Stockholm to represent the farmers who have lost their liberty, and is harshly rejected there. In this way Christianity is represented to a large extent as a masculine force. Christianity is complemented and encircled by the pantheistic access to the earth's powers. It is best embodied by the two women, Botilla and Ragnar's mother Sigga (Hilda Borgström), who clearly has the characteristics of a wise woman. Nature 'speaks' to both these women. It is the spring which speaks to Botilla (what can explicitly be heard by the spectator). For the mother all nature is full of signs, hints, and omens. One nameless character appears who doesn't belong to any of these three levels, but who affects them all, and this is the expelled traitor in black. His unexpected appearance links the fates of people in the different circles, and implies even more, in that this character stands for evil itself. In order to resist this diabolic traitor, all three levels of narration ­ the historical, the Christian, and the pantheistic ­ would have to merge, in order to cut off all his possibilities of escape and drive him out of this world. However, this goal is not achieved. The traitor disappears when Ragnar is defeated. The devil is thus depicted as invincible, but restrainable. To drive him from the world, solidarity would first have to be achieved. But from the start this cannot be expected of the German Bertold Klewen, or the steward, or Annika, so the fight against evil appears to be eternal. The three last-named characters are, however, mortal and thus can be defeated, if the intention derives its strength from the 'justice of the cause'. This intention is represented visually by torchbearing horseman riding past and on the sound track, as an admonition to the inhabitants of Värend and to the audience.

The visual language does not leave it to the audience to interpret the message and take a position. The people are not only characterized by their words and their actions, but also by their appearance, their clothes, their facial expressions and their gestures, by the position of the camera and the settings. Down to the last detail, nothing is left to chance: in bright yet modest clothing, the tall representatives of goodness and righteousness fight against the intimidated, darting, cowardly farmers. The shameless Annika, who exploits her sexual allure in order to ingratiate herself with the new masters, wears low cut and carelessly fastened clothing. The diabolical traitor, who always seems to appear stealthily out of nowhere, is dressed in black and wears close-fitting headgear, which makes him actually look like someone whose appearance could bring about disaster and death.
Linking the Past to the Present
Ride this night! draws on Swedish feudal-dynastic history(9) in that it uses an historical event as a vehicle to portray and comment on the nation-state's present situation. This "recourse to a past age" is essential here to inspiring in the audience that "understanding of the nation", for which the film seems to call. The film succeeds in imparting this message of overt resistance against occupying forces and foreign domination, by employing a dramatic occurrence from Swedish history as an example. Ideally, the result would confirm and reinforce this declaration on the different levels and communicate with discourse beyond the film.(10) By contextualizing the film with contemporary documents, Broström described this 'message' as follows: "Sweden's freedom and independence require at the present, as they did in the past, and will in the future, defenders of the Swedish tribe, Swedish blood and disposition, and these in great numbers."(11)

Generally, the link between the historical past and daily experience can be portrayed in the film medium both more easily and in a more 'natural' manner than in media dependant on written language. To depict a historical event and connect it with a contemporary event in words or text one must switch between the preterit and the present. These will either be contrasted by placing them side by side ­ if possible, unobtrusively ­ or flow into one another. In this respect, a film does not recognize the past; even a flashback is narrated in the present. The past and the present are no longer forced to flow side by side, but instead oscillate and overlap in such a way that one film image can depict both. In this way no temporal separation remains. Instead the two merge and a timeless, mythological quality is effortlessly bestowed on history. When this ­ as is the case here ­ matches the intention of the structure of the film, then these characteristics are, of course, dramatically exploited.

At the very end of Ride this night!, it is the admonishing voice of the actress Hilda Borgström who reads Moberg's words as the torch-bearing rebels ride in pursuit across the horizon, as a new day dawns:
And so a budkavle passes on through nights and days, through years and centuries, running with its important content, bearing from time to time the urgent message, the highest and most important. Budkavle passes on. Ride this night, this night.(12)

This unusual clarity no longer allows the viewer to contemplate the cinematic message of Ride this night! as an uninvolved 'witness'. He is directly addressed by the wise old woman (who in the novel shows the characteristics of a magician, initiated into the meaning of the old signs and relationships). This voice is, on the one hand, an admonition from a time long past to those living today and threatened by oppression. On the other hand, the fiction is consciously cut; at one and the same time it is the voice of a well-known and respected actress, and a contemporary sharing the audiences fate, who speaks to them and calls them to action. Against the background of the experienced, the urgent admonition and Hilda Borgström's expressive voice links the mythical story to the threatening present and links the fate of the inhabitants of Värend with the fate and future of the Swedish people, now threatened by war and destruction. The parallel is drawn at the 'reliable' and 'believable' level of 'history', which ideally confirms the experiences portrayed during the entire film, that is, living life in a longue durée, since a mythical tale, like this one, is both a "guarantee of constancy"(13) and a promise. This is the way it was and this is the way it will always be ­ and this is the way it now is.

If Ride this night! is understood in this sense, as popular history, then the factor which obviously dominates is historical interpretation. As Landy points out:
Historical representations may often seem to reiterate dominant cultural ideas and values, but a closer scrutiny reveals that popular history represented through the cinema is a pastiche of conceptions about the world: a fusion of practical and current strategies of survival couched in clichéd, proverbial language characteristic of commonsensical approaches to knowledge.(14)

In Molander's film history becomes the means to convey to the Swedish cinema-viewing public the long tradition of freedom it has inherited, and to demonstrate through an example, that the danger of foreign domination cannot ever be conquered, but instead can only be kept in check through utmost vigilance. This film argues, by pointing to parallels between the events in remote antiquity and those occurring today, that it is possible to again become aware of one's forgotten strengths, and to protect the homeland against enemies both within and without. The (naturally) selective use of the historical tradition can be explained and additionally illustrated without that it is necessary to support this argument by reference to any specific event, as is the case in this film.
Popular Cinema and Common Sense
The need to create a "shared experience" for the audience, which Marcia Landy ascertained, is translated, with the help of "popular representation[s]" of a "common sense" into the production of a communal emotional reaction in the audience.(15) Landy refers elsewhere to this common sense as characterized by a complex interweaving of "bits and pieces from religion, science, proverbs, folklore, magic, and history", which has found expression in popular films, among other places, and is in turn shaped and transformed by them.(16) Characters to be identified with are available for all the different members of the audience. Several argumentative strategies (see the three levels) are simultaneously followed and expertly intertwined, which, in turn, corresponds with the solidarity, the film is intended to promote. No photographic defects interfere with the film's reception; instead rather the film's message is accelerated and given a rhythmic quality through the gifted manipulation of the media. The landscape reconciles the contrasts between fruitful fields, woods and boulders. The village is small and homey ­ whereas, during the steward's absence, the few occupants of his residence walk, forlorn and anxious, through the empty rooms and long halls of the cold castle, which stands alone and unprotected on an empty site. The actors move between realistic and theatrical performances, which hit exactly the fairytale, mythical storytelling tone of the story, which could more appropriately be called a parable-like narrative style.(17)

In this way links are consciously established between film and common sense, which is yet another reason for dealing with Ride this night! as a propaganda film. Alf Åberg also points to a contemporary discussion, in which the following statement referred to the book version of Ride this night!: "It is a challenge against the threat of repression by Hitler's Germany, and also an attack on the Swedish politicians, who were considered in league with the oppressors because of their policy of diplomatic concessions or delays."(18)

In this way not only are the cinematic events fashioned such that they are both comprehended and subjectively experienced, but both film and common sense are so closely linked that they corroborate each other. If this effect is successfully achieved, then it is reasonable to conclude that the propagandistic purpose of the work was fulfilled. The film seems 'true' with respect to the known historical 'facts' ­ the relatively free status of the Swedish farmers, as well as the bestowal of feudal rights on members of the German nobility by Queen Christina of Sweden. Since these facts can be verified (even if that is not the case with the historical fates of the individuals), the cinematic message achieves, through combining an apparent authenticity with pathos, a quality which neither historical documentaries nor feature films achieve.

And so surely it can be asked, along with Ernst Karpf:
Can a film as a genre actually in its own way carry weight historically, in that it effectively deals with myths and even creates them itself? Can the close link between cinema and dreams, between desired ideals and film projections, which has been demonstrated at the individual level, also be affirmed at the "political" level, that is, in a search for collective identity?(19)

In Ride this night! a political-historical myth is constructed, against whose background the film appears to be nothing more than its "iconographic condensation". Ride this night! is itself a historical document of the Swedish Preparedness era. It is a witness to the society which produced it and in turn shaped that same society, as can be demonstrated to a greater or lesser degree.(20)

Thus two perception-complexes can be differentiated, namely history or tradition on the one side and contemporary events on the other. However, the later must remain empty if one considers only the film along and not its contemporary context. Lagny emphasizes this point of view when she rigorously rejects the allegation that a film has the potential to "say something in the positivistic-scientific sense":
In order to grasp the interest and the limit of the film as a document for the historian, the idea should be asserted that there is no "witness-cinema", in the sense that film never shows "reality", but only can construct pictures of this reality, representations which testify not so much to facts, as to perceptions, which one had or wanted to create at a particular location and a dated moment.(21)

Nonetheless, the film articulates a great deal about contemporary circumstances and might have had an impact on its own time as well, in that it calls on a shared history to supply a unifying factor, so that individuals find fulfillment as parts of a mutually supporting group. At this point, Ride this night! finds its place in what Broström calls "Swedishness in spirit of the community":
The prevailing mood of the propaganda during the time of crisis was Swedishness in the community spirit. [...] The thoughts on the "good home of the people's" were put to practical use during the stand-by years. At that time there was also something unidentifiable: [...] a spiritual strength, a will to defend what had been inherited from the forefathers, and the Swedish way of life ­ in short, the Swedish values, the mental preparedness stood for.(22)

A community can face a threat, as long as it is conscious of its greatest strength, namely solidarity in its response. Internal unity is recognized as an indispensable prerequisite for successfully defending the present generation and securing the chance to live worthy lives in accordance with the traditions of the nation. This concept, derived from the historical past, bestows on the idea of the nation a transcendental nature. In other words it is worth to protect something of a higher order. This object of worth is precisely the collective identity, through which the individual and his community form an indissoluble union. Since this ­ according to Deutsch(23) ­ is characteristic of a pre-modern community, the spontaneity of this unity cannot be recovered, and so stand-by propaganda targeted a "national" community which found itself in the process of transforming into a modern industrial community. This entailed a restructuring and a new definition of identity at the personal level, which is comparable to the transition from a privilege-based, medieval society to a modern one. An individual, who now has a separate personal identity, no longer necessarily shares this community identity. Instead he relates to the community, and reacts towards it. Therefore persuasive arguments and emotional appeals as well are necessary in order to encourage voluntary integration into the "us" of community. It is this appeal to the individual which is common to films like Ride this night!, all of which call for learning a lesson from one's forefathers. The emphasis on the implied timelessness of the events, as well as the strong emotional appeal, enable the film to create of an ideal prototype of a freedom and peace-loving society. Its model is the late medieval village of Värend and its response to a limited, local, yet existential threat. The people of Värend are shown summoning up hidden strength from within as they reappear out of the dark past to confront their enemy and defend their traditions ­ unbeatable and glorious.

Ride this night! certainly can be perceived as a myth, which conveys the "transcendental founding relationship, which an individual can escape only at the price of not belonging and accepting the accompanying exclusion from society."(24) Via collective coercion the film propagates an unbroken and frank commitment to a tradition which is embodied by the Swedish nation, since the depicted community of Värend represents the Swedish people. The individual member of the audience is called upon to involve himself in the learning process and come to agree with the film's conclusion that an uprising is necessary. The Swedish homeland undoubtedly represents a value which is the basis for (national) characteristics, such as tenacity, diligence, a sense of justice, and a sure sense of what is good and right. Thus the Swedish homeland is a secure locus for national identity and represents for its inhabitants an object of love.

All this is threatened by internal as well as external enemies. It has become essential to encourage the hesitant, support the weak, and together defend the Swedish homeland ­ even at the risk of one's own life, of course ­ because a life which abandoned these values would no longer be worth living. Exclusion from the community and the knowledge of having disavowed one's true self, are threats that should not be underestimated. With this in mind, Ride this night! should be understood, on the one hand, as the creation of a myth, and on the other, as a call for vigilance and solidarity.(25) The demandingly appellative character of the film has lost little of its impact in the decades since its inception, and so the propagandistic value of a film like Ride this night! may ultimately be explained by the fact "that it is precisely the one who makes a persuasion, who will be unable to evade it."(26)
Erik Tängerstad: History and the Possibility of Representing the Past: A Reflection on Death in the Seine (1988)
At first glance, the assertion that history is about the past looks like a tautology. For what is history, if not the representation of the past? Given a second thought, however, the relationship between history and the past turns out to be problematical. For in everyday language 'the past' signifies something that was, but is no more. What is, is the present, not the past. And history is. History is the present understanding of how things once were. So it is not a contradiction to say that history is always in flux ­ it is perpetually rewritten and is therefore always changing ­ because it is, while the past was and cannot be changed.

What does this differentiation between history and the past imply? Such a question is hard to answer, because it tends to challenge our common-sense view of the world. The idea that we could have knowledge of the past is more or less taken for granted. But can we really have that kind of knowledge?

Even if the question of the relationship between 'is' and 'was' is difficult to tackle, it is, of course, not new. Augustine's famous dictum about the nature of time, for example, encounters this specific difficulty. "What is time then?", Augustine asked. "If nobody asks me, I know: but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I know not."(1) He then speculated whether time is a categorical unity of 'presence', or if time is divided into the three categories of 'past', 'present' and 'future'. His conclusion was that neither he, nor any man, could settle this difficulty. Instead, he thought that knowledge of the nature of time was only possible for the ever-present almighty God to capture. Since the settling of the issue lies beyond us as timely human beings, Augustine meant that we should contemplate and obey the will of untimely God. But what if there is no God to be used as reference when reflecting the nature of time? Would that mean that the distinction between 'past' and 'present' would collapse into chaos, and that all forms of causality would prove to be pure grammatical structure or mere illusions?

The problem is how something here-and-now can represent something there-and-then; or how one thing can be about another thing when no fixed point of reference exists. What does it mean to say that history is about the past? When trying to give an answer to this question one notices a problem in conventional historiography because traditionally it is supposed that history should be able to transcend knowledge from present to past. But is such transcendence at all possible? Also everyday language makes it difficult to solve the problem. Sometimes history is regarded as identical with the past, and sometimes as a representation of the past. Because the terms 'identity' and 'representation' are not synonymous, an unsolved problem in historiography can be assumed.

The aim of this essay is to reflect on the paradoxical relationships between 'history' and 'the past', and between 'identity' and 'representation' in historiography. The discussion will take its point of departure in the TV-film Death in the Seine made by Peter Greenaway in 1988.(2) The reason for this choice is that though Greenaway in this film has used the kind of source material that any academic historian would accept, his general approach differs from what is accepted as historical research. When regarded as a particular work of historical writing, it can be used both to reflect conventional historiography as it is traditionally conceived, and as an example how to write history in an alternative mode, as well as with alternative means (video instead of printed text). Greenaway's film can be seen as a catalyst of an immanent crisis of conventional historiography.(3)
Photography and the Problem of Representation
One way of introducing the problem of representation and identity is to bring to mind a little story. In January 1839 L.J.M. Daguerre publicly demonstrated his invention of how to fix the images produced by a camera obscura "so that these images are not temporary reflection of the object, but their fixed and durable impress, which may be removed from the presence of those objects like a picture or an engraving", as one contemporary journal reported.(4) A few weeks later, William Henry Fox Talbot showed his "photogenic drawings" for the Royal Institution in London. In March the British astronomer John Herschel, a friend of Talbot's, coined the term 'photography' (literally 'writing with light'), thus indicating that it was possible to produce pictures of objects as they really are in themselves, and not as depictions drawn by men.(5) Shortly before, Talbot had written: "I made in this way a great number of representations of my house in the country [...]. And this building I believe to be the first that was ever yet known to have drawn its own picture."(6)

An astonishing idea is here being formulated; objects cannot only be represented by a manmade depiction, but through the technology of photography they can make representations of themselves. Because these new pictures were understood to have been created through the radiation of their objects, their representations would be seen as virtually identical to the things they represented. But to what extent is a photographic image identical with the object it depicts? What relationship exists between the represented and its representation? These questions run parallel with the problem of the relationship between history and the past. To what extent can reality be represented as it 'really is'? And can the past be represented as it 'really was'?

In June 1839, the Parisian inventor Hippolyte Bayard publicly exhibited his work. This event could be called the world's first exhibition of photographs, because Bayard had independently developed a photographic technique. Later this year, the French government bought the rights of Daguerre's invention, and gave it to humanity, so that anybody could use it free of charge. However, Bayard was not compensated when the French state in this way gave away his work for nothing.(7) Soon Bayard bitterly noticed that it was Daguerre that got all the fame and fortune, while nobody really acknowledged his own contribution. In October 1840 he published a long letter in which he accused the French government for steeling his invention and leaving him penny-less. As a consequence he had seen no alternative to drowning himself, Bayard ironically wrote, and included, as to proof this, a photographic selfportrait later entitled A Self-Portrait of a Drowned Man:
The corpse which you see here is that of M. Bayard, inventor of the process that has just been shown to you. As far as I know this indefatigable experimenter has been occupied for about three years with his discovery. [...]. The government, which has been only too generous to Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and the poor wretch has drowned himself. Oh the vagaries of human life!(8)

What can be seen in this picture is 'dead' Bayard's naked body placed in an upright position in a room that could be associated with a mortuary. A straw-hat is hanging on the wall, and a vase with a flower can be seen next to the man; the straw-hat as well as the vase were things that Bayard had turned into a personal signature.

This scene never took place in front of a camera; the picture is a composite of three different photographic depictions.(9) It has been called both the first fictional, as well as the first propaganda photograph(10) and can thus be interpreted as a provocation to the very idea that a photograph should be a perfect representation of reality as it 'really' is, an idea that lies imbedded in the term photography as it was once coined by Herschel.

Just to give a hint of the scope of this provocation from 1840 one example shall be mentioned. 150 years later, in 1990, an entry on Daguerre was published in the National Encyclopaedia of Sweden, Nationalencyclopedin. There one can read: "Through the invention of the daguerreotype, man could, in a manner more correct and true to reality, depict himself and the world."(11)

Well, is that so? Can a photographic depiction be said to be a representation more "true to reality" than any other form of construct? Bayard's photography from 1840 provoked this question then, and it still provokes it today.

The film Death in the Seine is dedicated to precisely this picture. In the same way as Bayard's depiction puts the representation of reality into question, Greenaway's film can be seen as a provocation of the representation of the past in conventional historiography. Before analysing the movie, the problem of representation within historiography should first be made explicit through the discussion of a recent article on the subject.
Representation and History
In his attempt to revise the theoretical foundation of conventional historiography, F.R. Ankersmit has focused on the notion of historical representation. He differentiates between a "substitution view" and a "resemblance view" of representation.(12) Basically, the difference between these two theoretical perspectives is that from the point of view of substitution anything can be used in order to represent anything else, while from the point of view of resemblance there must be some sort of likeness between the represented thing and the thing representing it. In order to connect to the example of photography above, in the substitution view, representation is not limited to physical markers. According to the resemblance view, however, there must be physical, first and foremost visual, connection between the represented and its representation. Or to take the same exaggerated example as Ankersmit uses, according to the substitution view, a fly can represent the New York World Trade Center (of course, the reverse relation is also possible). Such a form of representation would not be legitimate in the resemblance view, since a fly is not regarded as being like the World Trade Center.

A fundamental difference between these two theoretical perspectives seems to be that according to the substitution view every connection between a represented thing and its representation is a construction made up by the active interpreter, while in the resemblance view it is assumed that there is some inherent 'likeness' between the representation and its representation. And that this 'likeness' is to be discovered by a passive analyst. What is at stake here is whether there is an essential connection that can be discovered between the represented thing and its representation, or if any such relationship of representation is invented. Hence the difficulty lies in the question of the extent to which history can be said to represent something essential that exists/existed beyond itself, or whether history can only be regarded as an inner structure of constructions based on an infinite number of other such constructions. The problem with the former position is that it short-circuits the differentiation between exists and existed ­ it undermines temporality (this is also Ankersmit's critique of the resemblance view). The problem with the latter position is that it ends up in a hard-line constructivism, which in turn tends to dissolve any relationship between history and the past. In other words, the issue here is to judge between the claims made by an essentialist and a constructivist perspective. The problem of judging between these two perspectives is that both of them, at least as they are presented by Ankersmit, tend to undermine the distinction between 'is' and 'was'. They do so, however, in different ways. According to Ankersmit, the essentialist claims that the origin of something can be experienced here and now, the constructivist on the other hand states that the construction of identity and representation is always made here and now.

The notion of identity is the crucial aspect, and one can here continue to follow Ankersmit's line of argument. If anything could be said to be a potential representation of anything else, then anything would also be identical with anything else, and it would not be meaningful to differentiate between representation and identity. If, on the other hand, there is first something present and later a representation of this something, and if the identity between the presented and its representation grows stronger the more the representation resembles the original presentation, then a hierarchy will exist in which the notion of identity is placed on top of the notion of representation.

This could be illustrated with the above mentioned camera obscura. With this device, an image of a landscape could immediately be projected on the rear wall of a dark room. A person in the room could then fill in the image so that the picture of the landscape could be fixed. If the landscape is seen as the original presentation, then the image on the wall is its first representation. The closer the picture made from this representation resembles the likeness of the original landscape, the stronger the identity between the original and its representation. As a consequence not every representation would be regarded as equally good, but the stronger the identity the better the representation. Contrarily, this idea would not be supported in the substitution view, since it would not acknowledge the condition that the notion of identity is made into the reference point with which it would be possible to measure the quality of different representations. So the fundamental difference between the two theoretical approaches is the question whether the notion of identity should be regarded as a point of reference when estimating representations, or if it instead should be seen as a construct that is produced together with each and every representation. Ankersmit writes that the "resemblance theory inadvertently creates such a hierarchy by presenting resemblance as the link between identity and the representation", indicating that the representation holds a subordinate position in comparison to what it presents. In the substitution theory this hierarchy is absent: "Representation is the representation of identity because identity only comes into being by representation and vice versa; there is not, first, an identity, which is or could be represented next ­ whether in agreement with certain criteria of resemblance or not ­ no, representation and identity both come into being at one and the same time."(13)

Because identity and representation come into being at the same time, according to Ankersmit, the substitution view excludes the idea that there once would have been an original presentation that has then been represented over and over again. This view sets out that history is a construction made on the basis of an infinite series of other constructions, whereas whatever preceded this infinite series of construction cannot be settled from a position within historiography. Instead, following this theoretical approach, one would find an infinite number of representations throughout history, but no original presentation. Such perspective turns to undermine the notion of presence as such, breaking up the idea of a nucleus here-and-now and turning it into an infinite number of there-and-then. The reason for this is that not even presence (as such) can be understood as an original presentation, because presence is always in flux, and since it is not a stable entity it cannot be used as a point of reference when measuring temporality. This view comes close to the one outlined by Reinhard Koselleck in which he splits the notion of an ever-present here-and-now into the two categories of "space of experience" and "horizon of expectation".(14) Contrary to the resemblance view, which takes this notion of a nucleus here-and-now as its starting point, thus assuming that history is the sum of an infinite number of such here-and-now entities, the substitution view puts the notion of empirical research into question. The reason for this is that empirical research as a scientific practice ­ which is generally understood as critical reflections based on sensations experienced here-and-now ­ cannot be intellectually defended if the notion of a nucleus here-and-now is abolished. On the other hand, Ankersmit argues that the substitution theory is superior to the resemblance theory, because the former "is the theory that remains sensitive to the difference between the represented and its representation and is capable of accounting for it, whereas this distinction is lost [in] the resemblance theory".(15)

But is that the case? What Ankersmit apparently aims to demonstrate is that when, as in the resemblance theory, the supposed likeness between an original presentation and the following representation is the foundation of identity, then the claims of conventional historiography cannot be justified, because then temporality is short-circuited. The lack of connection between presentation and representation means that there is no foundation for identity as a non-constructed quality that in any 'natural' way could connect two or more different entities with one another. But on the other hand, because Ankersmit has argued that "representation and identity always come into being at one and the same time", also the substitution view short-circuits temporality. In practice both the resemblance and the substitution view thus undermine the presupposed connection between history and the past, because both these theoretical perspectives neglect to theorise temporality. Moreover, in both the resemblance as well as in the substitution view, every identity and every representation are the results of an act of interpretative construction made by an active interpreter. The only way of bridging the gap between the notion of the past and the perceived sources at hand is to actively produce an interpretation in which the sources are understood hermeneutically (and not experienced empirically) as representations of that which one wants to study. However, it seems to be clear that what Ankersmit calls 'identity' is a constructed relation between two entities. Furthermore, he writes: "When asking a historical question we want an account, a comment on the past, and not a simulacrum of the past itself. And these are not even ideally identical things."(16) But even if we want to have such an account or comment on the past, to what extent do we get it through the means of conventional history? Does not any such account or comment always refer back to our notion of the past, as it comes down to us through historiography, and never to 'the past itself' (to use Ankersmit's term)?

When representation and identity, in the act of interpretation, are constructed at the same time, and when neither the representation nor the identity are identical with the past as such, then we have no access to this enigmatic 'past itself'. Furthermore, if the sum of constructed representations ­ as well as their interrelated identities ­ is identical with history, then history is not identical with the 'past itself'. Therefore, to say that history would represent the past would be a statement without signification, because we have no access to the past itself and, therefore, cannot compare the two entities with one another.

At this stage one can refer back to the question posed in the beginning of this essay: What does it mean to say that history is about the past? The claim that history is a representation of that past as it was is, as has been pointed out above, problematical. What, then, does it mean to say that history is about the past? This question is not settled. However, one way of confronting it could be to say that although history is not identical with the past, there exists a constructed identity between produced history and the notion of the past. This would open for the notion that history is about constructing meaning for the human predicament of always being in the midst of unstable temporality. A preliminary answer to the question of the relation between history and the past could then be that history is about a perpetual production of meaning in the face of temporality. So, when we assume that history is and that the past was, a gap between these two entities of temporality, or tenses, appears. But this gap could be said to be bridged by the constructions that have actively been produced within the realm of historiography, however historiography itself is also one of these constructions.

Nevertheless, according to tradition, the results produced by historians and presented in historiography are not being considered as constructions, but rather as discoveries. In conventional historiography this gap or fundamental difference between history and the past has been neglected and/or repressed. As a result, a contradiction is built into the very core of conventional historiography, namely that although history cannot be considered identical with the past, most historians would nevertheless be tempted to claim that this would indeed be the case. The often quoted dictum by Ranke that the historians should represent the past 'as it really was' ('wie es eigentlich gewesen') could here come to mind. What Ankersmit and others have pointed out, however, is that the transition from history to the past cannot be conducted, and since history can never be perceived as identical with 'the past itself' but only our constructed notion of the past, the entire Ranke-tradition of conventional historiography seems in crises.

In the face of this crisis, the question how history should be written arises. Obviously one can argue that the problem is not so grave after all, and that the historians should just continue to do what they always have done: namely to put a question and try to answer it by critically scrutinising a source material. Of course, the result of such an investigation would not be identical with the past, but 'merely' constructed history. But so what? Since there is no access to the past as such ­ never was and never can be ­ how can history be produced otherwise? What does it mean to write history, when history is understood both as the studied object and as the presented results of the study? This is the delicate question that Peter Greenaway has challenged by making the film Death in the Seine.
Death in the Seine as historiographic argument
Apparently, the then latest video-technology had been used to edit Death in the Seine. The visual as well as audible markers in the film could make it possible for a latter-day viewer to date its production to the turn of the 1990s. Like any work of history, this film can be used as a historical source to the era in which it was made.

In this essay, however, Death in the Seine is not used as a source-material when studying a specific time period, but as a historiographic argument. It should, in other words, not be viewed as an object for a historical study, but instead as result of a historical study. What interests us here is what Greenaway argues with his video-film and how this argument is outlined.

The focus of the film lies on the corpses that were found in the river Seine during some of the crucial years of the French Revolution. In this respect, Greenaway has found a matter that would not be regarded as conspicuous when taken up by any cultural or social historian. Greenaway has put forward a question and made a clear delimitation in space and time: he asks about the actual people who once lived and concentrates on the location of Paris between 1795 and 1801. Also, he has been using written contemporary source material, namely a mortuary archive that was set up by two morgue assistants, Boille and Daude. On a day to day basis, they gave an account of their work: to attend to the corpses, which were found in the river, and to identify them so that they could be properly buried. As a historian (although working outside of academia and conventional historiography), Greenaway interprets these sources in order to study something that is not included in the material itself, but to which he obviously suggests that the sources point. It is therefore not the source material at hand that interests him, but the people that once lived however they are now dead and forgotten.(17)

After the opening picture with a dedication to the Bayard photo discussed above, the film shows scenes with streaming water, underscored by the music of Michael Nyman. Then follow sequences ­ some animated, some depicting actors playing corpses, some displaying hand-written documents ­ that are edited so that they seem to be placed in layers upon layers on top of each other. The film has been edited congenially to the perspective that history is construction, which is perpetually being built on top of previous constructions.

Throughout the film, a voice-over comments the scenes. The built in dialectics between this voice-over and the image creates some of the tension that keeps the audience alert. In the beginning of the film the voice-over reads:
It can safely be presumed that whether through accidents, misadventure, suicide or murder, all the bodies that were taken from the river met death violently, though not all may have drowned. [...] From these mortuary assistants' notes it is perhaps possible to build an identity for each dead body; to make a few speculations about the life it lived; and in some cases to ruminate on the possible reasons and circumstances of each death; though Boille and Daude rarely indulged in such hazardous and inexact speculations. To be able to do such a thing at anytime would be intriguing, to do in the years immediately after the Storming of the Bastille, especially so. For these people taken from the Seine had witnessed the French Revolution at first hand, and as a group they had lived through the Terror, experienced the Directorate, and saw the beginning of the Consulate.(18)

Here is presented a difference between what can "safely be presumed" and the "speculations" that "perhaps [make it] possible" to construct identity. But instead of trying to fix this difference, Greenaway has in a conspicuous manner throughout the film blurred the analytical categories of deduction and of speculation.

The film is composed in such a way that it follows a recurrent matrix. It is based on 23 episodes placed after one another in a non-chronological order. The episodes start with the splashing sound of something falling into streaming water, Nyman's music, and the sound of a pen scraping paper. On the screen, the viewer can parallel see a hand drawn sketch, which works as a frame for shots of Boille and Daude at work. Over these scenes, smaller frames, depicting running water, are placed. On top of all these, the archive-number, name of the charge, and dates are written out on the screen. A hand, writing with a quill, is a little later juxtaposed with depictions of the written source-material. A pan from feet to head of the naked actor playing the corpse concludes every episode.

About the source-material, on which he has funded his argument, Greenaway has said:
The mortuary assistants had recorded in a haphazard fashion details of sex, hair colour, physical wounds, details of clothing and contents of the pockets, and where witnesses and relatives had come forward with information or to identify or collect the corpses, some indication of the corpse's profession or trade or circumstances. These mortuary notes are largely about what these two morgue assistants see and not what they know ­ perhaps a similar concept to that which governs The Draughtsman's Contract.(19)

The distinction between seeing and knowing should be noticed. If the mortuary assistants thought that they could know anything about the persons that they received as corpses simply by writing out a list of all there empirical experiences about them, then they would be in a somewhat similar position as the main character in Greenaway's earlier film who had to find out that there was no direct linkage between his empirical experiences and his understanding of reality. Anybody believing that one can know anything of 'the past itself' simply by studying a source-material would be in the same situation as that man. It can be presumed that in Death in the Seine Greenaway has argued that there can be no direct connection between historical scholarship and knowledge of 'things and situations as they really were'.

Nevertheless, Greenaway 'writes' history. In his film he ruminates on the people that lived in Paris around the turn of the 18th century, especially the individuals that became the objects for Boille's and Daude's undertaking:
Twenty-three corpses were given the responsibility in the project Death in the Seine of representing all 306 bodies dragged from the river between 1795 and 1801. It is said that unnatural deaths can be classified as either murder, suicide or misadventure. But what is a natural death and what is a misadventure? Historical scholarship can turn these emotive events into flat statistics. Here are three grids to comprehend pattern and organise significance. But after the stripping down of these case-histories, there is an attempt to try to find some way back to the pathos of their origin by the introduction of anecdotes of colour and the drama of paint surface ­ grey and plain deaths bloody, gaudy, deaths deaths the colour of nude pink and corpse brown or choking purple and dull black for dull, black and everlasting darkness.(20)

Hence, when producing the history that is presented in this film, Greenaway's aim has been "to try to find some way back to the pathos" of the "origin" of the people he is studying. When doing this he has to find new ways of working, because conventional historical research tends to transform "emotive events" to "flat statistics", instead of producing meaning. If the production of history is to construct meaning to the human predicament of being temporal, then new forms of history writing have to be developed. Also, the existing tradition of historiography must be revised.

In order to give a more detailed impression of how Greenaway has composed his argument in the film, a five-minute sequence of it, including three of the episodes, should be recapitulated.
[Insert:]Procès Verbal No 68 ­ Jean-Babtiste Laglasse
[Voice-over:] By far the majority of the 306 people taken from the Seine between 1795 to 1801 were unskilled, and many had occupations that could rapidly change with circumstance or season.
[Insert:] 8 avrile 1797 ­ 19 Germinal 5
[Voice-over:] This 58 year-old man worked as a casual day labourer. When they undressed the body and wrote out the clouding-list, Boille found that the man wore a body-bandage. With a man in late middle-age doing such a strenuous job, and we may perhaps suppose that he had been doing it for 40 years, needing to labour as hard as his companions, body-bandages supported muscle.
[Boille undresses the body, while Daude pours two cups of coffee. Throughout the film Boille is exposed as a hard working person, while Daude is portrayed as someone being less serious in his work. This differentiation in their roles is never explained or even commented on by the voice-over. ­ Fade into a depiction of a hand-written document.]
[Voice-over:] How long could such a man labour before sheer physical collapse made it impossible? Three witnesses came forward to sign the mortuary notes: a casual labourer, a ladies tailor, and a messenger.
[Now three men are seen by the dead. One is taking it off a cap. ­ Pan from the feet to the head of the corpse.]

[Insert:] Procès Verbal No 98 ­ Henry Seraphim Lapaix
[Voice-over:] In Seraphim and Lapaix this child had an auspices name: Angel and Peace. But both did not save him.
[A shot in which Boille gently lifts the dead body out of the river.]
[Insert:] 6 juillet 1797 ­ 18 Messidor 5
[Voice-over:] At seven years of old, he is the youngest corpse to be taken out of the river. He was seen to fall, maybe from the banisters of a bridge, the verge of a quay, the side of a boat, and he was in the river six days before they found his body by the pont de la Révolution, later the pont de la Concorde, which is now six bridges down-stream from where he fell in; one bridge for each day of the journey.
[The body lies on the table between Boille and Daude. Slowly a blue and grey arch is drawn over the screen. Then, in an inner frame of the screen, some cloths are put on display.]
[Voice-over:] His father came to collect his cloths. He would have remembered this child when everyone else had long forgotten him. When everyone else in the world had never known that this child had lived. This boy was born the year that they stormed the Bastille, and everyone remembered that.
[Pan from the feet to the head of the corpse.]

[Insert:] Procès Verbal No 51 ­ Marguerite Merle
[Voice-over:] A 21-year-old fille de confiance, which can be translated as trusted servant and companion, as house servant.
[Insert:] 23 novembre 1796 ­ 3 Frimaire 5
[Voice-over:] Boille wrote that she was five feet in height, had brown hair and brown eyebrows, and an ordinary nose. Why should he have picked that feature out of if it was so ordinary? She wore a man's shirt, marked with a P and an H, which were not her initials; two petticoats, which were not unusual; and two red garters. Her father, who came to claim the body, was uncertain of her employer's name. An inspector of furnished rooms was also a witness. Maybe he knew more about her than her father did. She had been missing for three days and was found, like so many others, under the pont de la Révolution; a bridge that seems to have liked the dead. What was she doing in the river?
[Boille and Daude are seen leaving the table where the young woman lies, and accommodating themselves at a table with food in the background of the scenery. The screen fades: about two thirds shows the written source material, and one third shows the woman on the table in the foreground. Parallel, one can see Boille and Daude eating and amusing in the background. Suddenly the lighting of the scene changes and is concentrated on the woman. She sits up, reaches out for a wine-glass. She drinks. After having put down the glass again, she lays down again. Then the lightning of the scene returns to its previous set.]
[Voice-over:] According to the mortuary notes, Daude had to go to Vandôme on business. And Boille makes no comment. But they must have speculated what her life would have been like, and considered why a 21-year-old had to come to such an abrupt end.
[Pan from the feet to the head of the corpse.]
Obviously, Greenaway has not used the archive material in order to say anything clear-cut and definite about neither the persons Laglasse, Lapaix, Merle, nor about Boille and Daude. He does not even draw any definite conclusions about social life in Paris during the era of the French Revolution. However, he does not question that these people once lived (and died). Greenaway has not put the existence of reality and of the past into question, but instead challenged our understanding of what we can know of reality and the past. It seems clear that his starting point is that we are all subjected to the same temporal precondition, whether we live now or we lived then. And even though we cannot know anything for certain ­ even if we think contrary ­ we are inclined to inexhaustibly speculate and ruminate over reality and our role in the world; over what once were as well as over things to come.

This is also what Greenaway has done though he has come to his results by actively interpreting sources at hand, not by producing sources in accordance with expected results. Thus, by actively interpreting the source material he is in possession of, he states that Jean-Babtiste Laglasse was a hard working man on the brink of physical collapse. Furthermore, Henry Seraphim Lapaix was a child who, in his father's memory, lived on after his death; Marguerite Merle was a beautiful young woman that could very well fallen victim to the lusts of men etc.

But Greenaway does more than let the source material be the groundwork of a speculation over three individual persons. He lets these persons represent three forms of human life. Laglasse is used in order to represent every day life of the hard working people that lived in Paris around the turn of the 18th century. Lapaix is used as a representation for all parents that have lost a child. Merle represents the object of male fantasies. Of course, these people can be used as means both to represent existential conditions, and the particular conditions of the people in Paris of the French Revolution. Greenaway has used both these strategies, without emphasising the difference between historical and existential levels of human existence.

Together with a pan over a number of bodies, the film ends with the following voice-over-reflection:
It only takes three generations for personal contact to get lost, and then the memory, if it exists at all, passes on to strangers, us. Who, in this case, have been relying on notes written with pen on paper by two mortuary attendants of whom we know far less than we do of there charges. This television tape is almost as perishable as ink on paper. And the world is one thousand times as populated and teen thousand times as busy. Who will remember us? Who will speculate on our existents in 200 years time? And who will remember these people, who have been lying very still, attempting to deny their bodies resemblance of life in order to impersonate the dead? It is pertinent that the record of the deaths of these unfortunates fitted a new and bold way of measuring times; the calendar of the revolutionary era. But in the same year as the mortuary notes ceased, so did the calendar. It could be said that these bodies, that floated in the Seine, did so in a time that does no longer exists, because it is no longer measured.(21)

The end titles follow, first comes the list of the the actors, together with the names of the corpses that they have played. Although having been arranged in make-up in order to give the impression of being something else then what they are, these actors do not resemble the corpses that they are set out to represent.(22) The most obvious example of this lack of visual resemblance is shown in the above described scene in which a young woman, while playing dead, sits up and drinks a glass of wine. The last thing to be seen in the film is the same picture of Bayard with which it began.
Pathos and History
Since one consequence of the difference between history and the past is that the human knowledge does not seem to have access to the past as such, all human understanding of change over time is directed to the perpetual construction of history. It is possible to interpret this film as a conscious attempt to tackle this condition.

Greenaway has indicated three approaches to challenge conventional historiography. First, he has hinted at an identity between written documents and dead bodies so that he can argue that corpses can be identified through the act of interpreting conventional source material. Second, he has explicitly criticised the historians for attempting to "turn emotive events into flat statistics". With what justification can a historian in the broad sense of the word (i.e. every social scientist or researcher of the humanities that is taking an historical approach) vindicate that their work would have any relevance for the lived everyday life of ordinary people? In addition to this critique he, thirdly, indicates that when attempting to examine an origin, the point of reference would be 'pathos', not empirical facts.

(1) In his answer to the question what we can know of the today dead and forgotten persons that lived in Paris during the time of the French Revolution, Greenaway has elaborated on two parallel levels of constructed identities. To begin with, he has constructed an identity between the source material that he has at hand and the person that is forever vanished. Thereafter he has constructed another identity between bodies and persons. These two sets of constructed identities have enabled him to make the connection between documents and corpses. When he states that "[t]wenty-three corpses were given the responsibility [...] of representing all three hundred and six bodies", the statement is based on written documents, not the physical remains of people.

The manner of reasoning that Greenaway has here presented comes, nevertheless, close to the way any trained historian would work. When a researcher examines, for example, a nation-state or an ethnical group, s/he does not actually study the nation-state per se nor the ethnical group as such, but documents and other source-materials that s/he identify with the nation-state per se or the ethnical group as such. Similarly, Greenaway has linked his sources to dead people. The point to be underlined here is that it is equally impossible to directly study these dead persons, as it is impossible to study, for example, the nation-state per se. Instead, all such research has to be indirect and reflexive. In order to carry out such an 'empirical' study, the researcher first has to construct an identity between the studied material and the studied objective. This differentiation between studied materials and studied objectives is as central as it is often neglected and forgotten in applied research.

It is possible to interpret Death in the Seine as a manner of speaking ironically about the lack of self-reflexivity demonstrated in the practice of historical research. When Greenaway asks "who will remember these people, who have been laying very still, attempting to deny their bodies resemblance of life in order to impersonate the dead?", he emphasizes the role of the actors. While showing one seemingly uninterrupted sequence of living actors playing dead people, he lets the voice-over shift between three different levels of reflection and of interpretation of this particular source material. First, he compels the viewer to identify the shown bodies with the corpses that were found in the Seine, then he suggests that the same bodies should be reflected as representations of our own bodies, lastly he points out that these bodies could also be seen as neither identical with dead people, nor with ourselves, but with living actors. Thus, without changing the scene and without taking the attention away from the studied source, three different levels of interpretation and identity construction is provoked. It can therefore be said that it is not the source material that guides the researcher to a result, but the question formulated. And since the whole transference from a present document to a past person is rather dubious, it is understandable if a director like Greenaway wants to mock it in this subtle manner.

(2) A second mode of challenging conventional historiography is taken when asking what role the writing of history plays for everyday life. On one level, the focus of the film lies on the actual people who once lived, and the film formulates the question what we today can know of them. The answer given is straightforward: in a strict manner of speaking, nothing! However, what we can do is to speculate over the source-material to which we have direct contemporary access. Since the source-material is present at hand, we could use it empirically, i.e. interpret it. Or, in Greenaway's case, "build an identity for each dead body". But he has even taken one step further, marking out both the corporeal continuity from our forefathers to us, and the discontinuity in the transition from their knowledge to ours.

In the same way as we are strangers to our corporeal forefathers, our physical descendants will be strangers to us. This argument can also be developed further. To what extent are our conscious selves strangers to our physical selves, to what extent are we strangers to ourselves? Any answer to this question would be elusive. However, by posing such a question, one has at least taken into account that we are not identical with our physical bodies, and that we, in order to unify our body and our self, have to construct an identity for ourselves. This construction has to be carried out on both an individual and a collective level (presupposing that we have previously constructed the distinction between individuality and collectivity; between the individual and the collective).

(3) The third manner in which Greenaway has challenged the historians is his way of shifting focus from empirical facts to pathos. But what is here meant by 'pathos'? According to The New Encyclopædia Britannica the word signifies a "quality of human experience or its representation in art that evokes pity, sympathy, and sorrow in the spectator or reader."(23)

When Greenaway uses the term, he enters a discursive field in which the word can be seen as a marker for either experiences of strong emotions, or for a theatrical behaviour, or for something sick and disorderly. Nevertheless, what seems to be clear is that when it comes down to representing the emotive aspects of these dead persons, Greenaway tends to defend the pathos of colour before the truth of statistics: he has tried to produce meaning and not facts.
A Challenge to History
Two general conclusions can be made. The first one is that there cannot be any linkage between history and the past as such, because history is and the past was, and since no transcendence from is to was can convincingly be conducted, there can be no epistemological connection between the two. This conclusion tends to challenge conventional historiography that has had as its goal to attempt to represent, through the writing of history, 'the past as it really was'. If history is neither to be recognised as identical with the past, nor as a representation of it, then the whole tradition of conventional historiography is in crisis. A way of overcoming this crisis is to rethink historiography as a whole. One preliminary result of such an attempt to rethink history is that the purpose of writing history has never been to reproduce the past, but has always been to create meaning to the human predicament of being embedded in temporality. One meaning of the assertion that history is about the past would then be that historians, within the realm of historiography, have constructed visions of what once was, but is no more. These visions cannot be regarded as identical with the past as such or 'the past itself', but they can nevertheless be considered to be meaningful accounts or comments. In this context, the film Death in the Seine can be read as an ironical comment on the lack of self-reflexivity that limited historians in their attempt to grasp the obvious inconsistency that lies in the core of conventional historiography.

The second general conclusion is that the notion of 'identity' in the social and historical sciences has to be understood as a construction, which is made up by whom ever that claims this identity. For reflected knowledge there is, then, no position outside discourse. Of course, that does not imply that there is nothing beyond discourse, but merely that we cannot have any knowledge of whatever that might be. Our knowledge is something that we construct within discourse; it is entirely discursive. This is, of course, a condition that we cannot know, but we must believe it. In turn, that would indicate that all meaning and knowledge is founded in our belief-system.

In his video film, Greenaway has made this condition evident by underlining that the bodies shown in the film are not identical with the corpses that they are set out to represent, but with living actors. The identity between the actor and the corpse is indicated through the composition of the film, and finally constructed by the audience. As viewers of the film, therefore, we collaborate in the creative work of constructing by accepting the identity-construction of the film. When we believe that we have understood the logic of the composition, then we can use the film as a means to construct meaningful knowledge. In this way, all our knowledge is rooted in what we already believe.

There is a commonly spread idea that photographs should be more 'true to reality' than any other form of depiction. Nevertheless, Hippolyte Bayard's photograph A Self Portrait of a Drowned Man ­ one of the first photographic portraits ever to have been made ­ has challenged this notion to its core. In the same way, Peter Greenaway's film Death in the Seine has challenged the non-reflected idea that history is about the past. This essay has been written in the conviction that every historian should take both these challenges seriously.

1. William Henry Fox Talbot: "Der Zeichenstift der Natur" [1844­1846]. In: Wilfried Wiegand (ed.): Die Wahrheit der Photographie. Klassische Bekenntnisse zu einer neuen Kunst. Frankfurt/Main: Fischer, 1981, 45.

2. See Loiperdinger's and Vaughan's remarks on this widespread 'panic-legend'. Martin Loiperdinger: "Lumières Ankunft des Zuges. Gründungsmythos eines neuen Mediums". In: Kintop 5. Aufführungsgeschichten. Basel, Frankfurt/Main: Stroemfeld, 1996, 37­70. ­ Dai Vaughan: "Let there be Lumière" [1981]. In: Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker (eds.): Early Cinema: Space ­ Frame ­ Narrative. London: British Film Institute, 1990, 63­67.

3. Vaughan [1981] 1990, 65.

4. A.W. [= August Wolf]: "Der Film als Historiker". In: Film-Kurier 3, 20.10.1921, 245. German original: "Film, das ist Betreiben der Geschichte im Sinne Xenophons, der unter Menschen ging, zu Dirnen, Handwerkern und wer gerade ihm entgegenkam. Überall schien es ihm recht, seine Typen herauszufischen. [...] Ohne Arroganz, jede Gegend schien ihm begabt genug, Interessantes wachsen zu lassen. [...] Der Film ist auch im Gefühl zum Bewegten hin erfunden. Sein Gedächtnis ist die Kamera mit dem abrollenden Bild, ein Gedächtnis, das genau aufzeichnet und mit der Zeitlupe zeigt, zu welcher Schärfe der Betrachtung es fähig ist. Und welch glückliches Gedächtnis! Es denkt existenziell, zeigt den Baum als Baum, ohne Stimmungsstimulanz, in der Freude des naiven Anschauens. [Der Film] braucht keine Beschwörungsgeste, um sich die Natur erscheinen zu lassen, sie lebt im Bild so ungezwungen, wie sie ist. Glücklicher Film, der keiner Darstellungskünste bedarf."

5. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell: Film History. An Introduction. New York, St. Louis, San Francisco: McGraw-Hill, 1994, 107f.

6. Thus, neither film historical issues, nor the development of methodical concepts for the general historian's occupation with feature films, is dealt with here. Instead, the focus is on some theoretical definitions as well as on some observations regarding the academic nature of the historian's interest in film.

7. D.W. Griffith: "Der Film in hundert Jahren". In: Licht-Bild-Bühne 17, 26.7.1924, 86.

8. See for example, Paul Smith (ed.): The Historian and Film. Cambridge, London, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976. ­ Pierre Sorlin: The Film in History. Restaging the Past. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980. ­ K.R.M. Short: Feature Film as History. London: Croom Helm, 1981. ­ Ilan Avisar: Screening the Holocaust. Cinema's Images of the Unimaginable. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988 (= Jewish Culture and Literature). ­ Marc Ferro: Cinema and History. Translated by Naomi Greene. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988 (= Contemporary Film Studies). ­ John E. O'Connor (ed.): Image as Artifact. The Historical Analysis of Film and Television. Malabar: Krieger, 1990. ­ Rainer Rother (ed.): Bilder schreiben Geschichte. Der Historiker im Kino. Berlin: Wagenbach, 1991. ­ Hans-Arthur Mariske (ed.): Zeitmaschine Kino. Darstellung von Geschichte im Film. Marburg: Hitzeroth, 1992. ­ George F. Custen: Bio/Pics. How Hollywood Constructed Public History. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992. ­ Leger Grindon: Shadows of the Past. Studies in the Historical Fiction Film. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994 (= Culture and the Moving Image). ­ Robert A. Rosenstone: Visions of the Past. The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 1995a. ­ Robert A. Rosenstone (ed.): Revisioning History. Film and the Construction of a New Past. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995b. ­ Marcia Landy: Cinematic Uses of the Past. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. ­ Ted Mico, John Miller-Manzon and David Rubel (eds.): Past Imperfect. History According to the Movies. New York: Holt, 1996. ­ Vivian Sobchak (ed.): The Persistence of History. Cinema, Television, and the Modern Event. New York, London: Routledge, 1996. ­ Robert Brent Toplin: History by Hollywood. The Use and Abuse of the American Past. Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996. ­ Maria Wyke: Projecting the Past. Ancient Rome, Cinema and History. New York, London: Routledge, 1997 etc.

9. Walter Benjamin: "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit" [1936]. In: Walter Benjamin: Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit. Drei Studien zur Kunstsoziologie. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 19774, 28.

10. Siegfried J. Schmidt: "Geschichte beobachten. Geschichte und Geschichtswissenschaft aus konstruktivistischer Sicht". In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften (Geschichte beobachtet), 8 (1997:1), 41.

11. "Film is out of the control of historians. Film shows we do not own the Past. Film creates a historical world with which books cannot compete, at least for popularity." ­ Robert A. Rosenstone: "The Historical Film. Looking at the Past in a Postliterate Age" [1994]. In: Rosenstone 1995a, 46.

12. Michèle Lagny: "Film history: or history expropriated". In: Film History (Philosophy of Film History), 6 (1994:1), 31f.

13. In the last ten years numerous publications have appeared dealing with theoretical and methodological questions of film historiography. For an introduction, see e.g. Robert C. Allen and Douglas Gomery: Film History. Theory and Practice. New York: Knopf, 1985. ­ Thomas Elsaesser: "The New Film History". In: Sight and Sound, 4 (1986:55), 246­252. ­ Knut Hickethier (ed.): Filmgeschichte schreiben. Ansätze, Entwürfe, Methoden. Berlin: edition sigma, 1989. ­ The problematic (and to a degree certainly also very constructive) attitude historiography strikes towards film studies will be dealt with below.

14. Accordingly, in his contribution in this volume, Stephan Michael Schröder starts out by historising the term 'historical fiction film'.

15. Donald Watt: "History on the public screen". In: Smith (ed.) 1976, 169.

16. Stephan Michael Schröder describes the 'linguistic turn' and its effect on historiography in more detail in this volume. ­ The distinction between documentary and feature film became problematic, when, among other reasons, feature films were increasingly adapting documentary film techniques. For more on this, see e.g. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell: Film History. An Introduction. New York, St. Louis, San Francisco: McGraw-Hill, 1994, 517­598.

17. Marc Ferro: "Film: A Counteranalysis of Society?" [1971]. In: Ferro 1988, 29.

18. See e.g. Grindon 1994. Michèle Lagny, Pierre Sorlin, and more recently, Marcia Landy, have achieved a very useful and methodological development of Ferro's assumption. Michèle Lagny: De l'Histoire du cinéma. Méthode historique et histoire du cinéma. Paris: Armand Colin, 1992 (= Cinéma et audiovisuel). ­ Pierre Sorlin: "Historical Films as Tools for Historians". In: O'Connor (ed.) 1990, 42­68, as well as Landy 1996.

19. With his article, "History in Images / History in Words: Reflections on the Possibility of Really Putting History onto Film", Rosenstone started a discussion forum in American Historical Review, 93 (1988:5), in which, among others, Hayden White took part. A reprint of this and other articles on (most of all) the American discussion can be found in Rosenstone 1995a.

20. Helmut Seiffert: "Geschichtstheorie". In: Helmut Seiffert and Gerard Radnitzky (eds.): Handlexikon zur Wissenschaftstheorie. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 19942, 109.

21. Marc Ferro: "Film: A Counteranalysis of Society?" [1971]. In: Ferro 1988, 29. ­ Rosenstone: "Introduction". In: Rosenstone (ed.) 1995b, 4f.

22. Schmidt 1997, 38.

23. For more on this, see among others, Peter Ohler: Kognitive Filmpsychologie. Verarbeitung und mentale Repräsentation narrativer Filme. Münster: MAkS Publikationen, 1994.

24. Cf. Dai Vaughan's concept of the 'documentary response'. ­ Dai Vaughan: "The aesthetics of ambiguity". In: Peter Ian Crawford and David Turton (eds.): Film as Ethnography. Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 1992, 101.

25. According to Sorlin, the so-called 'historical feature films' only share the reference to history, and do not contain text-internal structures as a genre does. Kagemusha (1980), for example, depicts the past, but does it also show history? Accordingly, it seems impossible to define criteria common to all 'historical' movies, as Grindon is attempting to do. His observation that every 'historical feature film' shows above all "the relationship of the individual to society", is true of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998), as it is of Disney's The Jungle Book (1967). See Grindon 1994, 9 and Sorlin 1990.

26. Karsten Fledelius: "Zur Semiotik der Geschichte. Abriss einer semiotischen Methodologie der Geschichte, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf filmische Aufzeichnungen als historisches Quellenmaterial". In: Günter Bentele (ed.): Semiotik und Massenmedien. München: Ölschläger, 1981 (= Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Kommunikationswissenschaft; 7), 365.

27. Herlihy rightly points out that it would only be logical to discuss not only film, but also novels in historical academic journals. David Herlihy: "Am I a Camera? Other Reflections on Films and History". In: American Historical Review, 93 (1988:5), 1186­1192.

28. Ferro [1971] 1988, 29.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid., 30.

31. Rosenstone hopes, "that my own concerns parallel some broader concerns of the historical profession; that ­ dare I be so bold? ­ these essays represent the meeting of traditional historical consciousness with the increasing demands of the visual media." Robert A. Rosenstone: "Introduction. Personal, Professional, and (a Little) Theoretical". In: Rosenstone 1995a, 1f. For the most part I will base my arguments below on this essay collection.

32. Robert A. Rosenstone: "What You Think About When You Think About Writing a Book on History and Film" [1990]. In: Rosenstone 1995a, 231.

33. Robert A. Rosenstone: "History in Images / History in Words. Reflections on the Possibility of Really Putting History onto Film" [1988]. In: Rosenstone 1995a, 23.

34. Robert A. Rosenstone: "Film and the Beginnings of Postmodern History". In: Rosenstone 1995a, 206.

35. Rosenstone 1995a, 14f.

36. Marc Ferro: "Does a Filmic Writing of History Exist?" [1978]. In: Ferro 1988, 161.

37. Rosenstone 1995a, 15.

38. Ibid., 11.

39. David Bordwell: Narration in the Fiction Film. London: Routledge, 19935, 9f.

40. Rosenstone takes the form of film as a model for historiography. Accordingly, he suggests cinemorphic writing as a solution to methodological problems in postmodernity. Cf. Rosenstone 1995a, passim.

41. Rosenstone [1994] 1995a, 54f.

42. Ibid., 53.

43. The canon does without any film historical differentiation and unites a series of (post)modern classics, such as Sans Soleil (1982) with 'New Hollywood' commercial productions, such as JFK (1991).

44. See Colin McCabe: "Realism and the Cinema: Notes on some Brechtian Theses". In: Screen, 15 (1974:2), 7­27 and "Theory and Film: Principles of Realism and Pleasure". In: Screen, 17 (1976:3), 7­27.

45. McCabe 1974, 8.

46. McCabe 1976, 11.

47. It is a basic characteristic of every narrative fiction to point to its own constructed nature. Thus, the question rather would be which films can avoid to be 'self-reflexive'. Over and above that, Rosenstone equates the viewer's awareness of the construed character of a given narration improperly with methodological insight. Concerning the activity of the spectator in the cinema see e.g. David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson: Film Art. An Introduction. International Edition. New York, St. Louis, San Francisco: McGraw-Hill, 19934, 41­98.

48. Cf. Hayden White: Metahistory. The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore, London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.

49. Vaughan 1992, 101.

50. Details on this can be found in Noël Carroll: "Concerning Uniqueness Claims for Photographic and Cinematographic Representation" [1987]. In: Noël Carroll: Theorizing the Moving Image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 37­48.

51. Rosenstone 1995a, 22f.

52. Rosenstone [1988] 1995a, 36.

53. See, among others, Bordwell's recent statement on 'classical' film theory. David Bordwell: "Contemporary Film Studies and the Vicissitudes of Grand Theory". In: David Bordwell and Noël Carroll (eds.): Post-Theory. Reconstructing Film Studies. Madison: Wisconsin University Press, 1996 (= Wisconsin Studies in Film), 3­36.

54. Rosenstone 1995a, 246.

55. Michèle Lagny: "Kino für Historiker". In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften (Film Geschichten), 8 (1997:4), 467.

56. Ibid., 466.

57. Rosenstone 1995a, 6.

58. Lagny 1997, 436.

59. This involves questions such as: how specific regarding the time and space of its production is the plot's construction of the world? To which degree does it make use of conventional narrative motifs?


1. For a survey on this, see Jonas Broström: "Svensk film i beredskapstid". In: Kate Betz, Jonas Broström and Aleksander Kwiatkowski: Film, samhälle och propaganda. Filmens användning för opinionspåverkan och propaganda under den ryska revolutionen, den svenska beredskapen och det kalla kriget. Stockholm: Liber and Beredskapsnämnden för psykologiskt försvar, 1982, 77­151.

2. See for example, Gunnar Fredriksson, Dieter Strand and Bo Södersten: Per Albin-linjen. Tre ställingstaganden till en socialdemokratisk tradition. Stockholm: PAN/Norstedts, 1970 (= En PANbok). ­ Alf W. Johansson: Per Albin och kriget: samlingsregeringen och utrikespolitiken under andra världskriget. Stockholm: Tiden, [1985] 1995. ­ Anders Isaksson: Per Albin. 4 vols. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1985 ff. ­ Anders Linder: Andra världskriget och Sverige: historia och mytbildning. Stockholm: Infomanager, 1997. ­ Jerrold M. Packard: Neither Friend nor Foe: The European Neutrals in World War II. New York: Scribner, 1992.

3. Screenplay: Gustav Molander, Vilhelm Moberg. Production: AB Svensk Filmindustri. Release: 23.11.1942 Röda kvarn, Stockholm.

4. Björn Norström: "Synpunkter på svensk bondefilm". In: Filmrutan, 13 (1970:1), 25. In the original Swedish: "epokens mest tydliga beredskapsfilm".

5. Vilhelm Moberg: Rid i natt! Roman från Värend 1650. Stockholm: Bonniers, 1941.

6. The play premiered at the Dramatiska teatern in Stockholm on 4.9.1942, in Hälsingborgs stadsteater and at the Riksteatern on 10.10.1942 and at Göteborgs stadsteater on 14.10.1942. The Riksteater went on tour with Rid i natt!. ­ See G[östa] W[erner]: "Rid i natt". In: Lars Åhlander and Rickard Gramfors (eds.): Den svenska långfilmen. Filmografi. De första hundra åren. CD-Rom. Stockholm: Svenska Filminstitutet and FilmhusFörlaget, 1997.

7. As Richard Taylor observes, "the 'propagandist' uses all the weapons that are available to him at a given time and in a given context". See Richard Taylor: Film Propaganda. Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. London: Croom Helm; New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1979, 22. ­ Even if it is beyond the scope of this essay to identify concrete propagandistic 'agencies', the analysis below will be based on Taylor's general assumptions on the nature of propaganda, seeing it as a public activity: "Propaganda is the attempt to influence the public opinions of an audience through the transmission of ideas ans values." Ibid., 27f.

8. The word 'bodkavle' used by Vilhelm Moberg, is explained in the German version of the novel as following: "Botkawel: a short wooden rod or a slim, arm-lengths board, which ­ carved with signs ­ was secretly sent from village to village by farmers to communicate important news. The symbol of rebellion! (Bot = command, message, notice, announcement. Kawel = used for untied prepared pieces of wood)." (Vilhelm Moberg: Reit heut' nacht! Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer, 1946, 417.)

9. Moberg studied not only the scholarly literature on this theme, but also worked with the original sources themselves. Nevertheless, after the publication of his novel, a long debate ensued among legendary historians, about the historical accuracy of Rid i natt!. For a summary of this controversy see Alf Åberg: "Striden kring 'Rid i natt!'". In: Svenska Dagbladet, 6.6.1969.

10. See Rainer Rother: "Nationen im Film. Zur Einleitung". In: the same (ed.): Mythen der Nationen: Völker im Film. Munich and Berlin: Koehler and Amelang, 1998, 9­16, 9.

11. In the original Swedish: "Sveriges frihet och oberoende krävde nu som förr och in en framtid försvarare av svensk stam, svenskt blod och kynne och i önskvärd numerär." ­Broström, 111.

12. Vilhelm Moberg: Ride this night. New York: Doubleday, 1943, 252. In the original Swedish: "Så går en budkavle genom nätter och dagar, genom år och århundraden, löpande i sitt angelägna ärende, frambärande från tid till tid det brådskande budet, det yppersta och det främsta. Budkavle går. Rid i natt, i natt."

13. Herfried Münkler: "Politische Mythen und nationale Identität. Nibelungen-, Barbarossa- und Hermannsmythik in der deutschen Politik". In: Karpf (ed.), 45.

14. Marcia Landy: Cinematic Uses of the Past. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, 1.

15. Landy 1996, 2.

16. Marcia Landy: Film, Politics, and Gramsci. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1994, 98.

17. Concerning the use of 'allegory' and 'parable', see Dieter Liewerscheidt: Schlüssel zur Literatur. Munich: Knaur, 1990, esp. 89­98 and 129­188.

18. Åberg, ibid. In the original Swedish as following: "Den [boken] är en utmaning mot det förtryck som hotade från Hitlers Tyskland men också ett angrepp på de svenska politiker, som genom diplomatiska uppgifter eller förhalningspolitik ansågs gå i förbund med förtryckarna."

19. Ernst Karpf: "Geschichte sehen. Zur Wahrnehmung des Historischen im Film". In: the same (ed.): Filmmythos Volk. Zur Produktion kollektiver Identität im Film. Frankfurt/Main: Gemeinschaftswerk der Evangelischen Publizistik, 1992 (= Arnoldshainer Filmgespräche; 9), 18.

20. Michèle Lagny: "Kino für Historiker". In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft (1997:4), 457.

21. Lagny, 466.

22. In the original Swedish: "Samhällsandans svenskhet var grundtonen i kristidspropagandan. [...] Tankarna kring 'det goda folkhemmet' [...] fick en praktisk tillämpning under beredskapens år. I tiden fanns också något obestämbart: [...] andlig kraft, en vilja att försvara det fäderneärvda och en svensk livsform ­ kort sagt de svenska värdene, det som den andliga beredskapen stod för." (Broström, 88 f.)

23. Karl W. Deutsch: "National Consciousness and Will". Chapter 8 in: the same: Nationalism and Social Communication. An Inquiry into the Foundations of Nationality. 2nd. ed. Cambridge, Mass. u. London: M.I.T. Press, 1966 [1953], 165­186.

24. Werner Schneider: "Das Volk und der Einzelne. Von Tod und Wiedergeburt eines Mythos". In: Karpf (ed.), 63.

25. See Rother, 13.

26. Münkler, 51.


1. In: Augustine: St. Augustine's Confessiones. Translated by William Watt [1912]. London: Heinemann, 1977­79, 239. ­ The quote refers back to Book 11, 14:17, of St. Augustine's Confessiones.

2. Death in the Seine, 1988, 44 min. (exists also in a 40 minutes version). Production: Erato Films, Mikros Image, La Sept, Allarts Enterprises, NOS. Distribution: Ideal Audience (France).

3. Cf. Bo Stråth and Nina Witoszek (eds.): The Postmodern Challenge: Perspectives East and West. Amsterdam, Atlanta: Rodopi, 1999 (= Postmodern Studies; 27). See especially the editors' "Introduction" (9­23), Hayden White's article "Postmodernism and Textual Anxieties" (27­45) and Georg Igger's article "Historiography and the Challenge of Postmodernism" (281­301) deal with the crisis in contemporary historiography and the background to this crisis.

4. Quoted after Robert Leggat: A History of Photography from its Beginnings till the 1920s. Available on the Internet, The original article was published in The Literary Gazette, 7. January 1893.

5. Michel Frizot (ed.): Neuere Geschichte der Fotografie. Köln: Könemann, 1998, 27. (French original: Nouvelle Histoire de la Photographie. Paris: Bordas, 1994).

6. W. Henry Fox Talbot: Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing. London 1839, reprinted in Beaumont Newhall: Photography: Essays and Images. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1980, 23­32. ­ I would like to express my appreciation to James Kaye for this reference.

7. Frizot, 23­31.

8. Quoted after Leggat. A full length reprint of Bayard's letter can be found in Frizot, 30.

9. Frizot, 30.

10. Frizot, 30; Leggat.

11. Nationalencyklopedin. Vol. 4. Höganäs: Bra Böcker, 1990, 338. The original quote reads: "Genom dagerrotypen kunde människan på ett mer verklighetsnära och korrekt sätt avbilda sig och själv och sin omvärld."

12. F.R. Ankersmit: "Danto on Representation, Identity, and Indiscernibles". In: History and Theory, 37 (1998:4), 44­70.

13. Ankersmit, 52f. ­ Italics in the original.

14. Reinhard Koselleck: Futures Past. The Semantics of Historical Time. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985.

15. Ankersmit, 54.

16. Ankersmit, 67f. ­ Italics in the original.

17. About his sources, Greenaway has said: "I'd come across Richard Cobb's book Death in Paris. He'd discovered a mortuary archive in the Bibliothèque Nationale, supplied by two morgue assistants, Boille and Daude, who in the years after the French Revolution had very carefully, if naively, written up accounts of corpses they'd been responsible for between 1795 and 1801, years that would include the Terror, the Directoire and the Consulate." Quoted from Alan Woods: Being Naked Playing Dead. Manchester 1996, 255.

18. Transcribed after the sound-track of the film.

19. Quoted after Woods, 256.

20. Peter Greenaway: papers/papiers. Paris: Dis Voir, 1990, 20.

21. Transcribed after the sound-track of the film.

22. According to the information on the film at The Internet Movie Database Ltd. (, some viewers have reported that when the actors in the film move, blink, or in any other way show that they are alive, that should be considered a so-called "goof" (or an unintended error in the film, an error that breaks up the logic of the construction upon which the composition of the film is founded). The database states, however, that this is not a "goof": "Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Director Peter Greenaway has stated that although he didn't set out to have the actors playing the corpseees move about, he didn't mind when they did, because on one level the film is about people only pretending to be dead, and that the movements just helped reinforce that."

23. The New Encyclopædia Britannica the 15th edition, 1985, Micropædia, vol. 9, entry "Pathos". ­ A somewhat anecdotal detail in this context is that in The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Micropædia, the entry "Pathos" can be found, but not the entry "Pathology". This fact should be compared with The Encyclopedia Americana. In the latter encyclopaedia one can find the entry "Pathology", but not the entry "Pathos". Also, in the former work one can read "Gr. Pathos, emotion", while in the latter it is written "Gr. Pathos, disease".