David Bordwell to visit Prague

David Bordwell, who spent most his career as professor of film at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will deliver two lectures at Prague's Charles University. Photo: Flickr.
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The Czech Republic’s National Film Archive welcomes one of the world’s leading film theorists at Charles University as part of its ‘Illumination’ celebrations

If you’ve ever done proper film studies — the kind where you watch films and read books instead of making films yourself — you’ll know the name of David Bordwell. This prolific author on film theory, who has written extensively about film history and analysis, along with his wife, Kristin Thompson, will appear in Prague in June as part of the National Film Archive’s (NFA) 25-year celebration of its Iluminace, The Journal of Film Theory, History, and Aesthetics.

David Bordwell
June 25–26, at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Room 131, Faculty of Arts, Charles University

Admission: Free

He will deliver two lectures at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts. The first is titled “I Love a Mystery: How 1940s Hollywood Changed Movie Storytelling,” and as the title suggests, Bordwell will discuss the creative narratives of films made in the 1940s. He will trace the development of storytelling in films of the 1920s and 1930s, and in particular the deeper understanding of and interest in character psychology, to demonstrate how this motion picture evolution eventually played out in U.S. cinema in the 1940s. There will be comparisons with films from Europe, as well, and the talk will be followed by a screening of noted film noir director Edward Dmytryk’s 1944 film Murder, My Sweet at the NFA-run Ponrepo cinema in Bartolomějská Street.

Bordwell’s second lecture, “Digital Film Projection: Four Tales of Technology and Taste,” will focus on the dizzying speed at which theaters around the world have switched from the traditional film projectors to their digital counterparts over the past four years.

Thompson, a leading film theorist in her own right who co-wrote some of Bordwell’s best-known works, including the comprehensive Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction, will also be visiting Prague.

The program for the English part of the cycle includes lectures by two other experts. Nancy Wingfield, a professor of history at the Northern Illinois University, will discuss the historical context of the 1930s, when the recent advent of the talkie meant films had a big part of their identity rooted in the language their characters spoke, and the resistance to the German language in film lay in its association with the former Habsburg Empire as much as with the newly independent country’s pride in its own language.

The discussion will be followed by a screening of Austrian director Friedrich Feher’s 1930 Czech-language film When the Strings Wailed (Když struny lkají). Unfortunately, this film won't have English subtitles.

The other speaker will be Marsha Gordon, a professor of film studies at the North Carolina State University, whose lecture will focus on director Samuel Fuller’s long history with war pictures, stretching from his documentary footage shot just after the 1945 liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp, not far from Karlovy Vary, to his epic 1980 film The Big Red One, which also features a scene in which the same concentration camp is liberated by the U.S. infantry division referred to in the titled. Preston Sturges’ Hail the Conquering Hero will be screened after the lecture.

Wingfield and Gordon will speak at the Ponrepo cinema, May 25 and June 11, respectively, on both occasions at 5:30 p.m., and entrance to their and Bordwell's lectures is free of charge. Tickets for the film screenings can be purchased at the Ponrepo box office.

André Crous can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

André Crous

André Crous Google Plus

Hailing from the Cape Winelands in South Africa, André spent his student years at home and all over France before making the move to Prague in 2011. He has worked as a film critic and copy editor, and is a member of the renowned international association of film critics, FIPRESCI.

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