Between the culture industry and art: Adorno’s approach to film

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Although film for Adorno is first and foremost the principal agent of culture industry, he takes on an equivocal stance towards the medium and its aesthetic potentials for reasons inherent to the medium itself. Indeed, its disinterested recording of the empirical world leads to both, a semblance of immediacy easy to instrumentalize for propaganda or advertising purposes, and a non-subjective access to the world of objects, which disclose their societal imprint. Despite (or because of) its technological basis, film is inherently concerned with the society it both mediates and addresses, and has to be understood as a collective medium in either of its formats: commercial productions, because they address the masses (which they manipulate and distract from reality’s inherent antagonisms by reproducing pseudo-realistic, stereotypical representations in a totalitarian manner), independent films, because they unearth something non-identical nestled in the folds of the ideological totality, through a montage “which does not interfere with things but rather arranges them in a constellation akin to that of writing”. This article aims to deploy the complex constellation through which Adorno approaches film, its embedding in the capitalist world, its inherent aesthetic force and its complicated relation with the reality it mediates.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Adorno, Understanding Modernism
EditorsRobin Goodman
Place of PublicationNew York, London
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781501342967
ISBN (Print)9781501342950
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969)
  • Film
  • Critical Theory
  • Aesthetic
  • Culture Industry


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