Abstract of the introduction (T. Hochscherf and K. Niemeyer)
“Early film theory is the main focus of this special issue. Revisiting it means to rethink well-known mechanisms, patterns and key personae, but also to resituate them in relation to one another by taking into consideration the historical circumstances of their genesis, publication, reception, transformation and, if applicable, their legacy. Theories, in fact, appear in certain periods and places and they do not fall from the sky, and theoretical writing and consequently theoretical content cannot be separated from their specific conditions of production and reception. If films shape or represent cultural attitudes, the same can be said about theories. They emerge within concrete and complex technological, economic, social and cultural premises.
This following article reconsiders major early film theories and theorists up to the 1950s. Yet, some of them also provide scope for more or less unknown theoretical thinkers. The themed issue does so from historical perspectives that seek to contextualise the different approaches and concepts within their environment of production and reception. Instead of accepting theoretical ideas as universal, global and timeless concepts that can be applied at will, their thematic, geographical and historical contextualisation requires more scrutiny. Given that all theories, regardless of their aim or scope, are the product of specific historical, geographical and ideological circumstances, ahistorical approaches, which tend at discretion to apply theories without acknowledging their origin or evolution to any past or contemporary film, ought thus to be questioned”.