From Recording to Ritual: Weimar Villa and 24 City


Author: Jinhee Choi, King’s College London, United Kingdom
Published: January 2016

Citation: Choi, J. (2016). From Recording to Ritual: Weimar Villa and 24 City. IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 2(1).


This paper’s title is inspired by Guttmann’s 2004 book From Ritual To Record. It examines the remedial and ritual role of cinema in artist film Weimar Villa (Bernd Behr, 2010) and critically acclaimed Chinese film 24 City (Zia Zhang-ke, 2008). The cinematic documentation of newly sprawling urban spaces and of dismantling an old military factory in post-socialist China in these two films, well complements the “xiangchang”—or being on the scene—rhetoric that has governed contemporary independent Chinese documentaries. The function of these two films, I argue, progresses from recording of the actual to the performing of the ritual.

Both of the films’ aesthetics and their relationship with modernity provides a comparative framework to forge an interesting relationship between these two films and the modernist city films; Weimar Villa alludes to the Weimar culture via the temporal and spatial displacement of Bauhaus style architecture in China, while some of the aesthetic strategies employed in 24 City resemble the Soviet modernist cinematic movement. I discuss how the modernist and post-socialist “city films” echo each other yet forge diverging relationships to the “promised” modernity, underscoring the historical and ideological disjuncture between these two eras.


city films, 24 City, Zia Zhang-ke, Bernd Behr, Chinese documentary, artist films, modernity, post-socialist Chinese cinema, Weimar Villa, modernist, post-socialist