In the foreword to his extraordinary “Panorama of the Nineteenth Century” (1938, english trans. 1977), Dolf Sternberger describes his method as “purely physiognomical, arranging, descriptive”, and neither critical nor analytical. It is an attempt to study the “face of the past” and to redraw some of its features. The quotations take a central role, as they reveal the “phenomenon and the thoughts, the figures and the gestures” of the past. The quotations are “the writing of time itself”.
Sternberger defines his procedure also as configurative, because, with the selection, combination, and arrangement of the quotations, all necessarily arbitrary activities, the tangle of the past becomes, here and there, “at least in part”, a readable writing, which we “observe and attempt to decipher”.
In viewing the cinematic tangle of 1905 I had no theoretical or thematic approach. In selecting and grouping the films into programs I have adopted a purely physiognomical and configurative method. The program “Bodies” developed around two disturbing films, Les martyres de l’inquisition and The White Caps.