FALSE MOVEMENT – Comparatistas – english version


P.I.: Clara Rowland

Falsche Bewegung (literally, “False Movement”) is a Wim Wenders 1975 feature that adapts Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, and depicts the journey of a writer. This research project proposes to study the relations between writing and film, and it is possible to describe both film’s illusion of movement and writing’s play of meaning in a still page with recourse to Wenders’ title. We intend to broaden a work field in comparative studies that has so far been focused almost exclusively in the analysis of film adaptations of literary works. In fact, in Portuguese Comparativism, film studies still have a marginal role, often in a subsidiary position to literary studies, and they have insufficient theoretical backing. It can be argued that even if we consider the international context, studies in adaptation drain most of the resources, have too prominent a place in the curricula and bibliography, and function as a deeply restrictive shorthand for the relations between film and literature (Wenders’ title can also be translated as “The Wrong Move”). It seems therefore urgent to bring forth a project in film studies that can be a part of the interartistic perspective fostered by the Centre in Comparative Studies and at the same time clarify the place of cinema in the Humanities curricula, taking greater advantage of the theoretical capital available to the Centre of Comparative Studies and the Faculty of Letters.
What we propose is a move fundamental to any approach of film that has verbal language as a tool: to think the intersemiotic relation between two heterogeneous media where the description of one by the other (translation, paraphrase) is an inescapable moment. No matter how much a film is discussed as a text and its analysis as a reading, this basic heterogeneity between object and the discourse produced about it cannot be ignored. So much so that it was partly against writing that film defined itself. The modernist myth of cinema attempted to distil its essence and construe it in opposition to the other arts, in particular against literary based narrativity. However, it can be empirically verified that writing envelops the filmic object: be it as a previous step (the script in its several phases), or a subsequent one (the review, the press package, the essay, sometimes the novelization), not to mention the graphic signs (credits, intertitles, subtitles) that are inscribed in the material film almost since the cinematograph was invented.

By considering the relations between cinema and writing, instead of cinema and literature, it will be possible to avoid the dichotomy (often a hierarchy) between the two fields which the study of film adaptation tends to draw upon. We will therefore contribute to displace the debate towards the questioning of the means of representation, their materiality and reflexivity, in a broader conceptual network where numerous crossings are possible. This widening perspective allows for a more rigorous theoretical approach that, we believe, will be particularly relevant to the international film studies community. We will attempt to establish connections within and between each of the following lines of investigation: writing in film (as both theme and inscription); film writing (the study of criticism and screenwriting, as well as the foundational problem of description); film as writing (film as an extension of writing; language and writing as analogues to the way films signify). We will do so by the careful and ambitious deployment of a diversified set of activities, some recurring, some one-off events: a monthly seminar, film series and conferences, a website, a workshop, several publications.

The various tasks we set ourselves to will endeavour: a) to produce results of high scientific relevance through the in-depth study of and intersection between our lines of inquiry; b) to engage in the international debate in this field, by participating in events abroad and by profiting from the diverse experiences of our consultants, seminar guests and sporadic collaborators; c) to create a space of theoretical thinking on film within the university, thus permitting the integration of the scientific investigation conducted by teachers, researchers and students in a common platform; d) to make use of the knowledge that, outside academia, has always been elicited by film, namely through the know-how of institutions like the Portuguese Cinematheque, as well as experienced critics and curators; e) to intertwine the propagation of scientific results with an intervention in wider spaces of public debate.


Clara Rowland – coord.
Francisco Frazão
Mário Jorge Torres
Jeffrey Childs
João Ribeirete
Rita Benis
Fernando Guerreiro
Mário Avelar
Filipa Rosário
Susana Duarte
Amândio Reis
José Bértolo


Adrian Martin
Marc Cerisuelo
Rosa Maria Martelo
Tom Conley
Cristina Álvarez López

This work is financed by national funds through the FCT - Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., within the scope of the project UIDB/00509/2020 and UIDP/00509/2020.