Reconfiguration of Flaneur of the Modern Metropolis in the Body of a Film Spectator

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor, School of Performing Arts and Music, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

2 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Art, Art University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

4 Ph.D. Student of Art Studies, Faculty of Art, Art University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran


Examining the relationship among cinema, architecture and city has become one of the substantial issues in modernity-based film theories in recent years. Debate about the reconfiguration of modern city’s landscapes in the nineteenth century and concentration on the concept of “flanerie” forms the main part of what David Bordwell calls the “modernity thesis”. Flanerie is an aimless excursion in a kind of distracted perception and absent-mindness through the labyrinths of modern metropolis. Strolling, watching and being absorbed into the visual and spatial attractions of metropolis, is the main motivation of a flaneur.  Baudelaire introduced the flaneur as the modern world's hero, someone who seeks to immerse himself in the collective sensuality of urban spaces, looking to be melted down in fluidity of urban chaos, in search for fusion with collective mass to become "one flesh with the crowd". Like Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin also considered the flaneur as the archetype of modern subject, who in an ecstatic state strolls through the urban spaces and his emphatic look to moving bodies and faces reach to a level in which he is transformed to a united body with the crowd. At the same time, he can be either self or the other.  Pointing to intimate and interactive relationship between flanerie and the artistic imagination, Benjamin believed that due to the flaneur's creativity in dreaming, in front of his eye, the urban environment is converted to a surreal landscape. It might be stated that flaneur is projecting his imaginative inner world over the physical reality of the city and reciprocally by employing physical and psychical essence of the city forms to his own dream. Hence, for a flaneur, an intertwined relation emerges between the real and imaginary maps of the city, to the extent that he cannot distinguish between these two maps. During this dissolving process between the illusional and real maps of the city, the flaneur practically appears as a dreamer architect who reconstructs the architectural identity of the city by projecting his own inner emotional space into the physical territory of the urban landscape. Benjamin, who had acknowledged the cinematic qualities of modern city, also connects cinema and flanerie, and emphasizes that the act of flaneur is so much similar to the experiences of making and watching a film. In this way, the film spectator could be considered as an imaginary flaneur, walking through cinematic time and space. With the changes in the contemporary urban planning, the context of flanerie has also been transformed, and in contemporary automobile-based cities, car driving can be considered as a new version of flanerie. The viewpoint of the observer from the car and the perception of changing landscapes through the car window, have an undeniable similarity to watching a film, And by looking through the windshield, the city unfolds itself sequentially as a cinematic screen. The car's "autopia", provides an audiovisual space in which, the montage of the images as well as the sonic soundtrack are completely reminiscent of the space of the cinema.


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