Expression of the Hands (Ausdruck der Hände)

In this 1997 documentary, director and narrator Harun Farocki offers what might be called a phenomenology of the hand in cinema. The phenomenon in question, of course, is the expressive power and possibilities of the hands in film. In this sense, it can be seen as similar to the phenomenological studies of poetry and literature, such as those of Bachelard or Ingarden, rather than a study of a lived experience per se.

Expressions of Hands (Ausdruck der Hände) 1997 from Norm Friesen on Vimeo.

As a phenomenologist should, Farocki reveals a depth and complexity in his subject matter that is surprising, even evocative of wonder. E.g.:

“Film loves to show the pianist’s hand as much as a hand holding a gun.”

“The fist close-ups in the history of film were of the face; the next featured human hands. Often, hands are supposed to betray something hidden in the expression of the face. For example, the hand might tightly hold onto a glass, while the face appears calm.”

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