Volume 27, Issue 3, September 2004
Peter R. Costello
Walter Benjamin and Cinema Paradiso
Teaching Aura, Loss, and Recovery
This paper describes how the author teaches Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by using the 1988 movie “Cinema Paradiso.” The film and Benjamin’s text are used to discuss topics like alienation, the production of meaning in one’s life, and the outmoded nature of concepts like creativity, genius, and eternal value, etc. Whereas students begin by agreeing with the thrust of Benjamin’s text, they end by being in conflict with their strong reaction to the end of “Cinema Paradiso” and the view that aesthetic items like films are merely matters of taste.