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Dispensing Justice on Screen: Stanley Kramer's "Judgment at Nuremberg"

A public lecture by Elisabeth Bronfen, University of Zurich, English and American Studies.

The lecture discusses the film Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) as an example for the way Hollywood offers cinematic re-imaginations of historic events so as to reconceive the past in dialog with the present. Kramer's re-enactment of the trial at Nuremberg that brought Nazi judges themselves into the court, speaks both to the political moment when the film was released as well as the post-war politics at issue while the trials took place (1948). The lecture argues that Kramer's film sees the dispensing of justice at issue in this trial as a way of returning to and offering an ethical indictment of the Nazi ideology that is taken to court once more, now on screen. At the same time, by offering a fictional reconception rather than a documentary film, Kramer brings into play the conflict between a judiciary discourse (concerned with the letter of the law), a political discourse (concerned with Cold War diplomatic alliances) and an aesthetic discourse (concerned with the impossibility of putting closure on traumatic historic events such as the Nazi corruption of justice). Placing the film spectator into the position of a jury distanced from judicial and political interests, Kramer's film offers a far more ambivalent sentencing even while raising questions about the ethical possibility of cinema. 

Read more about the lecture HERE.

Elisabeth Bronfen is Full Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Zurich. She has published widely in the areas of Anglo-American literature, visual culture, gender studies, cinema and psychoanalysis. Her most recent books include a cultural history of the night and a discussion of Hollywood and war.

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