Metaphysics of Finitude: Der müde Tod and the Crisis of Historicism

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This chapter attempts to illuminate Der müde Tod ’s philosophical dimensions by placing the film in constellation with Weimar intellectual history. It argues that Fritz Lang's film registered and responded to a “crisis of historicism” that was widely diagnosed in the Weimar era, as German‐speaking intellectuals confronted the aporias that entail from reflexive historical thinking. In the author's analysis, Der müde Tod sought to counteract the atomizing and relativizing implications of nineteenth‐century historicism by positing what might be called a “metaphysics of finitude.” In proposing the crisis of historical thought as a key context for Lang's pioneering and influential film, the chapter diverges from Tom Gunning's reading of Der müde Tod as a meditation on the narrative and visual possibilities of the cinematic medium. Not least, it suggests that Lang's film gains new resonances when interpreted as a response to contemporaneous historical‐philosophical questions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Fritz Lang
EditorsJoe McElhaney
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781118587232, 9780470670972, 9781119069058, 9781118587225
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameWiley Blackwell Companions to Film Directors


  • Motion picture producers and directors
  • Lang, Fritz, 1890-1976

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