Absurd black humour as social criticism in contemporary European cinema
This thesis investigates how contemporary European art cinema establishes an absurd worldview to express social criticism that can be read as evidence of – as well as a response to – European socio-political crises. The thesis also explores the political and aesthetic solutions to these crises as offered within a selected film corpus. Thus, the argument is twofold. The first considers a broader relationship between film and reality: how does film as an art form relate to real-world cultural and political developments? The second focal point is a study of ways in which the comic and the absurd are represented on screen as a response to such developments. The thesis ascribes to an Existentialist understanding of the absurd in which, according to Albert Camus’s definition in The Myth of Sisyphus (1955/1991), human beings desperately want the world around them to make sense, but the world remains irrational and silent. Contemporary European cinema tries to make sense of an irrational world by proposing an alternative approach that challenges prevailing neoliberal ways of thinking. The corpus focuses on post-2000 European arthouse films from countries including Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Hungary and Greece. All of the films explore the absurd and the comic as expressions of social anxiety and feature themes of social crisis, grotesque death, and taboo-breaking (disobedience, transgression, mental illness or social dysfunction). These films reflect on death and social taboos through the lens of absurd humour to express anxiety, highlight social injustice and question prevalent values and established institutions. The films can be interpreted as symptoms of crisis, while they also endeavour to shape society by calling attention to these issues.