Aldo van Keulen

He looks back over his shoulder, eyes filled with disappointment, for the television screen did not respond to his touch. On the small table next to him rests the small flip-book we made a couple of days earlier at the Eye Film Museum. I remember having such a booklet as a kid, it showed a scene in which Donald Duck spits out an endless stream of playing cards and when turned around and flipped again Mickey Mouse would perform a magic act of his own. The flip-book on the table contains images of me and my two year old son, who has resumed swiping his little fingers across the unresponsive screen. When flipped, the still images in the book come to life and for a brief moment we are allowed to glimpse at a shared moment that once was. My son is entranced by the magic established by this illusion of movement, but at the same time he has developed a special interest for a specific image in the booklet, a still frame, which he singles out constantly in an act of analogue manipulation.

It feels both reassuring and comforting to see how my son melts together these forms of analogue and digital media into his own world of wonders. It teaches me the relativity of the binary as it is often treated to be written in stone.

I was born and raised in Amsterdam. After high school I took up a full-time job, and it was not until a couple of years later that I decided to go to university. I had this strong feeling that I wanted to sharpen my mind academically, an urge, so to speak, to plunge myself into a more abstract world. My decision to engage with film and film-theory was easily made, for I could not, and still cannot, think of a more innervating library, and laboratory, than the one offered by the world of cinema.

Over the years, I developed a special interest in the ontology of cinema. What or who defines it? Is there such a thing as its essence? These are rather enigmatic, yet fundamental, questions, which I was finally able to explore during the MA film program. Each course focuses on a rather broad theme, which allows for a lot of flexibility when one has to write an essay. To me such a level of flexibility was essential, for it allowed me to steer the topics of my papers towards the field I’m most interested in.

The reading material for the two mandatory courses: “Film Theory: Body, Senses and the Moving Image” and “Media Archaeology” consist of what can be considered canonical texts, varying from authors like Béla Balázs and André Bazin to more contemporary ones like Laura Marks and Gilles Deleuze. They provide insight in the different ways in which film has been conceived and theorized, but also how film has developed in the course of history, the paths it has taken and the ones it left mostly unexplored, alongside its struggle to be recognized as the seventh art. These courses and their reading material are aimed at establishing a deeper understanding of film’s many facets, which offer certain entry-points for the student’s own investigations.

To me, it was a logical step to continue with the MA program after receiving my bachelor. I felt unsatisfied and longed for a deeper and more serious investigation of certain theoretical aspects. The MA program delivered just that. Not every course to the same extend, but most of them, often fuelled by the teachings of a passionate academic, were inspirational.

Now, almost a year after my graduation, I strongly feel I have yet more to investigate. I find myself wandering in bookstores, scanning the shelves for newly released works, pulling them out, flipping through their pages. And even though I am not rewarded by a card spitting duck, I can see movement in the academic field by its many contributors. It creates an itch, which I hope I will be able to resolve someday.

Website of the Film Faculty of the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands