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The Currency of Europe? Representing Unified Europe as Film in the Age of the Euro

  • Author(s): Rossman, Sasha
  • et al.
Abstract

This paper addresses attempts to invent a representational form for Europe in the early 2000s. This was a key period of European Union expansion during which the Euro was introduced and European markets became more closely integrated. Yet in the age of the Euro, the question emerged with renewed vigor as to how to construct an affective identity for a group of states united through economic channels. This period of euphoric growth thus also proved to be a crucial moment of self-visualization. A commensurate official EU visual rhetoric developed that predictably celebrated the apparent collapse of borders and an increasingly unfettered flow of goods, people, and money. Independently produced representations of Europe made at this time, however, painted a more nuanced and conflicted picture of the expanding EU. This paper examines two wildly different films made in the year the Euro launched—the French comedy L’Auberge Espagnole and the socio-critical, Swedish feature Lilya 4-ever—that presented alternative narratives of contemporary “Europe”. A close reading of the films, juxtaposed with an analysis of the visual language of official EU representation, demonstrates that the primary concern of these new “European” narratives lay in finding a visual means of exploring how human bodies were to be integrated culturally and politically when they were conceived of and defined in economic terms. The films, I therefore argue, thus make the tensions between political and economic bodies that trouble contemporary Europe (e.g. the refugee, Grexit and Brexit crises) visible avant la lettre. I suggest that these narratives stage Europe as a border spectacle, in which borders are understood not simply as geographic entities, but also as the contested limits between political and economic authorities.

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