Biopolitical cinema, exemplified by Michael Winterbottom, Roland Emmerich, and others, has questioned the ability of representative democracy to handle a catastrophic situation. Beyond that, biopolitical film has undermined the moral and political legitimacy of the democratic system as a whole. This article examines the formative moments of biopolitics: its affirmative use by German post-Nietzscheans of the 1920s and ‘30s, the French critique during the late 1970s, and the current translation of both to a set of post-9/11 images. All three moments use “cultural crisis” in order to plead for urgent reform, and use biopolitics as a critical concept aimed at a false liberal claim to legitimate power and its abuse.

… Biopolitical critique is also apparent in commentary about recent political film, though left somewhat underdeveloped: as Slavoj Žižek expresses it in his commentary on Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006), the film depicts “a society without history, or, to use another political term, biopolitics. And my god, this film literally is about biopolitics. The basic problem in this society as depicted in the film is literally biopolitics: how to generate, regulate life” (DVD Commentary). In Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, Žižek identifies the philosophical condition for Cuarón’s work: “The infertility Cuaron’s film is about was diagnosed long ago by Friedrich Nietzsche, when he perceived how Western civilization was moving in the direction of the Last Man…. We in the West are the Last Men” (24). …

Nitzan Lebovic

Lehigh University