A new word has entered the German language: »fremdschaemen.« How can we conceive of this affect? What kind of physical and psychical reactions to others does the neologism describe, and how are they different from those engenred by shame? In this talk, I draw on the literature regarding shame to show how »fremdschaemen« articulates a desire to introduce distance in our ever-mediated and overly intimate interactions. In the films of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl,
»fremdschaemen« is the structurally elicited spectator response. I focus on Import Export (2007) and the Paradise-trilogy (2012-13) to show how Seidl employs a variant of free indirect style that operates with shame in various registers. Melding documentary and fiction, Seidl’s films seek to bring us close to the characters and at the same time distance us from them.
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