Appropriation, the process of “making (media) products one’s own,”Footnote 1 is a much-discussed topic in media and cultural studies. By integrating a film into our everyday lived reality,Footnote 2 we situate its “content” at a sociocultural level. It might seem that the film’s audiovisual form and aesthetics are stripped away in this process and play no decisive role in its appropriation. However, in the case of historical films that would oversimplify certain deeper connections describable in the terms of film and historical theory. This chapter will therefore seek to demonstrate that the process of appropriation also irrevocably inscribes the aesthetic parameters of a cinematic-historical way of thinking into our historical consciousness.

According to Hermann Kappelhoff, appropriation of audiovisual moving images in the act of reception changes the “a priori conditions of understanding, judging, and acting.”Footnote 3 This adds a refigurative component to Walter Benjamin’s hypothesis that film is the “paradigm of modern perception.”Footnote 4 The figurative potential to represent a simulated historical reality that is interwoven into a histosphere’s audiovisual designFootnote 5 can thus already be sensuously disclosed and furnished with historical meaning at a prereflective, corporal stage of reception. Building on theories of the phenomenological relationship between the spectator’s body and the world, the first section of this chapter develops a model of incorporative appropriationof history, which I connect to constructivist and cognitive approaches. In the second section, I raise the specific experience of historical films described in the previous section to the status of paradigmatic core of a historical film genre, which I flesh out based on a phenomenological conception of genre. My systematic account of this genre integrates the theoretical discussion of the distinctive characteristics of historical films from the preceding chapters.

Incorporative Appropriation

Films are part of a changing cultural and media system. This means that the appropriation of historical films based on physically experienced histospheres cannot be viewed in isolation from the overall media context, especially the far-reaching effects of digitalization. The ever-growing ubiquity of media technology in day-to-day life is having a profound impact on our lifeworld.Footnote 6 We are almost constantly exposed to the vast information flow of the “technosphere”Footnote 7 that surrounds us. This affects our understanding of history too. Live reporting on digital television, real-time news websites, and video platforms such as YouTube that are updated with new content every single second make spectators of historical events into participants in historical dramas.Footnote 8 Luke Tredinnick argues that progress in media and communication technology has collapsed the distinction between the present and “the truly historical.”Footnote 9 Instead, events such as 9/11 are “already historicized at the very moment that we experience them.”Footnote 10 The ensuing virtuality of historical referents supports Jean Baudrillard’s theory of a historical myth: Our conceptions of the past and hyperreal media reality can no longer be disentangled.Footnote 11 On this view, history is a remediatization of events that have already been historicized in previous media representations. Since the resulting conceptions of history, just like cinematic histospheres, rest on audiovisual figurations, it can be assumed that the mediatization of the everyday further strengthens our capacity to intuitively experience the historical worlds simulated by historical films. The perceptual similarity between medially historicized present events and historical films can also be explained by reference to the associated processes of memory. Perceiving a constructed media reality that is conveyed as historically significant gives rise to prosthetic memoriesFootnote 12—personal, embodied memories of the underlying historical events. When they appropriate filmic histospheres’ “operational scenarios of history,”Footnote 13 spectators are able to remember these experiences, so that they merge with the film’s simulated historical worlds to produce a form of prosthetic postmemory.Footnote 14 Consequently, appropriation of the historical worlds constructed by a film is always also linked to media experiences external to the film.

A further epistemological condition for analyzing fiction films’ appropriation of history is that Siegfried Kracauer’s and Benjamin’s historical positions should be interpreted not just in terms of media theory, but also as aesthetic theories. Bernhard Groß notes that it was “optical media” that “initially made it possible to ‘experience’ the historical processes of the twentieth century at all.”Footnote 15 Instead of “reproducing a previous reality,” photography and film “were the first to structure access to this reality, which is deemed inaccessible, incomprehensible, and indecipherable.”Footnote 16 Historical processes became film experience “entirely as if [they] were expressing Kracauer’s paradigm of historical realism or Benjamin’s ‘optical subconscious.’”Footnote 17 This implies that historical films use their specific “aids”Footnote 18 to disclose “physical reality,”Footnote 19 making it possible both to appropriate historical knowledge and develop conceptions of history. The interpenetration of spectator and film results, however, “not in continuity, but in a loose agglomeration of available ‘knowledge.’”Footnote 20 According to Heike Klippel, this “fusing of disparate elements” is grounded in our perception, which interprets neither the object nor itself, but instead creates “something new.”Footnote 21 Consequently, the appropriation of historical films does not yield traditional, narratively structured conceptions of history, but rather a new, specifically filmic concept of history that includes the category of sensuous experience.Footnote 22

In order to better understand the appropriation of history via sensuous experience of filmic histospheres, we also need to consider the phenomenological relation between the spectator’s body and the world. The philosopher Alphonso Lingis has analyzed the interaction between bodily perception and empathy.Footnote 23 Proceeding from an imaginary perspective shift, Lingis infers the existence of a mental body-image that places us in relation to the world.Footnote 24 Through this process of incorporation, the world around us is integrated into the inner sphere of our self.Footnote 25 The same process is at work in Benjamin’s account of the “distracted mass” that is not absorbed by the film but, rather, absorbs it.Footnote 26 In the appropriation of historical films, a histosphere’s simulated historical world consequently occupies the role of an external sphere that in the process of reception becomes part of our own inner sphere. Although we know that our body is invisible to the film, we involuntarily place it in relation to the objects and subjects of the filmic world, which we as it were absorb into ourselves. Kracauer understands this form of appropriation as a sort of “blood transfusion” that allows us to grasp the being and dynamics of the object of our experience “from within.”Footnote 27 Accordingly, in historical films we become able to physically experience the materiality of the simulated historical world by sensuously incorporating the underlying audiovisual figurations, thereby opening up new horizons of understanding. Individual experience blends with collective conceptions of history; in Landsberg’s terms, historical memory becomes a portable and nonessentialist good that blurs the boundaries between personal and collective memory.Footnote 28 Thus, an individual understanding of history develops not just through the externalization of memory, which migrates into film, but also through its embodied reappropriation in the process of film experience.

Furthermore, the incorporative appropriation of filmically constructed representations of history brings about a specific form of reflection, which begins with a very literal inner “mirroring” of historical worlds. Kracauer’s analogy between the cinema screen and Athena’s polished shield, a mirror that makes it possible to behold horrors without turning to stone,Footnote 29 can be expanded to myriad historical processes, events, and narratives. In combination with mise-en-histoire, the intuitive, sensuous perception of filmic figurations enables a specific mode of access to historiographical narratives and helps produce conceptions of history. Historical films thus make it possible not just to experience historical worlds, but also to reflect on them. Histospheres’ reflective potential is already inherent in the phenomenological concept of the film’s embodied perspective on the historical world and the spectator’s perspective on this perspective, which “appears before our eyes as perceived perception.”Footnote 30 “In the movie theater,” Thomas Morsch summarizes, “we don’t just see something, we also see what is seen as an expression of an act of seeing.”Footnote 31 This implicitly comparative schema extends into the interrelationship between film and history, though without any simplistic rhetoric of right and wrong. The traditional debate about factually accurate and realistic representations of history cleaves to a way of thinking that still takes a film’s ontology to be a reproduction of reality and denies film perception the status of real experience. However, a phenomenological approach to film shows that film experience—produced by synesthetically operating audiovisual stimuli—is just as real as any other experience. A histosphere produces real historical experiences that, as Kracauer puts it, challenge us “to confront the real-life events [a film] shows with the ideas we commonly entertain about them.”Footnote 32 When we reflect on the historical world with which we have had a living encounter through film, we refigure and evaluate not just the interpretations of history resulting from our experience of the film, but also the conceptions of history we had formed prior to watching it. Our historical consciousness, already shaped by audiovisual media, is updated and checked for any contradictions. If I previously knew the 1950s in West Germany as the era of the Wirtschaftswunder, in kudamm 56 I have now also encountered it as a reactionary, patriarchal system whose demands almost drive a young woman to suicide. If my horizons were previously limited to West German history, in skywithout stars they are expanded to include the painful chapter of Germany’s division. If until now I had only viewed the 1950s in terms of a large-scale history of events, in yearsof hunger I experience history from the perspective of an ordinary German family. Incorporative appropriation of such experiences conveys a sense of what historical lifeworlds were like. It fills the empty space between model-like filmic figurations and the historical references of the mise-en-histoire with a materiality that lends histospheres a living, multilayered structure. The embodied and prereflective dimensions of filmic experience of history are thereby combined with interpretative approaches, so that the historical experience produced by film experience can in turn become historical knowledge.Footnote 33 If historical experience is understood as an “experience of difference […] between one’s own and the other time,”Footnote 34 then this difference between times undergoes a process of interpretation “when it is integrated into an overarching conception of the passage of time that determines the cultural orientation of human ways of life.”Footnote 35 This interpretive process is already inherent in the referentialization of the mise-en-histoire, and is extended by the spectator’s cognitive appropriation. This can express affirmation, but can also articulate a critical or subversive potential, or even construct a counterhistory. Immersive experiences, imaginative empathy, andreminiscence triggerscreate a sense of physical familiarity with the film’s audiovisually modeled historical worlds. This familiarity is taken up by incorporative appropriation and, in conjunction withcognitive appropriation, expanded into interpretations of history with powerful effect.Footnote 36

Genre Configurations

Fiction films’ audiovisual modeling of historical worlds generally draws on a repertoire of conventionalized forms. Iterative strategies for constructing historical spaces and worlds allow us to intuitively experience these spaces and worlds, and imaginatively move around them. Crane and sequence shots, for instance, can give us the impression of physically diving into the past world simulated by the film, serving both to show the otherness of the historical cosmos and to give us an initial sense of our bearings in time and space. Filmic figurations are also arranged and interrelated in a particular way. As Paul Ricœur would put it, they form a specific “configuration,”Footnote 37 and with it histospheres’ audiovisual repertoire. On the basis of immersion, empathetic engagement, imaginary referentialization, and reminiscence triggers, an impression of familiar otherness is created. If genres are a “formal organizational principle with a pool of iterative patterns,”Footnote 38 then histospheres can be considered the core of a historical film genre.

Film genres are typically defined as “constructs” or “symptoms of cultural processes, practices, and discourses of textual/media appropriation”Footnote 39 that are not “objective” groupings but rather “complex negotiating machines”Footnote 40 or “arenas for negotiation.”Footnote 41 As an “open-textured”Footnote 42 concept, genres have diffuse boundaries, and are able to enter into hybrid constellations and change dynamically. By “reflecting on and discursifying” the “existing sociocultural practices”Footnote 43 out of which they emerge, they develop their own historicity. The “active awareness of genre” based on this process allows “the concept of ‘genre’ to serve a key orienting function in both film production and film reception.”Footnote 44 In cinematic representations of history, specific genre practices can be observed in the particular aesthetic and narrative configurations that typify costume dramas,Footnote 45 historical epics,Footnote 46 and biopics, as well as in nationally specific phenomena such as British heritage films. The concept of Historienfilm (widely used in the German-speaking world) is normally associated with these particular forms of cinematic representation of history, which necessarily narrows the concept’s scope. My proposal of an expanded genre of historical film, by contrast, gives central place to the historical experiences created by film. This does not require consciously considered knowledge of, or extensive awareness of, the genre. Consequently, the historical film is a “silent” genre, which in both academic literature and popular discourse is only rarely articulated as such.Footnote 47

One of the few attempts at a genre-based definition of historical films was undertaken by Robert Burgoyne, drawing on Rick Altman’s semantic/syntactic/pragmatic approach.Footnote 48 Central to Burgoyne’s account is the idea that historical films are based on the principle of “reenactment”: The imaginative reproduction of the past allows spectators to “relive” past events.Footnote 49 “Reenactment” is the common feature that holds the historical film genre together across the whole spectrum of aesthetic and structural variations.Footnote 50 Burgoyne’s approach has some parallels with my concept of the histosphere as the core of the historical film genre. The concept of “reenactment” is likewise based on the idea of a simulated historical world constructed out of filmic figurations. However, the concept of the histosphere has a different theoretical foundation, which, as with my concept of genre, relies less on Altman than on certain fundamental phenomenological and philosophical premises. In the literature, the close connection between history and film genres is primarily considered from a philosophical perspective. According to Ricœur, we engage with the past through narrative, which in turn draws on a broad and variable repertoire of genres.Footnote 51 Ricœur compares history with narrative fiction and observes that “what is ultimately at stake in the case of the structural identity of the narrative function as well as in that of the truth claim of every narrative work, is the temporal character of human experience.”Footnote 52 Historical and fictional narrations are based on the same “configurating operations” but differ in terms of their “truth claims.”Footnote 53 It is here, I suggest, that genre comes into play. Analogously to a (written) historical text, a historical film likewise makes a truth claim, based, firstly, on making the past present so as to produce meaning in the here-and-now, and, secondly, on the referential relation to history implemented by the mise-en-histoire. Although the precise arrangement is constantly changing in the context of diverging aesthetic and narrative strategies of representation, an aesthetic practice has been established at the heart of historical films that models historical worlds and makes them available to experience. As a genre, the historical film thus comprises a process that not only visually represents history but also refigures it as an experience of a spatially and temporally organized historical world.

Histospheres also utilize semantic processes to create historical experiences, with particular filmic signifiers forming the basis for microlevel communicative processes. Pierre Sorlin suggests that the criterion for membership of the historical film genre should be the use of signifiers that allow us to date the film’s setting to a certain point in history.Footnote 54 As well as characteristic semantic elements such as “the place and time the action is set, props and costumes, characters and their behavior,”Footnote 55 iterative patterns of aesthetic design can also determine a film’s “genreness.” The faded colors in kudamm 56, for instance, do not just refer to aged photographs; they are also a standard convention of historical films that has become established primarily thanks to blockbusters such as savingprivate ryan. The historical film genre is also typified by recurring auditory patterns and aesthetics that parallel these iterative strategies of visual design.Footnote 56 Arranged in sound tableaus and soundscapes, noises and music play a key part in modeling a histosphere’s historical worlds. For instance, the gently crunching footsteps of passersby mixed with soft violin music and the voice of a woman selling candy characterize the East German town in sky withoutstars as a safe and homey place. As well as performing functions “that will apply across genres,” such as creating a sense of an environment and its spatial qualities, focusing the spectator’s attention on particular actions or events, giving information about characters’ mental states, or conveying the atmosphere of a particular time, film sound can also perform tasks specific to a given genre.Footnote 57 An important role is played not just by similarities to historical audio documents but also by historical sounds modeled by media. Cinematic sound conventions are often preferred to faithful reproduction of actual sound.Footnote 58 Sounds are sometimes even “imported” into historical films from other genres. A typical example of this is the gunshots at the start and end of skywithout stars, which are closer to the typical sound effects of 1950s Western films than the actual sound of gunfire. These amalgams of genres have the potential to increase our sense of familiarity with the historical world modeled by a film, helping to reduce the distance between the spectator and the historical past depicted on the screen. The arrangement and ordering of audiovisual elements in a histosphere reflect the syntactic levelFootnote 59 at which a sensuously available historical world is modeled and figured—one of the key hallmarks of the historical film genre.

The debates about genre discussed earlier concentrate mainly on the conventions, iconographies, plots, themes, and characters that define a genre. Against these sorts of primarily semiotic definitions, Barry Keith Grant raises the objection that it is virtually impossible to meaningfully categorize individual genre films without considering the specific type of experience we have of them.Footnote 60 The theory of the histosphere as the paradigmatic core of historical films, by contrast, is based on a phenomenological understanding of genre that explicitly includes the experience of the historical worlds constructed by film. While Grant speaks of the interdependence between film history and socio-historical processes at the time of the film’s production,Footnote 61 I am more focused on spectators’ living encounters with the films they watch.Footnote 62 Historical films, as I have shown in this study, model audiovisual figurations that simulate a spatiotemporal structure in our perceptions that not only illusorily reconstructs historical spaces but makes these spaces sensuously available as a dynamic, historical lifeworld.Footnote 63 Historical references serve to constitute a “perceptual realism”Footnote 64 that also draws on the audience’s mediatized experience of history. This process constructs a mise-en-histoire—an embedding of the film’s historical world in a historical period—that allows us to connect the histospheres constructed by films to our conceptions of history.Footnote 65 The resulting impression of an internally consistent, temporally arranged historical world goes hand in hand with a genre-specific, cinematic-historical experience of being-in-the-world-and-in-time. The design of historical films utilizes specific affective, situational, and reflective patterns. The perception of a histosphere encompasses aesthetically modeled moods and atmospheres that bring us as spectators physically and mentally closer to the action of the film.Footnote 66 As elements of intense, immersive experiences, they help make the plot into a “temporarily focused matrix”Footnote 67 of the spectator’s perception.Footnote 68 In combination with imaginative empathy with the characters, it is possible for the spectator to live the film’s simulated historical world “from within.”Footnote 69 The resulting contiguity of historical world and subjective perception evokes a feeling of being able to physically touch the past. As per Frank R. Ankersmit’s definition of historical experience, the historical film genre thus has the potential to give spectators the impression of making direct contact with past events and worlds.Footnote 70

The historical experience this evokes results in part from complex processes of memory. As fundamental elements of histospheres, embodied memories play a key role in making it possible to experience the film’s historical world as a physical reality, and add a bodily experiential dimension to the mise-en-histoire, which was initially understood solely as a reflective process.Footnote 71 The historical film could accordingly also be understood as a type of body genre.Footnote 72Histospheres draw on two complementary forms of memory; a prereflective, bodily dimension that is activated while watching a film, and a reflective, historicizing dimension that retrospectively allows the film’s historical world to be experienced as such. Histospheres are also actively involved in creating personal experiences with the potential to forge identity, in which personal and popular memories fuse together.Footnote 73 I refer to the filmic figurations that connect a film’s historical world to the spectator’s memories as reminiscence triggers.Footnote 74 The use of these triggers and the formation of prosthetic postmemorynot only enable a concrete relationship to reality, but also transform aesthetic film experience into historical experience.Footnote 75 The incorporative appropriation of filmic depictions of history prompted by synesthetic perception and embodied memories in turn enables a specific form of reflection.Footnote 76 An inner “mirroring” of the historical worlds fills the empty space between the mise-en-histoire’s historical references and the histosphere’s model-like filmic figurations with self-reflexive experiences that lend the resulting conceptions of history a living, multilayered structure. This capacity to generate historical experiences through a complex interplay of audiovisual design and film experience is the distinctive feature that marks out historical films as a genre in their own right.

Like other genres, certain social functions can be attributed to historical films. For Francesco Casetti, genre films serve a storytelling function; they help “to give the audience new stories which will join the stories or the discourses which already circulate within the social space.”Footnote 77 Against the backdrop of the social apparatus provided by historical writing, historical films help determine which narratives enter popular historical consciousness and are given particular prominence. sky withoutstars, for instance, attempts to establish the division of Germany as a central issue of the period. yearsof hunger explores the social implications of suffocating petit bourgeois life in the fledgling West Germany, while kudamm 56 focuses on the oppression of women and the yearning for freedom expressed in the rock ’n’ roll movement. At a political level, these films can be regarded as “cultural expressions” that not only have “social diagnostic value”Footnote 78 but are also always unstable sites of strategic and political significance.Footnote 79 How a historical film functions, what stories it tells, and the way in which it tells them thus also reveal something about the political circumstances and discourses at the time of its production. One common strategy for genre films to achieve contemporary relevance is to model crises and problems similar to those encountered by the spectators in their day-to-day lives.Footnote 80 These sorts of connections to and models of contemporary issues can also be found in historical films, as part of the historical worlds they construct. Whether it be the dramatically failed attempt to form a border-spanning patchwork family in skywithout stars, the unbearably narrow-minded petit bourgeois mores in yearsof hunger, or the family torn apart by the war and its political consequences in kudamm 56, genre films often deal with paradigmatic forms of private, family, and social life and project them onto generic situations and events. This ability to connect to social issues is often combined with genre film’s “bardic function”:Footnote 81 By repeatedly addressing painful conflicts and traumas, historical films help society to process the historical events and ruptures underlying them. For instance, while skywithout stars understands the division of Germany as a cruel imposition that tears families and lovers apart, in yearsof hunger and kudamm 56 the largely unquestioned and repressed legacy of National Socialism is negotiated at the microlevel of familial ties and relationships.Footnote 82 Kracauer regards this sort of modeling and mirroring as one of the main social functions of historical films.Footnote 83 On this view, the historical film genre not only serves a “ritual function”Footnote 84—nostalgically making the past present—but also actively shapes and steers ongoing social discourses.

The historical film genre is also interwoven with plurimedial iconographies and audiographies. On the basis of interactions between generic structures that cut across different media, it is possible to “observe and analyze complex (inter)medial and (inter)cultural processes of exchange.”Footnote 85 For instance, Felix Zimmermann’s study of historical experiences in recent video games proceeds from the phenomenological premise of sensuously available “historical atmospheres” (Vergangenheitsatmosphären) that extend bodily space to the space of virtual worlds.Footnote 86 Within the framework of game studies, Zimmermann is describing a very similar dimension of historical experience to that proposed for historical films by the theory of histospheres. As well as these transmedial connections between different theories, we can also consider specific plurimedial constellations at the level of representation. In kudamm 56, for instance, the portrait of Elvis on the cover of the Spiegel magazine is both a historical reference and a point of connection to pop cultural image discourses (Fig. 8.1).

Fig. 8.1
figure 1

Plurimedial constellations: Elvis on the cover of Spiegel in kudamm 56

As a news magazine, the Spiegel, for all its striving for topicality and currentness, also uses strategies of historicizing storytelling, sometimes deploying similar generic structures to historical films. Moreover, in the wake of the Spiegel affair,Footnote 87 the magazine was long regarded as a subversive publication, and this reputation is used in retrospective films like kudamm 56 to reinforce the rebellious image of certain characters. The use of plurimedial codes relating to “contemporary history and social classifications” encompasses not just the visual level but also the soundtrack.Footnote 88 The rock ’n’ roll music in kudamm 56 points far beyond purely cinematic associations. Bill Haley’s global hit “Rock Around the Clock,” which Freddy’s band plays at the wedding of Monika’s sister Helga, is presented as synonymous with the young rock ’n’ roll fans’ attitude to life. The song marked an important milestone in the plurimedial marketing of pop music, which explicitly also includes film. After “Rock Around the Clock” helpedblackboard jungle (1955; dir. Richard Brooks), a drama centered on the younger generation, to great success, a Hollywood film based around Haley’s hit was rushed into production. rock around the clock (1956; dir. Fred F. Sears) played a pivotal role in the worldwide breakthrough of rock ’n’ roll as a pop cultural phenomenon. Intermedial references like the Spiegel cover and Haley’s hit thus not only expand histospheres to include cultural and social discourses, but also embed them in a “complex social network,”Footnote 89 thereby marking out historical films as not just a genre but part of a plurimedial constellation capable of forming and constituting history. According to sociologist Manuel Castells, in today’s “network society” geographical proximity matters less than relational proximity,Footnote 90 which genres help to produce. The way in which the dominant processes and functions in plurimedial networks are organized also significantly contributes to the dissemination of films. A historical film’s potential influence will be realized “to the extent that the film is plurimedially disseminated—orally, textually, or visually.”Footnote 91 Sabine Moller infers from this that the significance and reach of a film rise in proportion to the quality of the networks in which it is embedded, and so also the probability that it will “shape collective processes of memory.”Footnote 92 Plurimedial networks thus not only play a key role in the dissemination and appropriation of individual historical films, but also contribute to the refiguration of historical consciousness.


In this chapter, I have developed a model ofincorporative appropriation of history, building on theories of the phenomenological relationship between the spectator’s body and the world. I concluded that the process of appropriation also inscribes the aesthetic parameters of a cinematic-historical way of thinking into our historical consciousness. This shapes a specific historicalfilm experience, which then in turn serves as the paradigmatic core of my proposed concept of a historical film genre.

The theories of mise-en-histoire, imaginative empathy, and prosthetic postmemory set out in the preceding chapters showed that the appropriation of historical films gives rise to a new, specifically filmic concept of history. A histosphere’s simulated historical world occupies the role of an external sphere that in the process of reception becomes part of our own inner sphere. We are able to physically experience the materiality of the simulated historical world by sensuously incorporating the underlying audiovisual figurations, thereby opening up new horizons of understanding. Individual experience blends with collective conceptions of history, making historical memory into a portable and nonessentialist good that blurs the boundaries between personal and collective memory.Footnote 93 Theincorporative appropriation of filmically constructed representations of history develops an incredible power, capable of affirming, overriding, or calling into question existing ideas of history.

The preceding chapters showed that an aesthetic practice has been established at the heart of historical films that models historical worlds and makes them available to experience. Following on from this, the second section of this chapter sketched an account of the historical film genre in which histospheres serve as the constitutive core. As a genre, I argued, the historical film comprises a communicative process that not only visually represents history but also refigures it as an experience of a spatially and temporally organized historical world. This results in an intense feeling of being-in-the-world-and-in-time. Mise-en-histoire in turn allows filmically constructed histospheres to be combined with our existing conceptions of history, referring to extra-filmic configurations of knowledge in a way that makes them immediately present to the spectator. As per Frank R. Ankersmit’s definition of historical experience, the historical film genre can thus give spectators the impression of making direct contact with the past.Footnote 94 Incorporating conventions of other genres into the construction of histospheres increases our familiarity with the filmically modeled historical worlds. The historical film genre is also interwoven with plurimedial iconographies and audiographies, giving rise to generic structures that cut across different media. On the basis of its communicative practice, the genre can be assigned certain social functions: First, historical films help determine which narratives enter popular historical consciousness and are given particular prominence. Second, by addressing painful conflicts and traumas, historical films help society to process the historical events and ruptures underlying them. Historical films thus actively shape the development of contemporary ideas and discourses of history. In combination with histospheres’ unique potential to make the depicted historical worlds physically experienceable, this gives the genre considerable power and influence.