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.

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