"17. But I am eliciting these implications of Adorno's reservations about Gestalt because what they imply is what Adorno leaves unsaid here, namely the contrast with his ambitions for the constellation. I should caution here that Adorno sometimes uses the word 'constellation' to designate historically given, that is, already familiarized, ideological arrays or Gestalts [for example, Critical Models 138, 260]; my usage henceforth will connote 'constellation' in the sense Adorno valorizes, as a device with the potential to be turned, in somewhat the manner of the Brechtian V-effect, against such familiarizations (though just this dissident potential, of course, is what mid-century avant-gardists were seizing on in Gestalt). And as we'll see, the word's 'antithetical' reversals of meaning are themselves indices of the 'dialectical'-ness of Adorno's immanent critique. We might say that these 'antithetical' meanings--'constellation' as unconscious ideological synthesis versus 'constellation' as consciousness-raising estrangement; 'constellation' as object of critique, or as subject of it--are themselves a kind of constellation implying or encoding, concealing or de-familiarizing a narrative, that of the classic Enlightenment project summarized by Freud in the formula, 'making the unconscious conscious.' Adorno may 'repeat' an over-familiar constellation and then reliquify (or, Medusa-like, petrify) its 'congelations'; or he may present an unfamiliar and even shocking juxtaposition, whose estrangement is to provoke a new and heightened consciousness of the ideological condition in which we are entrapped. The historical image that results, ideological and critical all at once, appropriates the critical force we saw Adorno ascribing to the Benjaminian dialectical image, turning it, immanently, to estranging or defamiliarizing, sc. critical or (Hegel) 'negative' purposes."
(Steven Helmling, 2003)
Steven Helmling (2003). "Constellation and Critique: Adorno's Constellation, Benjamin's Dialectical Image", Postmodern Culture, Volume 14, Number 1, September 2003 | 10.1353/pmc.2003.0030
"Von Trier begins by casually rejecting a fundamental tenet of the cinema. Even the most minimalist storytellers are obliged to place their actors in a physical space: back lots and painted sets may be deliberately artificial, but they always have walls and doors. Dogville is set on a pitch black sound stage with minimal props and schematic chalk outlines on the floor in lieu of walls. (It's like watching The Phantom Menace at a nascent stage, the actors adrift against bare blue walls before the backgrounds and animation are grafted on.) Whenever the camera pulls back for a wide shot, every inhabitant of the tiny hamlet is clearly visible, miming their daily tasks in their 'houses.' At first this archly theatrical staging, with its deadpan narration, ironic chapter headings and characters knocking on non-existent doors while we hear the thumping on the soundtrack, seems to be Brechtian alienation run amok. Yet as the story grinds grimly forward the inescapability of the townspeople in each shot shifts from a clever metaphor for small town claustrophobia to a palpably oppressive reality."