This article offers an in-depth analysis of 2010 British film The Arbor by Clio Barnard. The director’s debut feature is a groundbreaking work dedicated to the lives of playwright Andrea Dunbar and her eldest daughter Lorraine. Dunbar grew up in the Buttershaw Estate in Bradford and drew on her own experiences to write her first play The Arbor at the age of 15, followed by Rita, Sue and Bob Too!. She struggled with alcoholism and died of a brain haemorrhage in 1990, at the age of 29. Lorraine’s life followed down a difficult path as she became a drug addict and was jailed for manslaughter for causing the death of her two-year old child by gross neglect. My aim is to explore how the film combines different media, namely theatre, television and radio, in a cinematic experience defined by multiple registers and multiple voices, and how this structure works towards creating as much as conserving individual and collective memories, highlighting the fictional nature of memories. This leads to a reflection on the lip-synching technique, employed as the main vehicle for memory in the film, which provokes as much empathy and compassion as it does critical thinking, thus turning Brecht’s binary equation reason-emotion in its head.
Drawing on Brigitte Peucker’s question – “in cinematic experience, what promotes the impression of reality, and when does medium awareness come into play?” – I examine how Sokurov’s family trilogy constitutes a certain oscillation between the immediate and the constructed. The films under discussion connect with the sensual, physical-biological and socio-political reality, while, simultaneously, they emphasize the artificial and stylised. Mother and Son employs distancing painterly images which deemphasise the figures of the characters while it finishes with the extreme close-up exploring the skin as a raw material used to construct image with its varied colours and textures. Father and Son, on the other hand, enters the dialogue with medicine; through the employment of haptic images and medical appropriations, the film focuses on the sensual along with the biological dimension of the body. Set within a clear socio-political context, Alexandra explores the senses which are not readily available in cinema, that is touch and smell, and thus emphasises the trace of the physical presence on screen. This paper demonstrates how Sokurov’s family trilogy situates itself on the intersection of the Bolter and Grusin’s “desire for immediacy” with the mediated and remediated.
Drawing on the application of C. S. Peirce’s notion of indexicality, this paper argues that iterative imaging technologies modulate the manner in which moving images represent reality and determine how they are traced back to that referent. Rather than subscribing to the canonical divergence between analogue and digital technologies, the paper argues that current moving image theories do not sufficiently acknowledge the granularity of technology when describing indexical relationships between moving images and the reality they represent. Despite a shared use of analogue technologies, film’s technique of fixing a full frame of movement to a momentarily static strip of light-sensitive celluloid or Mylar is profoundly different from analogue video’s parsing of the image frame to its constituent parts and then recording this signal to continuously moving tape or broadcasting the resulting images. These are particularities of technique and technology, not easily ranked in terms of verisimilitude. The paper concludes that despite a widely accepted indexical analogue/digital divide, the indexical status of analogue video is no different to that of digital video images because both consist of discrete and non-continuous picture elements.
The representation of other arts in cinema can be regarded as a different semiotic system revealing what is hidden in the narrative, as a site of cultural meanings inherent to the cinematic apparatus addressing a pensive spectator, or a discourse on cinema born in the space of intermediality. In the post-1989 films of Romanian director Lucian Pintilie, painterly and sculptural references, as well as miniatures become figurations of cultural identity inside allegories about a society torn between East and West. I argue that art references are liberating these films from provincialism by transforming them into a discourse lamenting over the loss of Western, Christian and local values, endangered or forgotten in the post-communist era. In the films under analysis – An Unforgettable Summer (1994), Too Late (1996) and Tertium Non Datur (2006) – images reminding of Byzantine iconography, together with direct references and remediations of sculptures by Romanian-born Constantin Brâncuşi, participate in historico-political allegories as expressions of social crisis and the transient nature of values. They also reveal the tension between an external and internal image of Romania, the aspiration of the “other Europe” to connect with the European cultural tradition, in a complex demonstration of a “self-othering” process. I will also argue that, contrary to the existing criticism, this generalizing, allegorical tendency can also be detected in some of the films of the generation of filmmakers representing the New Romanian Cinema, for example in Radu Jude’s Aferim! (2015).
The paper surveys two modes of representation present in contemporary Hungarian and Romanian cinema, namely magic realism and minimalist realism, as two ways of rendering the “real” in the Central Eastern European geocultural context. New Hungarian Film tends to display narratives that share the features of what is generally assumed as being magic realist, accompanied by a high degree of stylization, while New Romanian Cinema is more attracted to creating austere, micro-realistic universes. The paper argues that albeit apparently being forking modes of representation that traverse distinct routes, magic realism and minimalist realism share a set of common elements and, what this study especially focuses on, converge in the preference for the tableau aesthetic. The paper examines the role of tableau compositions and tableaux vivants in representative films of the Young Hungarian Film and the Romanian New Wave, namely Szabolcs Hajdu’s Bibliothèque Pascal (2010) and Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (După dealuri, 2012). An excessive use of the tableau can be detected in both films, with many thematic connections, in subtle interwovenness with female identiy and corporeality performed as a site of traumatic experiences, upon which (institutional, colonial) power relations are reinscribed. The tableau as a figuration of intermediality performs the tension between the sensation of the “real” and its reframed image, and proves especially suitable for mediating between low-key realism and highly stylized forms.
Operating self-sufficiently on the fringes of the Japanese film industry for almost his entire career, the work of independent filmmaker Tsukamoto Shinya is perhaps best-known for its uncompromising, musical freneticism, as well as its corporeal spectacle. However, Tsukamoto’s dynamic clashing of visual media signifiers, such as those of theatre and television (industries within which he also operated prior to his film career during the 1980s), and how these impact upon his reflexive cinematic style, has yet to be fully considered. Drawing on Laura Mulvey’s conception of the ‘uncanny’ in response to cinema’s potential to confuse animate and inanimate, as well as Tsukamoto’s own under-discussed background in experimental street theatre and television advertising production, this essay seeks to examine Tsukamoto’s unique method of stop motion photography within his signature, self-produced feature Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). The intention is to show that these hyperbolic sequences instil not only an uncanniness in their live-action subjects, who are rendered inanimate then reanimated to form staccato, cyborg characters, but also a ‘medial uncanny’ that simultaneously emulates and subverts the qualities of a vast range of visual media, particularly television and its associated post-medial peripherals and artefacts.
In The Lady and the Duke (2001), Eric Rohmer provides an unusual and “conservative” account of the French Revolution by recurring to classical and yet “revolutionary” means. The interpolation between painting and film produces a visual surface which pursues a paradoxical effect of immediacy and verisimilitude. At the same time though, it underscores the represented nature of the images in a complex dynamic of “reality effect” and critical meta-discourse. The aim of this paper is the analysis of the main discursive strategies deployed by the film to disclose an intermedial effectiveness in the light of its original digital aesthetics. Furthermore, it focuses on the problematic relationship between image and reality, deliberately addressed by Rohmer through the dichotomy simulation/illusion. Finally, drawing on the works of Louis Marin, it deals with the representation of history and the related ideology, in order to point out the film’s paradoxical nature, caught in an undecidability between past and present.
The paper discusses the question of media reflexivity and allegorical figuration in Lucian Pintilie’s 1992 film, The Oak. Through a fictional narrative, the film reflects on the communist period from the historical context of the post-1989 transition strongly marked by the after-effects of dictatorship and by political, social and economic instability. By incorporating a diegetic Polaroid camera and a home movie, The Oak displays a reflexive preoccupation with the mediality and the socio-cultural constructedness of the image. The figurative, allegorizing tendency of the film – manifest in the subversive recontextualization of grand narratives, iconographic codes or images of art history – also foregrounds the question of cultural mediation. I argue that by displaying the non-transparency of the cinematic image and the cultural mediatedness of the “real,” the media-reflexive and allegorical-figurative discourse of the film can be regarded as a critical historical response to the social and representational crises linked to the communist era, but at the same time it may be symptomatic of the social, cultural, political anxieties of post-1989 transition.
Through films such as Tony Manero (2008), Santiago 73, Post Mortem (2010), and No (2012), the productions of Chilean director Pablo Larraín have focused on the historical and political themes that marked the last decades in the life of his country: the putsch against Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. This paper analyses the last film of the trilogy, dedicated to the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite and the communication battle between supporters of the “Yes” and “No” sides. Why does Larraín identify the copywriter René Saavedra as the main character of the film? And why does the film accord such importance to the advertising campaign in recounting the historical reality of democratic transition? How does the fictional film remediate the archival footage of the 1988 campaign? To answer these questions, this paper investigates the film as an audiovisual form of interpretation of historical events and film montage as an intermedial “authentication” of the archival documents relating to this traumatic past.