The paper proposes to focus on the multiple affordances and intermedial aesthetic of the cinematic tableau seen as a performative space resulting in the impression of watching a painting, a theatre stage, a shop window, a diorama, or a photo-filmic installation in which the play between stillness and motion is accompanied by a reflexive emphasis on media and the senses. Such images, described extensively by David Bordwell in his writings on the evolution of film style, are being re-evaluated through debates on the “tableau form,” “absorption and theatricality” in modern art and photography (e.g. Jean-François Chevrier, Michael Fried). In particular, the aim of this paper is to examine inflections of the cinematic tableau in the films of three contemporary European authors, Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania), Roy Andersson (Sweden) and Joanna Hogg (UK), and relate them to the paradigm of the Dutch interior established in seventeenth-century painting.
Derek Jarman was a multifaceted artist whose intermedial versatility reinforces a strong authorial discourse. He constructs an immersive allegorical world of hybrid art where different layers of cinematic, theatrical and painterly materials come together to convey a lyrical form and express a powerful ideological message. In Caravaggio (1986) and Edward II (1991), Jarman approaches two European historical figures from two different but concomitant perspectives. In Caravaggio, through the use of tableaux of abstract meaning and by focusing on the detailing of the models’ poses, Jarman re-enacts the allegorical spirit of Caravaggio’s paintings through entirely cinematic resources. Edward II was a king, and as a statesman he possessed a certain dose of showmanship. In this film Jarman reconstructs the theatrical basis of Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan play bringing it up to date in a successfully abstract approach to the musical stage. In this article, I intend to conjoin the practice of allegory in film with certain notions of existential phenomenology as advocated by Vivian Sobchack and Laura U. Marks, in order to address the relationship between the corporeality of the film and the lived bodies of the spectators. In this context, the allegory is a means to convey intradiegetically the sense-ability at play in the cinematic experience, reinforcing the textural and sensual nature of both film and viewer, which, in turn, is also materially enhanced in the film proper, touching the spectator in a supplementary fashion. The two corporealities favour an inter-artistic immersion achieved through coenaesthesia.
Peter Greenaway’s cinema questions the numerical, verbal and pictorial determinations of sets and systems. Two or one, even or odd? (Twelve drawings or ‒ thirteen?) Is two, as a stabilization of symmetry, undermined by decompositions in time and space that defy any possible reduction to sub-binaries? This latter question is reserved mainly for A Zed and Two Noughts (1985), though it is anticipated in Vertical Features Remake (1978) and especially The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982), which I will treat as a response to both questions at once. The plot of this film, with its riderless horses and lack of an heir, raises the question Lévi-Strauss raised in the most influential exposition of structuralism we have, The Structural Study of Myth. Two or one? Are we born of parents or are we autochthonous? Lévi-Strauss’s reading of the Oedipus myth is an allegory of structuralism itself: are intelligible signs born from the differentiation of two other signs (binaries) or do they arise parthenogenetically, as “natural signs,” from the autonomous self-identity of what they represent? On the other hand, in the dissolution of identity we see in the body of Mr. Herbert raised from the moat, are there appearances that dissolve identity altogether? The paper will show how the overdetermined frame and its symmetries (the stationary camera, the draughtsman’s viewfinder and grid, the “framing” of Mr. Neville, etc.) are confirmed and disconfirmed by invasions of the frame, and the ways in which drawing, painting, and landscaping both “fix on paper” and disrupt the offspring or sterility of twinning.
The paper focuses on a characteristic of Andrzej Zulawski’s aesthetics which has been ignored by most of the critics who emphasized the impact of surrealism and the taste for provocation in his cinema. Meanwhile, the œuvre’s French period is obviously characterized by self-reflexivity and media-reflexivity, autobiographical and literary background references. In these film dramas, the topic of love, beauty and artistic values are interconnected with a sophisticated narrative strategy using intermediality and intertextuality in a complex way. In Fidelity (La Fidelité, 2000), Żuławski put photography and literature in focus again in order to express thoughts and emotions in their complexity, surpassing the limitations of the linear narrative. A certain semiotic double-codedness is provided by either intertextual references or the hidden meanings based on the symbolic language of flowers, used as diegetic metaphors. Moreover, Żuławski thematizes photography that makes us conscious of our experiences from an aesthetic distance, even in an ironic manner.
Although Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) has been the subject of numerous critical examinations, the unique manner in which the film’s reverse-chronological dramaturgy interweaves the spectators’ cognitive-analytical attempts to ensure causal-linear coherency together with a corporal-affective sensation of temporal loss remains underexplored. This I believe is due to the inability of prevalent narratological terms of cutting across the current divide and uniting on the same conceptual plane the cinematic spheres of the cognitive-analytical, evaluative, and interpretative, on the one hand, with the visceral, haptic, and sensory-affective, on the other hand. As an attempt to carve out a conceptual ground where these key facets of the cinematic experience can be unified in a nonhierarchical and nonreductive manner, I propose an embodied reconceptualization of the cognitive-formalist concept of the fabula. In order to do so, however, it is necessary to dispute a series of dominant assumptions about cinematic spectatorship and narrative comprehension that automatically come with this narratological concept.
Among the various connotations of intermediality one is related to the performative aspect of the term. As Ágnes Pethő (2011, 42) formulates: “Intermediality is seen, more often than not, as something that actively ‘does,’ ‘performs’ something, and not merely ‘is.’” This notion of intermediality implies a dynamic category within which media constellations are in continuous motion, being reconfigured by one another, the cinematic medium becoming a playground of media interactions. András Jeles, Hungarian experimental filmmaker formulates the paradox that a particular medium can best express its own mediality through the “foreign” material of other arts and media. The medial consonances and dissonances transform the cinematic medium into a liminal space where meaning as event can take shape. Jeles’s film entitled Parallel Lives (Senkiföldje, 1993) is aimed at such event-like liminality in several respects: culturally, it turns towards a burdened site of the still unprocessed past of the Hungarian society; thematically, it addresses the topic of the Holocaust; and medially, it proposes to artistically render the unrepresentable. The film appeals to the other arts, incorporating a set of literary, painterly and musical allusions that contrast a culturally aestheticized view of the child in pain with the ultimate, inescapable and incommensurable reality.
This article re-engages with existing scholarship identifying Deep Red (Profondo rosso, 1975) as a typical example within Dario Argento’s body of work, in which the Italian horror-meister fully explores a distinguishing pairing of the acoustic and the iconic through an effective combination of elaborate camerawork and disjunctive music and sound. Specifically, this article seeks to complement these studies by arguing that such a stylistic and technical achievement in the film is also rendered by Argento’s use of a specific art-historical repertoire, which not only reiterates the Gesamtkunstwerk-like complexity of the director’s audiovisual spectacle, but also serves to transpose the film’s narrative over a metanarrative plane through pictorial techniques and their possible interpretations. The purpose of this article is, thus, twofold. Firstly, I shall discuss how Argento’s references to American Hyperrealism in painting are integrated into Deep Red’s spectacles of death through colour, framing, and lighting, as well as the extent to which such references allow us to undertake a more in-depth analysis of the director’s style in terms of referentiality and cinematic intermediality. Secondly, I will demonstrate how and to what extent in the film Argento manages to break down the epistemological system of knowledge and to disrupt the reasonable order of traditional storytelling through the technique of the trompe-l’oeil in painting.
Live-action bodies traverse digitally-constructed and digitized spaces in Lech Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross (Młyn i krzyż, 2011). Majewski, a Polish artist who has worked across media, imagines his film as an animation of the world represented in Pieter Bruegel’s painting, The Procession to Calvary. His unprecedented blending of real and painted bodies, spaces, and worlds in The Mill and the Cross draws attention to the necessity of acknowledging space and movement in contemporary approaches to embodied spectatorial experience. This essay considers how the film imagines and treats its space(s) and the relations it establishes between the film-as-text, painting-as-text, and the museal space that traditionally contains painting-but also, with increasing frequency, cinema. It proposes a reframing of the terms of discussion in intermediality, shifting from painting/cinema to installation/cinema. Finally, it explores a long-neglected notion of art and its space (and the possibility of inhabiting that space) as they (re-)emerge in contemporary expanded cinema.
In the last decades, moving images have become a common feature not only in art museums, but also in a wide range of institutions devoted to the conservation and transmission of memory. This paper focuses on the role of audio-visuals in the exhibition design of history and memory museums, arguing that they are privileged means to achieve the spectacular effects and the visitors’ emotional and “experiential” engagement that constitute the main objective of contemporary museums. I will discuss this topic through the concept of “cinematic attraction,” claiming that when embedded in displays, films and moving images often produce spectacular mises en scène with immersive effects, creating wonder and astonishment, and involving visitors on an emotional, visceral and physical level. Moreover, I will consider the diffusion of audio-visual witnesses of real or imaginary historical characters, presented in Phantasmagoria-like displays that simulate ghostly and uncanny apparitions, creating an ambiguous and often problematic coexistence of truth and illusion, subjectivity and objectivity, facts and imagination.
The description and interpretation of the visual composition of a film is crucial in understanding the effects of moving images and their specific role in the contemporary context of intermediality. The phenomenological approach, based on the precise depiction of the lived perceptual experience and its integration in the process of interpretation, offers a powerful tool for critical analysis. Although this theoretical framework opens up many different approaches, in this paper I will focus on Merleau-Pontyʼs phenomenological account of perception and on the viewer experience described by Vivian Sobchack with the self-contradictory term “a filmʼs body.” After studying this concept and its role in film analysis, as used by Sobchack, based on the term double-sided and fissured experience the paper offers an alternative approach which, compared to the earlier ones, seems to be more fruitful in understanding the act of vision and the embodied viewer experience constructed by a moving picture. The last part of the paper demonstrates, through the example of Paul Thomas Andersonʼs The Master (2012), how crucial the embodied viewer experience can be in the understanding of moving images. The analysis of the visual system of this film will show how the main problem of the whole story is re-created, re-presented in the visually triggered bodily experience of the viewer.