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  • Author: Judit Pieldner x
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A Melancholy Journey through Landscapes of Transience
W. G. Sebald: The Rings of Saturn

Abstract

Saturn is the planet of melancholy, about which Walter Benjamin writes: “I came into the world under the sign of Saturn - the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays.” W. G. Sebald’s prose poetics seems to be driven by this motion, which is more than a simple state of being: it is a way of perceiving the world as well as a way of writing, perpetual transition, walk, halt, deviation from the road, getting lost and finding the way back. The paper reflects on W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (Die Ringe des Saturn: Eine englische Wallfahrt, 1995], a unique literary achievement deeply embedded into the history of literature, culture and the arts, which can be best construed from the direction of “the order of melancholy.” On the pages of the book the reader can traverse, together with the Sebald-narrator, a route in East Anglia, with digressions in various directions of (culture) history. The journey in the concrete physical space turns into an inner journey, into a spiritual pilgrimage; the traversed locations become documents of destruction and transience. From the perspective of the order of melancholy places are determined by their relations, temporality and role in history rather than by their concrete geographic coordinates. The infinitely rich construction of the narrative creates a continuous passage between the local and the universal, the concrete locations of the journey and the scenes of world history, between the time of the journey and the (colonial] past, between East and West. The traversed historical, cultural and medial spaces displace the perception of human existence and result in the incommensurable aesthetic experience of the Sebaldian prose.

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Performing the Unspeakable. Intermedial Events in András Jeles’s Parallel Lives

Abstract

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.

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History, Cultural Memory and Intermediality in Radu Jude’s Aferim!

Abstract

A historical drama that can be interpreted at the juncture of theoretical discourses (heritage film, auteur film), genres (historical film, western, road movie) and representational modes (connecting to, but subverting the master narrative of Romanian historical cinema), Radu Jude’s Aferim! (2015) has attracted the attention of the international public by the unique response that it gives to the tradition of representation of the (Romanian) historical past. Its unmatched character even within New Romanian Cinema can be attributed to the fact that it does not focus on tensions of the post-communist condition or their antecedents in the recent communist past; instead, it goes back in history to a much earlier period, to the Romanian ancien régime, after the Ottoman occupation and before the abolition of Gypsy slavery, only to point at the historical roots of current social problems. Through its ingenuous (inter)medial solutions (black-and-white film, with an implied media-archaeological purport; period mise en scène but with an assumed artificiality and constructedness; a simple linear plot infused with a dense dialogue in archaic Romanian, drawn from a multitude of literary and historical sources; a sweeping panorama of 19th-century Wallachian society presented in a succession of tableau compositions), Radu Jude’s ironical-critical collage defetishizes the traditional historical iconography and debunks the mythical national imaginary, unveiling the traumatic history of an ethnic and racial mix.1

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Remediating Past Images. The Temporality of “Found Footage” in Gábor Bódy’s American Torso

Abstract

Along Laura U. Marks’s thoughts on the “disappearing image” as embodied experience, the article proposes to bring into discussion particular modes of occurrence of “past images,” whether in form of the use of archival/found footage or of creating visual archaisms in the spirit of archival recordings, within the practice of the Hungarian experimental film making of the 1970s and 1980s, more speciflcally, in Gábor Bódy’s films. The return to archival/found footage as well as the production of visual archaisms reveal an attempt of remediation (Bolter and Grusin) that goes beyond the cultural responsibility of preservation: it confronts the film medium with its materiality, historicity, and temporality, and creates productive tensions between the private and the historical, between the pre-cinematic and the texture of motion pictures, between the documentary value of the image and its rhetorical dimension. The paper argues that the authenticity of the moving image in Gábor Bódy’s American Torso (Amerikai anzix, 1975) is achieved through a special combination of the immediacy and the hypermediacy of experience. Bódy’s interest in “past images” goes beyond the intention of experimentation with the medium; it is aimed at a profound, reconsidered archaeology of the image and a distinct sensing of the cinema.

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Narrative Discourse, Memory and the Experience of Travel in W. G. Sebald’s Vertigo

Abstract

Sebald’s first prose work, entitled Vertigo (Schwindel. Gefühle, 1990) is perhaps the most intriguing in terms of the absence of clear-cut links between the four narrative segments: “Beyle; or Love is a Madness Most Discrete,” “All’estero,” “Dr. K Takes the Waters at Riva” and “Il ritorno in patria.” Beyle, i.e. Stendhal, Dr. K, i.e. Kafka, and the first-person narrator of the two quasi-autobiographical parts, are three subjects living in distinct times and places, whose journeys and experiences coalesce into a Sebaldian puzzle to solve, challenging the most varied interpretive terms and discourses, from the Freudian uncanny, through intertextuality (Kristeva) and the indexicality of photography (Barthes, Sontag), to the working of cultural memory (Assmann) and the non-places of what Marc Augé calls hypermodernity. By trying to disclose the discursive strategies of a profoundly elusive and highly complex narrative, the article is aimed at pointing out the rhetorical and textual connections lying at the heart of Sebald’s floating way of writing, heralding a vertiginous oeuvre, an unsettling literary journey.1

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Representations of Female Alterity in Contemporary Hungarian and Romanian

Abstract

The present study carries out a comparative/contrastive analysis of two ways of contemporary Hungarian and Romanian film discourse, namely magic realism and micro-realism, and will focus on the representation of the woman in the contemporary films entitled Witch Circle (Dezső Zsigmond, 2009),exploring a subversive female mythologem of a confined traditional community, that of the Csángó people, Bibliothéque Pascal (Szabolcs Hajdú, 2010),which creates a private mythology, materialised in form of surrealist images, of the female self interpreting herself out of her conditions, and Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu, 2012), drawing its topic from a real event -reality generating fiction-that inspired Tatiana Niculescu Bran’s Deadly Confession [Spovedanie la Tanacu), Judges’ Book [Cartea Judecătorilor), as well as Zsolt Láng's The Monasteryr of Protection (Az oltalom kolostora). Beyond dealing with related female patterns, the films imder discussion are engaged in mediating collective and private mental representations, as well as in creating film narratives with the convergent feature of juxtaposing the real and the mythical. The films approach the topic from distinct possibilities of cinematic representation and offer, in my view, a complementary and intercultural image of the woman trapped between the East and the West, between social and religious institutions and victimised by the stereotypical view of society.

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Interpretation – Artistic Reproduction – Translatability. Theoretical Queries

Abstract

Along Wolfgang Iser’s considerations-formulated in his work entitled The Range of Interpretation-we can speak about translation whenever a shift of levels/registers takes place. Literary interpretation is essentially an act of translation. As Iser points out, the register to which interpretation translates always depends on the subject matter that is translated. Translation does not repeat its subject matter, making it redundant, but transposes it into another register while the subject matter itself is also tailored by the interpretive register. The presentation aims to discuss the question of translatability in relation to the hermeneutical concept of application, and proposes to rethink the issue of change of the medium of artistic expression in the light of the concept of artistic reproduction as posited by Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics in his seminal work Truth and Method.

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Magic Realism, Minimalist Realism and the Figuration of the Tableau in Contemporary Hungarian and Romanian Cinema

Abstract

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.1

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From Paragone to Symbiosis. Sensations of In-Betweenness in Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson

Abstract

Sally Potter’s The Tango Lesson (1997), an homage to the Argentine tango, situated in-between autobiography and fiction, creates multiple passages between art and life, the corporeal and the spiritual, emotional involvement and professional detachment. The romance story of filmmaker Sally Potter and dancer Pablo Verón is also readable as an allegory of interart relations, a dialogue of the gaze and the image, a process evolving from paragone to symbiosis. Relying on the strategies of dancefilm elaborated by Erin Brannigan (2011), the paper examines the intermedial relationship between film and dance in their cine-choreographic entanglement. Across scenes overflowing with passion, the film’s haptic imagery is reinforced by the black-and-white photographic image and culminates in a tableau moment that foregrounds the manifold sensations of in-betweenness and feeling of “otherness” that the protagonists experience, caught in-between languages, cultures, and arts.1

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The Camera in House Arrest. Tactics of Non-Cinema in Jafar Panahi’s Films

Abstract

In close intratextual connection with earlier pieces of Jafar Panahi’s oeuvre, pre-eminently The Mirror (Ayneh, 1997) and Offside (2006), his recent films made in illegality, including This Is Not a Film (In film nist, Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011), Closed Curtain (Pardeh, Jafar Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi, 2013) and Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi, 2015), reformulate the relationship between cinema and the “real,” defying the limitations of filmmaking in astounding ways. The paper addresses the issue of non-cinema, pertaining to those instances of cinematic “impurity” in which “the medium disregards its own limits in order to politically interfere with the other arts and life itself” (Nagib 2016, 132). Panahi’s overtly confrontational (non-)cinematic discourse is an eminent example of “accented cinema” (Naficy 2001). His artisanal and secret use of the camera in deterritorialized conditions and extreme limitations as regards profilmic space – house arrest, fake taxi interior – gives way for multilayered reflexivity, incorporating non-actorial presence, performative self-filming and theatricality as subversive gestures, with a special emphasis on the off-screen and remediated video-orality performed in front of, or directly addressed to the camera. The paper explores the ways in which the filmmaker’s tactics become powerful gestures of “politicized immediacy” (Naficy 2001, 6) that call for the (inter)medial as an also indispensably political act ((Schröter 2010).

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