The Phantom Of The Cinema


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The slides used for the presentation "The Phantom of the Cinema" @ the 2nd NECS Conference, Budapest, Hungary, June 19-22, 2008.

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The Phantom Of The Cinema

  1. 1. The Phantom of the Cinema New Frames of Psychoanalytic Film Theory by Zoltán Dragon University of Szeged, Hungary
  2. 2. New frames? <ul><li>Sans Lacan… for a moment </li></ul><ul><li>Return to the beginning of the history of the cinema… for a moment </li></ul><ul><li>Shifting the focus of our attention… for a moment </li></ul><ul><li>Trauma instead of entertainment </li></ul><ul><li>Aim: provide pragmatic perspective to tackle issues of traumatic content in film </li></ul>
  3. 3. Trauma: visual & textual <ul><li>Arrival of the train </li></ul><ul><li>Whirl of imagery </li></ul><ul><li>Cinema of attractions </li></ul><ul><li>CGI </li></ul><ul><li>Visual traumatization </li></ul><ul><li>Narrative of a trauma </li></ul><ul><li>Testimonies </li></ul><ul><li>Stories which openly tackle traumatic events </li></ul><ul><li>Textual traumatization </li></ul>Both approaches  trauma theory  `obvious trauma´
  4. 4. Trauma theory & screen theory <ul><li>Susannah Radstone: 1. is there a relation bw screen media and trauma? </li></ul><ul><li>2. if so, where should Screen Studies scholarship begin its analysis of this relation? </li></ul><ul><li>3. should the focus fall primarily on narration, </li></ul><ul><li>4. or on mise-en-scéne , editing and so on? </li></ul><ul><li>5. Or does trauma make itself felt in these media in the relation bw their texts and their spectators – and if so, then how? </li></ul>
  5. 5. What is not shown or told <ul><li>Contents that are not obviously traumatic </li></ul><ul><li>Silenced parts </li></ul><ul><li>Narrative &/or visual blocks that leave gaps without apparent reference, solution, explanation within their own contexts </li></ul><ul><li>“ Threat” for the spectator </li></ul><ul><li>Not within the purview of either trauma studies or psychoanalytic film theories </li></ul>
  6. 6. Nicolas Abraham <ul><li>Phantom theory </li></ul><ul><li>transgenerational sense: it is an entity that carries unspeakable and undisclosed secrets from generation to generation. “The phantom is a formation of the unconscious that has never been conscious – for good reason. It passes … from the parent’s unconscious into the child’s.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Phantom theory <ul><li>While passing from one generation to the next, the phantom carries secrets that are the results of repressions from previous generations. Thus, in certain cases, the unspeakable secrets of a generation dwell in the unconscious of another generation without the latter’s knowing about it. </li></ul><ul><li>Becoming a witness without witnessing </li></ul>
  8. 8. Filmic medium: phantom mechanism
  9. 9. Phantom theory & film <ul><li>Phantom: language (+ image) </li></ul><ul><li>Redefinition: φάντασμα  “vision,” “spectre,”  synonym of “phantom” </li></ul><ul><li>φαυτάζετυ  “to display” </li></ul><ul><li>Phantomatic film: narrative and visual – in the sense of not showing and not telling the traumatic content – transmits it with the help of “ displaying” something in order to hide sg. else </li></ul>
  10. 10. Phantomatic example <ul><li>Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) </li></ul><ul><li>Surface structure: happinness attained following “ confession” & “ working through” </li></ul><ul><li>“ mistakes”: verbal & visual – left unexplored </li></ul><ul><li>Happy end: pacifies spectator, thus transmitting the traumatic content under its protection </li></ul>
  11. 11. Interrogative film/text <ul><li>Catherine Belsey </li></ul><ul><li>Emile Benveniste : declarative, imperative and interrogative discourses </li></ul><ul><li>declarative text : gives information to the reader; </li></ul><ul><li>imperative text: gives orders. </li></ul><ul><li>interrogative text : disrupts the unity of the reader by discouraging identification with a unified subject of the enunciation. </li></ul><ul><li>This opens a gap  invite s the reader to produce answers to the questions it implicitly raises </li></ul>
  12. 12. What is at stake? Obvious traumatic content Undisclosed traumatic content Declarative or imperative interrogative Traumatic content is tied to personal or historical context; symbolized; contained Access to / Way to symbolize traumatic content to contain and tackle it is blocked Trauma remains diegetic Trauma travels via diegetic (narrative/visual) gaps to the spectator Working-through not required Working-through (answering the interrogation of the text; filling the gap) is pivotal spectator witness
  13. 13. Spectator as witness <ul><li>Contrary to what trauma studies suggests (listener/spectator to traumatic content becomes a witness)  spactator becomes witness only if the traumatic content is concealed  otherwise it is already contained and worked through </li></ul><ul><li>Spectator’s chance: reveal NOT the trauma BUT the phantom that makes the representation work </li></ul>
  14. 14. A new frame for psychoanalytic film theory <ul><li>With the shift of focus to trauma  another shift to undisclosed trauma  combined approach involving film narratology and representation through psychoanalytic thinking  flexible frame/approach to a specific problem </li></ul><ul><li>Pragmatic, instead of analogic model </li></ul>