Medium 9781782204787

Critical Flicker Fusion

Views: 475
Ratings: (0)

The premise of this book is that films, like other works of the imagination, may be elucidated by applying methods derived from psychoanalysis, and that doing so will result in a deeper and richer appreciation of the film's meaning. The book explores a number of feature films that lend themselves particularly well to this process. Both in his introduction and throughout the text, the author comments on the method and discusses continuities, similarities and differences among the films. The book is structured according to the central themes of the films, including time and death, love and lust, secrets, and human identity. Some of the films are relevant to more than one of these thematic elements. The introductory essay explores the themes, their representation in the films, and the ways in which they may be elucidated by a psychoanalytically informed critique. Brief paragraphs between the sections of the book facilitate the transitions.In an appendix, there are three essays titled 'Mise-en-scene,' 'Whatever Flames Upon the Night,' and 'Mad Doctors.' They are relevant to the similarities among movies, dreams and clinical psychoanalysis. From divergent perspectives, they discuss the ways in which acts of representation are fundamentally transgressive and thereby affect alterations in consciousness for those who witness them.

List price: $24.99

Your Price: $19.99

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

9 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

Chapter One: Secrets

ePub

Every work of drama is driven by secrets. They are the source of suspense in all detective stories and of pathos and compassion in high tragedy. The vast domain of narrative that lies between those two genres—detective stories and high tragedy—is also impelled by unknowns that must be discovered. Of the films discussed here, Notes on a Scandal (Eyre, 2007), The Conversation (Coppola, 1974), and the two episodes of The Sopranos (Chase, 2000) are most illustrative of such unknowns.

Barbara and Sheba, the protagonists of Notes on a Scandal share the secret that Sheba is sexually involved with Steven, her student. But Barbara also maintains and lives in a secret world that she entrusts only to her journals. After Barbara has coerced from Sheba a pledge to discontinue the affair with Steven, Sheba keeps her meetings with him secret. Beneath these, however, are unconscious secrets related to anxiety about aging and death that remain inaccessible to the two women even as they incite their aberrant behavior.

 

Chapter Two: Time and Death

ePub

“Depend on it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” The quotation is from Samuel Johnson, The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. Vol. 3 (Boswell, 1872, p. 167). It underscores the urgency and highly charged tone of human behavior under the acute awareness of imminent endings. It is this atmosphere that is breathed by the characters in Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964), Up in the Air (Reitman, 2009), and Tunes of Glory (Kennaway, 1956).

A remarkable phenomenon depicted in Dr. Strangelove is the repression and suppression of consequences by the major characters. Their actions have led to the inevitable destruction of the world, yet they behave as though their lives will go on. The character of Dr. Strangelove, himself, epitomizes this almost casual evasion of awareness. In the face of nuclear holocaust, he assumes the perspective of a cheerful futurologist whose vision is fixed on the situation that will follow the end. He shares this proclivity with all fundamentalists who so easily renounce the manifest world for a place in the next one: eschatology is the province of the damning and the damned.

 

Chapter Three: Love and Lust

ePub

The four films I have grouped under the heading “Love and lust”, depict a spectrum that includes limerence, perversion, romance, stalking, affection, delusion, obsession, seduction, reverence, the myriad permutations of these and other variants of desire. They explore these states from the positions of their subjects and objects, but, more pointedly, in consideration of the projective and introjective processes that reverberate between them.

For example, the couple in An Affair of Love (Fonteyne, 1999a), initially strangers, meet for the purpose of enacting a perverse fantasy. They soon discover that their projections interfere with this endeavor. The results of projection and introjection are even more remarkable in Certified Copy (Kiarostami, 2010), which develops entirely according to the characters’ unstable expectations of each other, with scarcely any attention to external conditions. Of the four films, Talk to Her (Almodóvar, 2002) departs most radically in representing the convolutions of desire by focusing on relations in which one of the two partners is comatose. This situation enables projection and introjection to become the sole relational vehicles.

 

Chapter Four: Human Identity

ePub

The encomiums to those we admire, particularly psychoanalysts, frequently emphasize their “humanity.” Used often, and in widely diverse contexts, the word has been divested of a reliable set of connotations. It is usually intended to describe the ways and degrees to which the person bends or breaks rules or conventions in order to convey warmth or closeness to patients or supervisees. Accordingly, when we try to determine what is the essence of humanity, we are confounded by such tacit definitions as these.

The people who made the films I have placed in the category “Human identity” struggle to determine necessary and sufficient qualities that would qualify a creature for inclusion under that rubric. Blade Runner casts a net in which postmodern primates are caught along with Replicants, presumed to be machines. They are both mortal. That is, they will both die, the primates over the course of a human life expectancy, and the Replicants in four years. It is the condensed life span of the Replicants and their close kinship with their flesh and blood counterparts that render the essential tragedy of existence intelligible and meaningful.

 

Chapter Five: Conclusion: Critical Flicker Fusion

ePub

I have appropriated the title of my book from psychophysics, where it is defined in various complex ways but is essentially the frequency at which a light must flash to be seen by an observer as continuous. It is the principle behind cinema, which is nothing more than the serial presentation of many still pictures at a speed sufficient to make them appear to be a moving image. Taken separately, however, the words serve to underscore my authorial intentions. I do, indeed, assume the role of critic in each of the essays about a particular film. My rendition of the role is weighted heavily towards appreciation. That is, I like and admire the films I have written about and only rarely call attention to defects or flaws in them. In fact, I freely acknowledge that my enthusiasm for almost all these films tends to diminish any capacity or inclination I might have to see their weaknesses. Doubtless, I am much biased to conceive the task of criticism as the enhancement of understanding, appreciation, and pleasure.

 

Appendices: Introduction

ePub

The three appendices are relevant to the similarities among films, dreams, and clinical psychoanalysis. The reader may find these comparisons and contrasts useful in thinking about the films I have discussed and my psychoanalytic approach to them.

 

Appendix I: Mise-en-Scène: Session, Film, Dream

ePub

Explication of texts has been conducted by diverse cultures and professions for thousands of years, as has the explication of images. The explication of moving images, though more recent, was prefigured in the interpretation of dreams, an ancient practice, and later, of theater. Psychoanalysts have applied the skills and knowledge necessary to discover meaning in verbal, postural, gestural, narrative, and pictorial human behavior, to the study of films. Among the earliest but still most frequent of such applications are attempts to analyze characters in films as though they were people or patients. Another use of psychoanalytic principles has been in attempts to elucidate the personality of the director or auteur of a particular film or oeuvre.

My intention in this section will be to discover convergent and discriminant elements in the processes of experiencing, understanding, and using psychoanalytic sessions, the dreams that may be a feature of them, and films. The term mise-en-scène in my title is a way of describing the unique synthesis of visual, verbal, auditory, and kinetic elements that must be taken into account by any exploration of meaning.

 

Appendix II: Whatever Flames Upon the Night

ePub

All representation derives ultimately from the hallucination by which the infant tries to restore the primordial experience of oneness or merger that preceded the first separation. All subsequent representation bears the indelible stamp of this prototype, either quite visibly or under camouflage. The hallucination is a memory trace raised to the status of a percept. When it fails, as it must, to restore this original or ur-state, its eidetic qualities recede; it becomes only a memory. But it also becomes the prototype for all further representation as well as the seed of the phenomenon we call transference.

The principal goal of representation is to preserve pleasurable experiences, as when people take snapshots of vacations, parties, births, etc. Technology has enabled an impressive expansion of the methods for preservation. This can be described along a continuum that would begin with the memory trace, and proceed sequentially through drawing, painting, sculpture, writing, photography, and moving pictures, to virtual reality devices. The continuum shows a trend towards ever more accurate and detailed reproduction because its aim is nothing less than the reinstatement of the original. Witness the movement to increasingly punctilious verisimilitude in film-making that hijacks all the frame's visual space, leaving little room for the creative perception of the viewer.

 

Appendix III: Mad Doctors

ePub

“There are some things, Professor, that man was not meant to know.” Variations on this line are spoken in almost every film in which the explorations of a “mad” doctor, scientist, etc. transgress the imaginary border between the realms of legitimate inquiry and domains considered taboo or forbidden. An older colleague, who represents the views of respectable science, usually speaks the line. His judgment is a statement of the norms and standards of society in the field of science and, as such, is a product of the civilized conscience or superego. It stands as a warning to the few investigators in any age whose imagination and audacity take them beyond what is considered to be true and accepted. The idea is one of the oldest and most tantalizing in the Western tradition, beginning with the account of Eve's temptation in the Book of Genesis. According to the Biblical story, Eve is tempted by the serpent (Devil) to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, thus acquiring access to the criteria for distinguishing good from evil. From this auspicious beginning, the theme of diabolic temptation radiates through the folklore, legends, and literature of the world.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
BPE0000185918
Isbn
9781781816912
File size
489 KB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata