Previous thinking on Holocaust cinema has emphasised the senses of vision or touch as a means of transmitting traumatic memory, thus implying a certain ethical framework. This presentation argues for a theoretical reorientation toward listening and sound in Holocaust cinema studies and, with it, a revised ethical model. Specifically, this paper examines the relationship between traumatic memory and ‘acousmatic’ sound (sound that is heard but its source is unseen) in the film Remember (Atom Egoyan, 2015). There is an illuminating parallel between acousmatic sound, whose progenitor Pierre Schaeffer claims is neither touchable nor seeable, and the ‘unrepresentablity’ of traumatic Holocaust memory, as espoused by Elie Wiesel or Claude Lanzmann, for example. My argument builds upon existing research on Remember’s relationship to Holocaust memory about the ageing body and the transition to a post-witness era. However, going further, I want to suggest that the film’s acousmatic soundscapes augur an ethics of listening distinct from approaches such as Marianne Hirsch’s sense memory or Shoshana Felman’s testimonial voice. While Hirsch and Felman privilege the media of celluloid photography or witness testimony as a means of transmitting memory, recent Holocaust films in the digital era promote a sonic, bodily empathy that confuse binaries of the corporeal and cerebral, ‘external’ and ‘internal’.
Thursday 2 April 2020
5:15 pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema
Thursday 6 February, G34, ArtsOne, 5:15pm
‘My brother, Jamie, has a profound learning disability. Despite being close to nonverbal, he demonstrates charisma, a sharp sense of humour and emotional sensitivity. I team up with my parents to discuss what it is like caring for someone with Down syndrome. We piece together fragments of insight to gain a sense of his inner life, but our differing perspectives reveal as much about our own subjectivity as they do Jamie’s.
‘We rarely see portrayals of the diverse, ordinary lives of people who have Down syndrome. Much of what we hear instead is based on a medical narrative. As prenatal screening tests improve, the birth-rate of people with Down has fallen. I believe people should be able to base life-changing decisions on accurate information. But I also feel that a diagnosis does not reflect my brother’s human worth. This film attempts to complement the medical narrative with first-hand stories of what it is like to have someone with Down syndrome in your family. Jamie has enriched our lives, and I believe a society can be measured by its capacity to nurture those who are most vulnerable.’
Image used with permission of the Cinema Museum.
‘Jill Craigie was a filmmaker who was often described in press in the late 1940s as Britain’s only woman director. A socialist and feminist, her films addressed pressing contemporary social issues including postwar reconstruction, housing, equal pay and nationalisation. Facing constant struggles with film distribution and a restrictive climate for women in the film industry, in the 1950s Craigie moved into scriptwriting, journalism and television – later writing Daughters of Dissent, her (never published) magnum opus on the women’s suffrage movement.’
Queen Mary alumna Hollie Price is a Research Fellow on the AHRC-funded Jill Craigie: Film Pioneer research project and is based in the School of Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex. She will be presenting on the project’s work in progress, screening part of the first draft of a new biographical documentary about Craigie’s life and diverse career in the film industry and beyond, which is being directed by project PI Lizzie Thynne and is due for release next year.
Wednesday, 11 December, 5:15pm, ArtsOne, G34
‘Postwar Hollywood films often centred on ‘wanderers’, characters who were specifically ‘trying to leave behind the tensions of a modern world for the clarity of another place’ (Polan 1986: 264-265). While most of these filmic wanderers escape to real world locations, the choice to set the site of escape in an impossible fantastic realm allows the whole of the film to function much in the way of dream sequences, deeply focused on revealing inner desires and seeking to subvert dominant Hollywood narratives. Fantasy settings allow more space to explore deeper issues, with the action unfolding in realms not bound to the normal rules of reality. These films grapple with ideas of national loyalty and the effects of an American life. The fantasy realm acts as a sort of mirror world to America, exposing hidden anxieties and exaggerating tensions through the distortion of the real world. Instead of a tight focus on the desires of one character (as in dream sequences), we can pull back for richer interpretations of various aspects of society. In Brigadoon, this will materialise in a contrast between the practised masquerade of gender displayed by the modern outsiders with the more natural, fluid identities of the villagers. Modern masculinity is presented as an unnatural mask, standing as a stark contrast to the pastoral masculinity untouched by corruptive postwar influences. The visitors must learn to throw off this false masculinity or else be banished from the utopian Brigadoon forever.’
Thursday, 21 November, 5:15pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema
‘My project investigates recent American Independent cinema and its critical engagement with marginalisation in neoliberal society. I will argue that films like Winter’s Bone (2008), Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) and Leave No Trace (2018) through a meticulous focus on destitute, seemingly lawless rural landscapes and precarious communities seek to highlight the deprivations caused by neoliberal policies. At the same time, however, they attempt to position their imagined communities as sites of possible cooperative alternatives. While focussing on images of poverty and scarcity, the films to different degrees also suggest a fluidity of hierarchical structures and an opening-up of totalising nationalist narratives in the liminal spaces they depict.’
Thursday, 24 October, 5:15 pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema
Join us for our annual Film Studies MA Showcase on 19 June at 4 PM in the Hitchcock Cinema. Current MA students will be giving work-in-progress presentations on their dissertations and inviting feedback to help shape their research. Presenters will include:
Christian Dymond: ‘A View of Things to Come: Contemporary Experimental Cinema and Non-anthropocentrism’
Christopher Iles: ‘Adorno, Chaplin and the utopian impulse of farce’
Samantha Landau: ‘The Evolution of Battle Realism in War Films from WWI to Contemporary Times’
‘The first part of this presentation is a brief condensation of the main ideas raised in the introduction to my thesis. ‘The oneiric imagination’ encapsulates the intimate, holistic relationship between waking and dreaming phenomena—the dreamlike nature of the imagination. In order the set up my ideas, I take a look at a few examples of how the film–dream analogy has been imagined in the past, and how certain theorists have tended to view the relationship between film and the inner processes of the mind. My own research posits a close interrelationship between what is considered ‘dreamlike’ and what is considered ‘poetic’, a harmony which is enacted not only in subjective experience but also in filmic expression. In the second part of this presentation, I will look at how Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light illuminates the qualities of the oneiric imagination. The film employs dreamlike and poetic motifs that embolden its core political message.’
The presentation will be followed by a discussion with Dr. Adam Plummer about the viva process.
Wednesday, 20 March, 5:15 pm, ArtsOne G34
‘The towering genre of musical film during the classical Hollywood years was a space dedicated to telling white stories. While this is true of all genres of the era, the musical liberally utilised music and choreography from non-white communities, making the erasure of marginalised peoples from the screen all the more egregious. In the modern era, there has been a focus on increasing the representation of minorities with awareness campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite. However, contemporary musical films outside of biopics have been resistant to embracing diverse stories, aligning themselves with the entrenched white history of the genre by spotlighting white stories through black music while using minority people as background dressing. While the musical film remains conservatively tied to a bygone era, the genre on television has been quietly championing diversity for decades. From the multiracial casts of the Disney produced made-for-TV musicals in the 1990s to minority actors performing central roles in musical series like Smash (2012-2013) and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019), television has become a space for non-white stories to thrive. This paper will examine the musical genre across the two mediums, considering why there exists such a gap in minority representation between film and television.’
Wednesday, 13 February, 5:15 pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema
Join us for end-of-the semester festivities! Dr. Ashvin Devasundaram will be presenting ‘New Indian Indies: Reverberations of a Cinematic Revolution’. We will continue the merrymaking afterwards with the department holiday party.
Thursday, 13 December, 6 pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema.
‘Between 1943 and 1947 the British studio Gainsborough Pictures produced a series of films that found commercial success in departing from the social realist subject matter that had, in the main, characterised British cinema during the early year of the war. The Gainsborough melodramas employed glamorous stars, elaborate costumes and sets, and escapist romantic storylines, to appeal to their predominately female audiences, and they paid unusual attention to female desire and female subjectivity.
Madonna of the Seven Moons, released early in 1945, occupies a central position in this series of films. In this paper, I explore how the film appropriates elements of contemporary psychoanalytic discourse that surrounded ideas of childhood trauma and schizophrenia. I examine how the film mobilizes these discourses as a means of interrogating and categorizing as pathological the transgressive and problematic sexuality of its main character, Maddalena, as how it therefore seeks to establish an ordering mechanism for its polarized ideological world-view.’
Thursday, 22 November, 6:00 pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema.