My PhD thesis asks how the medium of film is equipped to work with architecture so that it can align it with the internal structures of psychic space. Selecting ten films which feature a woman in a relationship with her home, I examine how the architectural structures which surround these women, be they sets or real locations, are reconfigured through the filmic process into newly expressive onscreen structures imbued with meaning and shaped by emotional urgency.
I approach my subject by focusing on the material processes of filmmaking, using this understanding as a base for reflection and analysis. I look closely at how découpage, mise-en-scène, sound and editing are employed by filmmakers to reshape visible forms in outer space so that they can communicate messages to us about the invisible forms of inner space. As each filmmaking process is clarified and explored, its related critical theory is necessarily challenged and reassessed.
The tropic pairing of ‘woman + home’ is a familiar one, endlessly reiterated. Yet these filmmakers find the trope useful. It provides them with creative ammunition and provocation, and they subject it to a series of spatial renovations, manipulations and mutations. The contours of the trope may reassure us, but they also allow us to enjoy the unpredictablilty and non-linearity of the characters they purport to contain. When a woman opens a door in these films, we can never be sure what will happen. Home becomes an imaginary as well as a spatial domain.
Alongside academic research, I engaged with videographic practice as a way to understand more about how these films work. I made an audiovisual collage with found footage from all ten films, disassembling and reassembling their sounds and images into new arrangements on a digital timeline. Such work helps to unearth meaning and provides a way of experiencing more keenly resonances and dissonances that exist within and between film texts.
I built a new cinematic home for these women to inhabit. I placed them into new relationships with one another and the spectator by projecting them onto three large screens arranged horizontally and in a slight arc in a large theatre space.
By using three screens instead of one and reorganising the more familiar mechanics of centred, single-screen representation, I open out a space where characters and locations are drawn into new textual – and textural – encounters with one another. The sonic dimension contributes to this overlapping process as the soundtrack of one film teases out meaning from the visuals of another. An audiovisual ‘plaiting’ makes us aware of repetitions and comparisons, and enables variations and vibrations between worlds to occur.
I then exhibited the film – A Woman’s Place: Home in Cinema – as a three-channel video on a single screen as part of Tate Exchange at Tate Modern. The video is published online by [in]Transition, a journal dedicated to videographic exploration and research.
In this paper I discuss how this video functions as a chapter of my thesis in an alternative form. Referencing my research experience, I ask how such work precipitates the film scholar into new ways of thinking about the filmic object. To make the video, I had to perform a kind of swerve of inner attention. I explain how, rather than echo or illustrate what I had already written, I wanted to find out if there was something else I could get at or find out, elements better shown and performed than explained. Was it possible for me to make a filmic object that could demonstrate how these films work upon us, and enable the spectator to experience them in a way which was, as Catherine Grant puts it, more ‘precisely illuminating with regard to their form as films’?
In this paper I compare the work of Chantal Akerman and Georges Perec and explore their use of the dispositif as a creative restraint. Through a closer look at the way objects function, with particular reference to Jeanne Dielman, I suggest a way of regarding these objects that does not entirely accord with a symbolically weighted mise-en-scene analysis, but points instead towards what French writer Jean Cayrol calls a Concentrationary Reality which coexists with Everyday Reality, a concentrationary realm which imbues everday life with strangeness and which provides the past with a way to haunt the present.
A paper discussing the potential of videographic research to the film scholar, drawing upon personal experience and theoretical discourse in the field.
Presented at the Journeys Across Media Conference (JAM) ‘Sharing Stories’, held online and hosted by the Department of Film, Theatre & Television.
In this paper I discuss how the sonic dimension in David Miller’s 1960 Hollywood thriller Midnight Lace alerts us to an invisible emotional domain that threatens to disrupt the glamour of the visible world so assidiously constructed by the film’s mise-en-scène.
The paper was accompanied by a playful and very short ‘mash-up’ of cinematic elements, my first videographic exploration.
Presented at the Journeys Across Media Conference (JAM) ‘Worldhood and World-Making’, hosted by the Department of Film, Theatre & Television.
Article discussing this production by HamletScenen presented at the British Library in June 2016.
So here is our friar (played by actor/puppeteer Olaf Hoijgaard) after the event, pacing to and fro in his garden telling the story all over again. Only this time the warring families are played by spades and brooms, the Prince and his soliders by metal rakes and other sharp garden tools… His beloved objects play their part, allowing themselves to be moved around, passive and significant all at once…
Interview with filmmaker Genevieve Anderson and article discussing the phenomenological impact of puppets on film as found in the work of Anderson and Jan Svankmajer.
There is a moment in Genevieve Anderson’s puppet film ‘Too Loud A Solitude’ when the puppets spend their first night together. Their movements are tentative and gentle and we see their puppet bodies very clearly; the joints, the articulated arms caressing each other. No attempt is made to hide their puppet nature or put them into soft focus, to pretend they are ‘real’. While watching this scene, I experienced something surprising. I suddenly felt what it feels like to hold someone naked for the first time and what it feels like to be held - the surprise of it. This acute sensory memory was entirely unexpected and took me aback. I’ve seen far more explicit real-life sex scenes onscreen in my time, but never reacted in that way. This was a direct, carnal sensation brought up to the surface. My memory bank had been completely accessed. And all this from a couple of puppets? How could this be?