Visceral material: cinematic bodies on screen
This thesis investigates cinema’s attempts to engage in a dialogue with the trace of the physical body. My concern is with the on-screen presentation of the body rather than its treatment as a representation of gender, sexuality, race, age, or class. I examine specifically The Elephant Man (Lynch, 1980), Crash (Cronenberg, 1996), Attenberg (Tsangari, 2010), Taxidermia (Pálfi, 2006), and Sokurov’s family trilogy (Mother and Son, 1997; Father and Son, 2003; and Alexandra, 2007). The recurring tropes in these seven films include references to the medical gaze (both objective and objectifying) and haptic visuality which privileges sensual, close engagement with the image of the material object. I consider the medical and the haptic as metaphors for depictions of the body in cinema. To develop my analysis, I draw on the works of Michel Foucault, Laura U. Marks and Vivian Sobchack amongst others. I conclude that the discussed films, preoccupied with images of corporeal forms, criticise cinema’s conventional treatment of the body as simply a vessel for a goal-driven character and portray bodies which appear to consciousness in their own right.
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