The visceral screen: Between the cinemas of John Cassavetes and David Cronenberg, a Barthesian perspective
Furze, Robert (2011) The visceral screen: Between the cinemas of John Cassavetes and David Cronenberg, a Barthesian perspective. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
Full text available as:
The thesis discusses two directors who are never considered together in academic discourse. Cassavetes’ perceived focus on events led by the dynamics of performance and his looseness of technique opposes the calculated compositions of the Cronenberg film, with its aesthetic of horrific images and its gallery of emotionally detached protagonists. Yet it is between such opposing methods of cinematic expression that the ineffable qualities of film aesthetics can be discovered. Cassavetes’ cinema achieves this by revelling in a surplus of activity that exceeds narrative, while the indescribable characteristics of the Cronenberg oeuvre is achieved through a systematic emptying of the image’s meaning through a simultaneous commitment to paring back emotion and portraying of images that are controversial and inconceivable. Taken together, the thesis identifies these aspects of film as ‘the visceral,’ a facet of the moving image that most certainly exists, but is resolutely, and disturbingly resistant to interpretation.
Roland Barthes’ writings are integral to a theory of the visceral. His re-evaluation of Saussurean semiology as a method of analyzing and undoing ideologically-imposed meanings informs readings of sequences from Cassavetes and Cronenberg’s films. Following Barthes, the thesis suggests that the existence of the visceral is realized as a resistance to ideological interpretations of the image, and so cannot be described. Ultimately, the inability of semiology to fully grasp certain aspects of the filmed image is put forward as a rejoinder to theories of the fiction film as principally a narrative medium.
Archive Staff Only: edit this record