Monday, June 4, 2007

The Cinema of Working Through

Freud's postulation that reality itself is a minor trauma and that every apprehension of a piece of reality is a minor victory gives resonance to the play on "realization" available in film, especially in French, where direction is realisation. Two films that explore this play especially thoroughly are Kieslowski's Blue and Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life. In the former, Julie (Juliette Binoche) evades contact with her loss of her husband (a composer) and their child in a car accident, until eventually she literally composes herself by "finishing" her husband's last score (which she might actually have written herself in the first place). "Realization" has the secondary meaning of filling in an unfinished work, rhyming her effort with Kieslowski's as director. Photographs also develop and expose, a a process that the film compares to pregnancy. In Kore-eda's After Life, recently deceased protagonists work through their own deaths by choosing single moments from their lives to eternally return; after completing this process, it's said, they can "move on." They enact affirmation by participating in film projects that realize the moments cinematically. The protagonists are a mixture of professional actors and actual people reminiscing about their lives; in other words, some are actually going through the process depicted in the film of having personal memories realized by a film crew. Kore-eda's many interviews with actual and fictive people are staged in an analytic frame, in which a stationary camera positioned in front of a particular chair and table (above) regards equally each person's responses to an invisible interlocutor-therapist. In these films, the camera is a kind of instant realization machine, and the activation of its mechanism a form of minimal consent. To film something is to say it occurred, not in a documentary sense but in the sense of psychic reality--I filmed this, I "realized" it, something happened or will have happened there for me--but the problem is that film only affirms the present or the present that is about to become the past (cf. Barthes's Camera Lucida). So re-enactment (scripting) is necessary to reflect the past, and the partiality of that past itself represents the loss that is being worked through. The loss is there with the trace of the past, in fact what's mostly filmed when such a script is realized is the loss all around the trace, and the substitute for it which is the re-enactment: the script, the film is just the little bit of substance (hyle) to hang the loss on and make it visible.

Thanks again to irrecoverable Working Through, Spring 2005. More to come.

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