Para-Formalistic Discourse and Virtual Space in Film

Para-Formalistic Discourse and Virtual Space in Film

Ian P. Stone
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2961-5.ch010
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Cinema remains current and saleable by constantly revolutionising the mode of its distribution. Film Auteurs are affected by these changes, using the contemporary “tools of their trade” to their advantage. This chapter focuses on two Auteurs’ use of digital technologies. Jean Luc Godard, one of the most innovative filmmakers of the last fifty years is a recent convert to digital film, having denounced the medium previously. Mike Figgis has been an advocate of digital filmmaking until recently, when he has been more circumspect. These filmmakers employ techniques indebted to Sergei Eisenstein and Bertholt Brecht. The “active” variant of third text understandings applied represent a “para-formalistic discourse” where the audience is made aware of the film’s artifice, projecting the audience into an ontological virtual space where they are compelled to confront conditions around them. A tentative advocacy of the digital as an aid to enhancing this experience is here advanced.
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The creation of virtual worlds in film has been a facet of cinema since its inception. As an enclosed virtual space, cinema necessarily removed the spectator-consumer from the external physical reality of the outside world. Filmmakers continue to exploit new technologies to maintain the mystique of this virtual space. Digital film is the latest of these innovations. This chapter focuses on two progressive directors who have had different initial responses to the digital, Jean Luc Godard (France, 1959-present) and Mike Figgis (UK, 1980-present). Their similarity in outlook and approach has eventually caused a convergence of sorts in their attitude to the digital via a circuitous route that takes in issues of cultural context, aesthetic preference, and political positioning. As exemplars, their work embodies continuity in film that has always grasped as presciently at the future as it has drawn selectively from the past.

A cursory analysis of Godard and Figgis’ approach to the digital suggests divergent paths. Godard expresses apparently negative comments about the digital in an interview of 2001, where he references a cautious approach to the potential manipulation of new technologies. Godard’s contention is this: “The so-called ‘digital’ medium is not a mere technical medium but a medium of thought. And when modern democracies turn technical thought into a separate domain, these modern democracies incline towards totalitarianism” (The Guardian, 10/10/2001). Nine years after this statement, Film Socialisme (2010) is Godard’s first fully digital work. As one of digital cinemas innovators, Figgis was one of its foremost advocates. Yet more recently he has stated, as evinced by icewaterpictures (2008): “Digital technology has just indicated the acceleration of the problem of cultural saturation….”

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