The post-mortem image: Peter Greenaway's documentary Death in the Seine and writing the history of a corpse
Author: Bertolini, C. David
Source: Studies in Documentary Film, Volume 1, Number 3, December 2007 , pp. 279-295(17)
Abstract:This article explores Peter Greenaway's film, Death in the Seine, as a relationship between the act of documentation, the document in-itself, and the implicit conflict between reality, memories and records. The film documents events during post-revolution France through the observations by two mortuary attendants named Bouille and Daude whose notes list those who drowned in the Seine. The facts that comprise the film come from the work of the historian Richard Cobb who painstakingly researched the contents of the eighteenth-century French mortuary log. Death in the Seine relies on actual facts, but simultaneously questions the viability of their truth-claims. The truth-claims reflect an emerging conflict between history and the fragile objective technologies used to document and organize events. I demonstrate how the film directly challenges truth-claims through the medium of remembering writing, filming and recollection and to understand their implications I will examine them through the lens of Slavoj iek, Jacques Lacan and Gilles Deleuze. I will situate what I call the post-mortem image (the image of the immediate dead) within the broader context of the social-symbolic network of documentation.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Louisiana State University.
Publication date: December 2007
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