Matricide, indexicality and abstraction in Chantal Akerman's News from Home and L-bas
Author: Mamula, Tijana
Source: Studies in French Cinema, Volume 8, Number 3, September 2008 , pp. 265-275(11)
Abstract:Much writing on Chantal Akerman's cinema concurs that her aesthetics often present a marked conflict between the literal/indexical and symbolic registers. Assuming this stance as my point of departure, I expand on it with reference to a theory of exilic/displaced film-making largely based on the psychoanalysis of Julia Kristeva. The core of this framework rests on Kristeva's interpretation of melancholia and the parallels in psychic effect and symbolic capacity she draws between this and the uncanny strangeness of encountering foreignness: both witness the denial and/or reification of the linguistic signifier, and an increased reliance on semiotic as opposed to symbolic signification. Agreeing that such signifiance is also present in the indexical signification of the photograph or film frame, I assert that cinematic indexicality provides a necessary access to the construction of meaning for the displaced/depressed to whom the symbolic signification of language has become meaningless. Yet if displacement typically results in an overinvestment in visuality, it is also problematically accompanied by a rejection of vision: pointing, in Kristevan terms, to an ultimate unwillingness to enact the matricide necessary for signification. In this sense, News from Home enacts the desire to symbolize both the encounter with an Other reality (New York City) and the archaic loss of the maternal Thing (or the home that has come to represent it), whilst asserting the ultimate unrepresentability/unsignifyability of either. 30 years later, the attempted return to Israel explored in L-bas inverts the trajectory and provides an overt formulation of what News from Home had structurally and formally implied.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of London.
Publication date: September 23, 2008
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