Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Conn Holohan
European Cinema Research Forum
In praise of error: cosmopolitan spaces in the films of Claire Denis
Edinburgh University
Conference Paper
Optional Fields
Doreen Massey’s insistence that we think of space as ‘the sphere in which distinct trajectories coexist’ (For Space, 9) would seem to situate cosmopolitanism at the core of the ‘spatial turn’ within the humanities. Her understanding of space, however, is predicated upon an acknowledgement of its properly temporal character, an admission which narrative cinema frequently works to contain. Through its narrative structure, cinema offers us spaces which are, in Ranciere’s terms ‘oriented by our will’ (Film Fables, p112), thereby warding off the threat caused by an encounter with space as uncertain and open. In other words, even when representing spaces which facilitate encounter with otherness, cinema tends to anchor us spatially and temporally through the processes of character identification and narrative. For a truly cosmopolitan cinematic space to emerge, this paper claims, requires an experience of space as ‘a multiplicity of durations’ (Massey 24) in which no single spatial or temporal perspective is allowed to dominate. Through the discussion of three Claire Denis films, Vendredi Soir (2002), 35 Shots of Rum (2008) and White Material (2009), the paper suggests two spatial ‘acts’ as key to the emergence of a cosmopolitan cinematic space: those of ‘lingering’ and taking a ‘wrong turn’. Both of these acts imply a loss of agency in the individual’s relationship to the space which she inhabits and gesture towards the contingency of all spatial relations. Focusing on the urban spaces of Paris and the postcolonial space of Africa, it argues that Denis’ films reveal the contested and collective understanding of space which emerges when incommensurate ‘durations’ are forced to coexist. The paper connects this representation of space to Fredric Jameson’s understanding of utopia as a space which brings about the ‘conflation of individual and collective time' (Archaeologies of the Future, 7).
Publication Themes
Humanities in Context