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Documentary Time

Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology

Malin Wahlberg
Volume: 21
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Documentary Time
    Book Description:

    Finding the theoretical space where cinema and philosophy meet, Malin Wahlberg’s sophisticated approach to the experience of documentary film aligns with attempts to reconsider the premises of existential phenomenology. Wahlberg discusses a corpus of classical and recent experiments in film and video in which creative approaches to the time of the image and the potential archive memory of filmic representation illuminates meanings of temporality and time experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5654-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    Jacques Aumont once suggested that any approach to cinema and temporality should involve an initial choice between two possible perspectives: (a) the created space-time of the image or (b) the time of film viewing. The latter corresponds to the fact that images are viewed during a certain period of time and that, to be appreciated, they require the spectator’s gaze. The temporal status of an image depends on a viewer’s attention and, therefore, on the duration of contemplation. Aumont argues that we have to distinguish between these two axes of image-time and experienced time.¹ Theocular timespent watching a...

  5. Part I Framing Change, Invoking the Moment

    • 1 The Phenomenology of Image and Time
      (pp. 3-21)

      In documentary theory the phenomenology of the image as imprint and record fuses with the classical index argument, which has commonly been associated with the ascribed veracity of documentary representation. Hence, the trace status of photography and film represents a crucial problem in the ongoing discussion on film and historical representation. More recently, various approaches to the aesthetics and experience of documentary film have dealt with classical issues of image and time, including an important recognition of the affective and psychological impact of documentary representation in film and media. In this context the phenomenology of image and time corresponds with...

    • 2 The Time-Image and the Trace
      (pp. 22-43)

      To grasp the paradox of instant and flux in moving images could be compared to the vain attempt in philosophy to locate the instant within the flow of consciousness. Identifying the paradoxical instant is therefore a problem where the phenomenology of time meets with classical attempts to specify the ontology of cinema. Attempts at identifying this paradoxical instant have resulted in describing both film in analogy with human perception and film in analogy with machine perception beyond and independent of the subject. In this chapter I will depart from the point of intersection between phenomenology and cinema, which illuminates the...

    • 3 Frame-Breaking Events and Motifs beyond Representation
      (pp. 44-60)

      The following sections will focus on the time-image and the trace as events of defamiliarization or visceral chock, consequently upsetting both film viewing and any presumed analogy between the phenomenology of cinema and the phenomenology of time experience. Maurice Merleau-Ponty implicitly confronted the issue as he stressed the sociocultural dimension of spectator expectation. He argued that a stylistic anomaly of film form is not something immanent to experience.¹ One may add that, however exceptional a stylistic anomaly, the film should not be isolated from the cultural and social context and standards in reference to which the film was made. Time...

  6. Part II Experimental Figures of Time

    • 4 The Interval and Pulse Beat of Rhythm
      (pp. 63-78)

      InIntroductionI suggested that rhythm represents a problem of special importance for the conception of the moving image as screen event. Rhythm stands out as a classical problem in aesthetic theory and most notably in relation to the temporal arts of music, dance, and theater, where it represents an element of importance for the overall expressive structure. Also, rhythm plays a decisive role in the audience’s affective response to the performance. In moving images and film narration a literal aspect oftime measurementis added by the immanent relation between photogram and cinegram and by the metric composition of...

    • 5 Screen Events of Velocity and Duration
      (pp. 79-100)

      From the perspective of existential phenomenology it is interesting to note how the reflection on film and temporality has been biased toward duration and continuity, at the expense of rhythm, change, and repetition. For example, André Bazin was primarily interested in cinematic duration and the quality of lived time that may result from the tension between change and stasis within a single take. The inheritance of existential phenomenology in the work of Bazin and others includes a romantic recognition of the human gesture—a confidence in cinema to transmit directly the experience traced in faces and gestures. For example, Maurice...

    • 6 Telling Signs of Loss: Beginnings of Possible Stories
      (pp. 101-117)

      For André Bazin, as for Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Roland Barthes, the trace is always a traceofsomething; the image cannot automatically turn into a sign effect. With reference toCamera LucidaI stressed the semiotic dimension of Barthes’s photo-trace, that is, the importance of extratextual knowledge, the animation through which the image may turn into a trace of the past. Aside from the possibility of novels and film narratives to thematically and symbolically explore the relations between history, memory, and imagination, narration in moving pictures has the means to explore the temporal and mnemonic contingency of photographs,...

    • 7 The Trace in Contemporary Media
      (pp. 118-144)

      This chapter considers some examples that radically question the phenomenology of the trace. I will acknowledge representations and media contexts beyond photography and film or narratives that involve a critical reflection on the production and reproduction of public memory in moving images. I stress the thematic persistence of the trace in documentary, while at the same time reflecting on the limitations of the phenomenological discourse in relation to contemporary media. At this point it is also relevant to acknowledge an important theme in Ricœur’s reassessment of the philosophy of memory: the possibility of the erroneous memory and the fact that...

  7. Documentary Time: An Afterword
    (pp. 145-150)

    Image and time represent a pristine problem of classical film theory and film aesthetics, which has primarily been associated with assertions regarding the physical medium of cinema and qualities of film as a visual art. The purpose of this book was to reconsider these issues from the perspective of documentary cinema and account for the inheritance of existential phenomenology in classical film theory. Consequently, a reassessment of cinematic temporality in early film criticism and in experimental filmmaking brought attention to the historical persistence of phenomenological themes in film theory and visual culture. Moreover, the aim of this metatheoretical outline was...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 151-164)
  9. Index
    (pp. 165-170)