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Über dieses Buch

This book argues theoretically for, and exemplify through critical and historical analysis, the interrelatedness of discourses on scale, distance, identification and doubling in the cinema. It contains analyses of a wide variety of films, including Citizen Kane, The Double Life of Véronique, The Great Gatsby, Gilda, Vertigo and Wings of Desire.



Introduction: Neither Here nor There

This book argues that doubling, distance and identification in the cinema are interrelated dialectically, their linkage being encapsulated in the title of this introduction, ‘neither here nor there’. For instance, although the camera’s approach to a character seems often to involve a deepening of identification, doubling, by collapsing interiority/ exteriority distinctions, reveals the reversibility and ambiguity of both scale and identification, as what is ‘here’ is also situated ‘there’.

Paul Coates

Chapter One. Doubles and the Shadows in Plato’s Cave

If distance, identification and doubling in the cinema are interrelated, the position of the spectator is one that is ‘neither here nor there’. This chapter unpicks this tissue of themes into such thematic plies as those of projection, the Sublime, display, point-of-view and mirroring, beginning with a comparison between Walter Benjamin’s theorization of the role of reproduction in modernity with the use of doubles and dolls in E.T.A. Hoffmann. It builds upon the work performed by Marina Warner in her Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, in particular developing her references to the cinematic qualities of the Brocken spectre in De Quincey’s Suspiria De Profundis. The Benjamin/Hoffmann comparison extends into the relationship between doubling and the confounding of near-far distinctions, achieved through the handheld lens of the telescope in Hoffmann’s ‘The Sandman’ and the camera lens in Benjamin’s ‘Mechanical Reproduction’ essay. The doubling employed in Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) gives an example of explicit filmic treatment of leitmotifs of Romantic provenance.

Paul Coates

Chapter Two. Extensions of the Self

This chapter extends the previous chapter’s concern with the Romantic imagination and the double into questions of closeness and distance as they arise in modernity, with particular reference to the haptic, 3-D and the sense of taboo: of that which is close enough to touch, but whose touching may either be impossible or induce the vertigo that prevents it. The films it will consider are La Double Vie de Véronique (The Double Life of Véronique) (1991), Exotica (1994), Ararat (2002), Fa yeung nin wa (In the Mood for Love) (2000), Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac) (1924), Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (1987), and Strategia del ragno (The Spider’s Stratagem) (1970). For all their variety, they are held together by a concern with touch, distance, identification and taboo; by the question of the degree to which their central figures may become plausible extensions of the spectator’s yearning self. All display the modernist ‘oscillation between close and distant vision’ discerned in Cézanne by Jonathan Crary (Crary, 1999, p. 340). (The same applies to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, one of this book’s key texts, the rapid oscillation of its ‘vertigo-effect’ approximating both simultaneity and the dizziness occasioned by the hand’s approach to the taboo object, the fetish.)

Paul Coates

Chapter Three. Doubling, Distance and Instruments of Perception

This chapter is concerned less with doubling that is explicit, an element of image-content, than with the way instruments of scene- focalization and (dis-)colouration promote a dual consciousness: the knowledge that one both ‘is’ and ‘is not’ capable of such vision, much as Francis in Egoyan’s Exotica (1994) both ‘does’ and ‘does not’ touch. The double is implicit as the locus of a double vision. The modernist clouding of vision matches the hand’s sensing of the object’s taboo status. Various instruments, fruits of modernity, may contribute to the modernist epistemological uncertainties they also resolve, creating crises that justify their own intervention. One is the zoom lens, considered here as used in Satyajit Ray’s Charulata (1964) and Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1973). Although the zoom transports one to another place, one’s sliding arrival there creates a modernist sense that one still could be (as one still is in fact) elsewhere, only one sense having left the point of departure. With regard to Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (1987), the ‘double vision’ correlated in the previous chapter with its use of superimposition and ‘phantom hapticity’ results here from its oscillation between black-and-white and colour.

Paul Coates

Chapter Four. In and Out of the Shadows of Noir

If doubling has a home in American cinema, pitching its tent in the everyday after originating in the fantastic, it is surely film noir, that place/genre/style/cycle/mode where ambiguities and doublings, particularly those spawned by mirrors and shadows, become systematic duplicity. Its potential occupation of the underside of all American genres is intimated by its ability to slide into, and under the surface of, one after another, as not until the late 1960s — when its own defining black-and-white had become all-but inaccessible to American directors — did directors know that they were contributing to a genre called noir and not to (inter alia) ‘murder mystery’, ‘thriller’, ‘detective story’, or even ‘melodrama’ (Mildred Pierce (1945)). Its real name, perhaps hidden of necessity around and immediately after World War Two, is often seen as German, the expressionism that is also an imagistic source-book for Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), the lead film here in part for that reason. Some of the form’s examples and relatives are inspected below, early limbs of a family tree including Gilda (1946), Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Vertigo (1958), its later extension beyond black-and-white, beyond the 1940s and 1950s and beyond the USA (Suzhou he (Suzhou River) (2000) being just one of many possible examples) marking the reverberation of its model of the relations between power, freedom and eros across post-war cinema in general, Gilles Deleuze’s ‘time-image’ being as much a matter of noirish temporal dislocations and spirals as anything else.

Paul Coates

Chapter Five. Cowboys and Aliens

This chapter traces a trajectory within a genre, the Western, whose doubling is almost invariably implicit, to the point at which explicit doubling dawns — arguably, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Subsequently, the ‘final frontier’ of American consciousness moves to outer space, from legends with a real-world origin to an unabashedly fantastic base possibly chosen to preserve them from the real-world disconfirmation and critique the Western suffered in the 1960s. As the prototypical American story migrates from Monument Valley to the cosmos, it recovers the links to a 3-D aesthetic originally implicit in the Western, as the shot fired out of the screen in The Great Train Robbery (1903) violently connected screen-space with that of the auditorium; and so in Gravity (2013) the auditorium itself is populated in part by fragments of space- junk. Each genre, of course, is a story of impressive distances and their traversal, but the supplanting of the Western by science fiction may have occurred to render possible the explicit invocation of 3-D, whose glasses are a primitive form of the technology it privileges, rendering audiences themselves extensions of the film-machine.

Paul Coates


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