L'art de la cruauté: mythologies filmiques contemporaines de la cruauté

Boegelein, Florence
L'art de la cruauté: mythologies filmiques contemporaines de la cruauté. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The French film critic Stéphane Delorme, in Les Cahiers du Cinéma, writes that “horror is the unexpected answer to the question: how to create myths nowadays?” (2008: 11). This quotation is the starting-point for this thesis which aims to discuss and analyse the implications of his statement that cinema is a vehicle for myths, and most specifically, for those associated with what he calls “horror”, which we have interpreted as “cruelty”. The implications of this change will be discussed in the thesis. The thesis will set out the implications of the concepts both of “cruelty” and of “myth” in a context of representation. One theoretical starting point for this research is necessarily the writings of Antonin Artaud, fundamental for analysing cruelty in a context of spectacle (theatre or film). The introduction of this thesis will explore Artaud’s writings and their relevance to cinema. This thesis is about cinema; nevertheless, to speak about cinema and cruelty, we will first study Artaud’s writings to which cruelty is the heart of a theatre that he calls “Théâtre de la Cruauté”. Artaud elaborates his ideas from theatre, and the theatre, like cinema, can be a vehicle for myths. The importance of Artaud’s theories of spectacle should explain why we will research connections between cruelty, myths and cinema initially in the light of theatre. In fact, our analysis will show that cruelty in cinema, as we will define it here, is always linked to theatricality in the way in which it creates a relation between the audience, the film and the moviemaker. We will explore its lineaments through its development in a number of key films of the 1990s/2000s. As regards myths, our objective is, firstly, to understand how cinema can give rise to modern myths, and how they form and transform themselves. We will establish not only what a myth is, but also what “the myth of cruelty” may represent nowadays, and how this contemporary myth has been represented by the moviemakers. We consider that cinema, and not specifically horror cinema, may be one specific sort of collective myth. Then, however, we will consider how cinema, surprisingly for a vehicle for myths, questions its own myths and fights them. The main part of this thesis will focus on a corpus of films which will serve to show the evidence of definable myths of cruelty in the cinema. These films are: Trouble Every Day (2001) by Claire Denis Dans Ma Peau (2002) by Marina de Van Funny Games (1997), La Pianiste (2001), Caché (2005) by Michael Haneke Medea (1988) and Dogville (2003) by Lars von Trier The concept of cruelty, and its myths, will be discussed through an analysis of physical cruelty (Trouble Every Day and Dans Ma Peau), psychological cruelty (Funny Games and La Pianiste), social cruelty (Medea, Dogville and Caché), and myths and repetitions in the cinema of cruelty. The theoretical corpus of this thesis will include, apart from Artaud, the haptic vision theorised by Laura U. Marks and its relation to cruelty, Julia Kristeva’s work on abjection, Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Blanchot on sadomasochism, but also the work of Michel Serres, Mireille Rosello and Artaud’s theory of “humour-destruction”. The most important findings of this research concern films as a possible replacement for the function of sacrifice (mythic and cruel), the dangers of overestimating this (both because the actors are not fully engaged, and because a myth of cruelty is itself dangerous) but most of all, the possibility of the films to undermine their own mythic status (a process in itself cruel, since myths are consoling) and the possible effect of substituting a state of melancholia. Obviously, the destruction of myths may imply for the audience its replacement by the counter-myth of melancolia, as much cruel. Melancholia appears to be a principle of cruelty, seen by the moviemakers, which acts on the conception of modern spectators. Lucid cruelty takes part in the construction of committed spectators; producing what we may call heroism of conscience.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2015-01-23 (completed)
Subjects: ?? PB ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2015 10:22
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:07
DOI: 10.17638/02013179
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/2013179