Abstracts

Professor Stephen Frosh, Birkbeck College, University of London

Psychoanalytic Soundings: The Case of The Dybbuk

There is a complex relationship between gaze and voice in both psychoanalysis and cinema; in both domains the former, gaze, has usually won out over the latter, voice. This paper briefly considers how this happens and in particular suggests that what Mladen Dolar names as the ‘acousmatic’ voice – the ‘voice one cannot place’ – can be understood as highlighting a deep anxiety, that of possession. This is illustrated through a hopelessly schematic description of Michał Waszyński’s (1937) film of The Dybbuk, a film that is ghostly in its own right; it is an instance of aural haunting, with some agonising peculiarities.

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Professor Luke Hockley, University of Bedfordshire

Somatic Cinema: The relationship between body and screen – a Jungian perspective.

To date, phenomenological film theory has had little time for psychoanalysis.  As a theoretical orientation it has no interest in, nor need for, a concept of the unconscious.  Yet it is precisely this aspect of psychotherapy-thinking that proves to be of great help in coming to an understanding of the emotional power of films, and how our bodies encode our emotional responses.  This talk weaves in-between the consulting room and film theory – both psychoanalytic and phenomenological.  In it I will explore how our unconscious and our felt responses to films are instrumental in the meanings that we find and negotiate, and how such meanings form part of the phenomenology of the cinematic experience.   Throughout I will reflect on the ways that clients talk about films in psychotherapy and in turn see how that informs our understanding of films more generally.

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Professor John Izod, University of Stirling

 Ogni Pensiero Vola

“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons.” (Carl Jung, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS, 1961)

 The Tree of Life touches on embodiment of the soul in an early sequence covering courtship, marriage and the first pregnancy of a young couple, Mr and Mrs O’Brien. Blithesome in its glancing, minimalist visual style, these lustrous scenes are saturated by a gorgeous, exquisitely Mozartian andante. The music’s delicate formality culminates in and blesses a vision: approaching full term, Mrs O’Brien treads gently along a river’s edge summoning infant souls luminous in white linen. Marie-Louise von Franz notes that, for its transparency and delicacy, this fabric has a long history in myths as a textile belonging to the realm of the spirits. ‘Linen has to do with fate, with destiny, with the feminine’ (1999: 68). And, Terrence Malick will show, with shrouding the dead.

In the film, the mother-to-be opens a minute book of life to one of the souls, preparing his entry through the iron gates that open on embodied life. The new arrival will pass through the gaping maw of a hellish ogre, its menacing inscription warning that all thoughts fly from those who take this journey. The infant soul rises up through the river from his underwater home. Mrs O’Brien gives birth to her first son Jack.

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Professor Vicky Lebeau, University of Sussex

The arts of living: D.W. Winnicott in the visual field

‘“Wouldn’t it be awful,”’ confides one of D.W. Winnicott’s patients in the course of her analysis with him, ‘“if the child looked into the mirror and saw nothing!’” This essay begins in this image, using it to explore the potential of Winnicott’s thinking – in particular, ‘Mirror-role of Mother and Family in Child Development’, first published in 1967 – to renew the dialogue between psychoanalysis and studies in visual culture. What idea of looking – of perception, of image – is at stake when a child looks in the mirror and sees nothing? What happens to the encounter between psychoanalysis and visual culture if we put the emphasis not on the concepts of fetishism and voyeurism, of suture and the gaze – concepts central to psychoanalytic film theory since the 1970s – but on that ‘nothing’: blankness, emptiness, non-presence as an aspect of the visual field?

In 1967, Winnicott’s patient is also reading Jacques Lacan and looking at paintings by Francis Bacon. Deeply engaged by the coincidence between her concerns and his own, Winnicott forges one of his most sustained reflections on the mirroring role of the mother: notably, his influential claim that ‘the precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face’. Tracing Winnicott’s extraordinary attention to the forms of visualization between infant and mother that bring the self into the world, this essay will explore both the exchange between psychoanalysis and the visual arts in ‘Mirror-role of the Mother and Family’ and the significance of Winnicott’s psychoanalysis to an understanding of looking as one of the ‘arts of living’ in the contemporary world. It will be central to the argument of this essay that Winnicott is engaged with the ties between mother and baby as one of the basic structures of the visual field. Equally I want to explore the significance of the fact that, in the course of uncovering that structure, Winnicott also invites us to consider psychoanalysis not, or not only, as a practice of interpretation but as ‘a complex derivative of the face’. Read in the context of Winnicott’s concepts of handling and holding, this is a claim with the potential to introduce a major shift in the uses of psychoanalysis as a mode of interpretation – crudely, a quest for meaning – in the humanities.

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Dr Agnieszka Piotrowska, University of Bedfordshire

Transference Love in Intra-Filmic Encounter in Documentary Film

My monograph deals with the embodied relationship between the documentary filmmaker and the subject of her film: I claim that far from it being in some way ‘a discourse of sobriety’ (Nichols 2001) similar to science, a documentary is a deeply subjective text. Under certain circumstances unconscious but powerful mechanisms known from the clinic, notably ‘transference-love’ will be taking place in that encounter.  These will have significant impact on the film created as well as its ethics. In the book I claim therefore that the intra-film relationship might impact the final text and thus the spectator.

In this paper I will present briefly the notion of ‘transference-love’ which I interrogate in one of the chapters of my book, not through the film which was shown on television (The conman with 14 Wives (2006) but through our email correspondence.  In this presentation I will show the clips from the film and present the notion of ‘transference-love’ in documentary.

I will also then apply the notion of ‘transference-love’ to a different film entirely made by a Cambodian filmmaker Thet Sambath and a British director Robert Lemkin.  This material, which is not in the book, will demonstrate that ‘transference-love’ in an intra-filmic encounter can take place in a most unusual circumstance.  In this one, the filmmaker is in fact a child of the victims of Khmer Rouge and Nuon Cha whom he interviews is one of the engineers of the atrocities.

Despite this a strong emotion bond develops between the two, far outside the what might rationally be expected.

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Professor Emma Wilson, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Catherine Breillat and ‘L’Origine du monde’

One of the works in Nan Goldin’s 2011 installation, Scopophilia, shows four different, sequential photographic views of Courbet’s 1866 painting L’Origine du monde. Her images offer a sensuous, haptic, cinematic take on the iconic image as she plays out a shift in perception. The abundant hair, flesh, and white sheets are seen at different levels of closeness. The images are partly screened by a sheen that covers their surface, a pattern of moisture, misting, a play of light. Goldin’s sequence returns a hesitation and intimacy to the painted image, offering an illusion of liveness, feeling vision, sensitivity and reciprocity. I draw Goldin’s project into contact with close-up images of the vulva in Catherine Breillat’s Romance X (1999) and Anatomie de l’enfer (2004) in order to reflect on the ways women artists and filmmakers reimagine, and draw us to feel differently, this site of origin, pictorial and fleshy. Laura Mulvey’s work on scopophilia (1975), and her subsequent consideration of the stillness hidden in the moving image (2006), identifies the stilling, the petrification of the image, in particular in the cinematic close-up fragment. Breillat, through and beyond a pictorial aesthetic, seeks to expose us to images that are intimate, proximate, prehensile, moving. Through their liveness, their texture, Breillat’s images appeal to a form of embodied, participatory, involuntary viewing close to that theorized by Vivian Sobchack (2004) or Jennifer Barker (2009), yet drawing attention to the psychic and bodily demands of such immersive practices. Breillat, like Goldin who finds movement, shift, in the icon, draws us to see the vulva as never stilled, as instead living, moving, felt, disarming.

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