Deathwatch: American Film, Technology, and the End of Life by C. Scott Combs

By C. Scott Combs

Whereas cinema is a medium with a distinct skill to monitor existence and write move, it really is both singular in its portrayal of loss of life. the 1st examine to unpack American cinema's lengthy heritage of representing demise, this ebook considers motion picture sequences within which the method of loss of life turns into an workout in legibility and exploration for the digicam and connects the gradual or static strategy of loss of life to formal movie innovation in the course of the 20th century.

C. Scott Combs analyzes motion pictures that reach from cinema's origins to the tip of the 20th century, attractions-based cinema, narrative motion pictures, early sound cinema, and flicks utilizing voiceover or pictures of clinical expertise. via movies corresponding to Thomas Edison's Electrocuting an Elephant (1903), D. W. Griffith's the rustic medical professional (1909), John Ford's How eco-friendly used to be My Valley (1941), Billy Wilder's sundown side road (1950), Stanley Kubrick's 2001: an area Odyssey (1968), and Clint Eastwood's Million greenback child (2004), Combs argues that the top of demise happens greater than as soon as, in additional than one place.

Working opposed to the inspiration that movie can't trap the top of lifestyles since it can't cease relocating ahead, that it can't result in the photographic fixity of the dying immediate, this ebook argues that where of loss of life in cinema is over and over in flux, wedged among technological precision and embodied conception. alongside the way in which, Combs consolidates and reconceptualizes outdated and new debates in movie idea.

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Extra resources for Deathwatch: American Film, Technology, and the End of Life (Film and Culture)

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MAXIM GORKY IN THE FIRST DECADE of their production movies took a formal interest in strategies for screening dying. Gorky’s feelings about the moving photograph’s frail vitality, his impression that screen figures seemed to inhabit a world of dead eternity, may not have missed the mark by far. From 1895 to 1905 American and European producers made good on Gorky’s suggestion that violent death would prove endemic to the medium. ”1 Where Gorky chastised readers with the specter of a Turkish impaling, American films delivered a bevy of execution scenes, imitating the techniques of the blade, the noose, the rifle, and the electric chair.

Death came to the cinema as prosthetic: one lack (the instant in time) is replaced by another lack (the perceived manifestation of that instant on one body). The beheading footage brings to mind Louis Marin’s discussion in “The Tomb of the Subject in Painting” of the depiction of St. Blaise’s martyrdom in the church of Berzé-la-Ville, in which the removed head and the raised axe are presented adjacently. ” What emerges is an interest in the process of dying, a visible trajectory that elaborates on the quick fix.

11 The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots certainly recalls these previous hallmarks of visual culture—crowners, guillotine, and magic. But focusing on the substitution splice, we already see that the cinema could kill by intervening in its own unique way. Unlike magic shows and earlier beheadings, Mary’s death was not produced within the presence of the spectator, nor did it result from a known act of demonstration. For that matter the theatrical renditions of Mary’s life (and there are many from this period) could choose to omit her onstage beheading.

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