Haunted screens and spiritual scenes: film as a medium in the cinema of Carl Theodor Dreyer

Harrison, Rebecca (2009). Haunted screens and spiritual scenes: film as a medium in the cinema of Carl Theodor Dreyer. Scandinavica, 48(1) pp. 31–43.

URL: https://www.scandinavica.net/article/17335-haunted...

Abstract

In exploring the nature of cinematic self-reflexivity, this article investigates the relationship between the medium of film and Dreyer’s interest in the spiritual and religious experience. It draws upon Freud’s concept of the ‘Uncanny’ to determine the boundaries of cinematic space and time in relation to the transience of life and death, as represented on screen.
Drawing on recent reconsiderations of the ontology of film, including Laura Mulvey’s Death 24x a Second (2006) and Mary Ann Doane’s The Emergence of Cinematic Time (2002), as well as classic texts by Bazin and Cavell on the nature of the photographic image, the article discusses the self-reflexive gestures in Dreyer’s cinema towards the indexical marking of the film stock, its exposure and projection, and its investment in the tension between stillness and movement. In particular, it is argued that those moments when the materiality of the medium is rendered most tangible explore the threshold between life and death, between the animate and inanimate, in, for example, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1927), Vampyr (1932) and, most crucially, Ordet (1955).

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