Skill, Practice, Performance
Edited By András Benedek and Kristof Nyiri
What Does the Cinematic Background Demonstrate? Depth of Field Thinking in André Bazin. John Mullarkey
What Does the Cinematic Background Demonstrate? Depth of Field Thinking in André Bazin John Mullarkey Introduction: Bazin’s Moving Realism Beyond the merits or demerits of André Bazin’s realist aesthetic – the emphasis on depth of field optical photography and unaffected mise-en-scène, valorization of documentary over fantasy, the long-take over montage, the spectator’s de- mocratic freedom to explore film worlds, etc. – what usually strikes the con- temporary reader initially is the apparent naivety of Bazin’s ontological position: that the analogical photographic basis of film puts the viewer in “direct” contact with the physical world. The purpose of this essay is not to defend Bazin’s onto- logical realism, however, be it construed as direct, indirect, naïve, or whatever else – for there are already many others engaged in a return to Bazin and the rehabilitation of his cinematic realism (without at the same time committing it to the analogical nature of cinema), often through reference to Lacan’s notion of the Real. Plausible though this strategy is, its own reliance on Freudian psycho- dynamics makes it an odd candidate for rehabilitating Bazinian realism, given the former’s anthropocentric nature. For this, I believe, is the key to reviewing Bazin: his interest in analogical reproduction (as the scientifically objective ba- sis of filmic realism), as well as the aesthetics of the long take, depth of field photography, and non-subjective, almost democratic mise-en-scène (or “décor”), exposes an interest in the nonhuman in cinema. As Bazin himself puts it, “man in the world enjoys no...
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