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Kathryn Bigelow: The Poetics of ObsessIon.

Van Raalte, C., 2021. Kathryn Bigelow: The Poetics of ObsessIon. New Review of Film and Television Studies. (In Press)

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Abstract

The work of Kathryn Bigelow is more often thannot discussed in terms of her technical and stylistic achievements. Critics have focused on her knowing experimentation with genre and aesthetics, and the way in which story-telling devices such as point of view and surveillance become the subject matter of her films. Laura Rascaroli has described her early work as ‘a discourse on vision’, while Caetlin Benson-Allott has identified the way in which the later work is dominated by a relentless, ‘slow burning’ intensityii. Relatively little has been written about her characterisation, arguably because her protagonists tend to be less than sympathetic – enigmatic to the point of illegibility and driven in ways which can be hard to fathom. Arguably, however, it is precisely their detachment and single-mindedness that makes them so watchable. What Bigelow’s protagonists – and indeed her villains – have in common is an obsessive quality that also haunts her filmmaking. In this paper I will draw connections between some common themes at the heart of her films and the aesthetic and structural strategies she employs. In particular I will explore how her use of point of view and closeup highlights her characters’ obsessive qualities; how her use of surveillance and mediated vision creates a recurring atmosphere of paranoia; how an uncanny stillness at the centre of her jumpy, frenetic camera work emphasises the single-minded focus of her protagonists; and how framing and narrative structure work with performances to create the fascinating, if at times infuriating, inscrutability that characterises so many of them. I will also look at how her rare engagement with out-and-out villains creates variations on these themes. I will thus seek to define the grammar of obsession that pervades Bigelow’s filmmaking, connecting visual language, thematic content and characterisation.

Item Type:Article
ISSN:1740-0309
Uncontrolled Keywords:Kathryn Bigelow; character; sympathy; identification; obsession; paranoia; the drive
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:35289
Deposited By: Unnamed user with email symplectic@symplectic
Deposited On:18 Mar 2021 15:02
Last Modified:27 May 2021 07:54

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