David MacDougall
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The third tendency in cinema
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This chapter traces the way in which films have evolved from portraying scenes to be ‘looked at’ to strategies of making the viewer feel present within the film, to films in which the sensory world is more fully evoked and embodied. The last tendency is apparent in the composition of images and the editing dynamics of silent Soviet cinema, but it later emerged in attempts to evoke a broader range of sensations, involving touch, taste and smell. In some films the presence of the human subject is often felt in ways that seem to transcend conventional ideas of representation, as in some of the films of Bresson, Tarkovsky and Bergman. The reasons may be found in terms of ‘tactile space’ and ‘close-range’ vision as well as in a kind of shared proprioception, recently corroborated by findings in cognitive science. Such impressions may also be experienced by filmmakers in the act of filming and then be communicated in tacit ways to the viewer. Visual anthropology has been influenced by these moves through recent films attempting to create a sensory ethnography. This ‘sensory turn’ suggests the possibility of a cinema of consciousness that more fully reflects our experiences of everyday life.

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The looking machine

Essays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking


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