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The Still Life of Things: Intermediality and Digital Spectatorship

posted on 2023-07-26, 12:37 authored by Tina Kendall
Critical discussions of Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher have often noted the film’s tendency to suspend narrative movement in moments of tableau vivant, and its frequent mise-en-abime framings, both of which self-consciously mimic the look of paintings and photographs. Such techniques confirm film’s profound affinities with the so-called ‘static’ media of painting and photography, but also foreground what Laura Mulvey calls the ‘fundamental, and irreconcilable, opposition between stillness and movement’ that defines filmic materiality and distinguishes it from other visual arts (2006: 67). This chapter engages with some of these questions in relation to Ratcatcher’s DVD format, to look in particular at the stills gallery feature. The DVD format brings another form of visibility to the film’s wider narrative and aesthetic interest in stillness as the still-moving binary inherent in celluloid is displaced onto, and remediated by, the electronic screen. Drawing from debates about intermediality and digital spectatorship, this chapter considers how the stills gallery participates in Ratcatcher’s questioning of aesthetic polarities, challenging divisions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media. In tadem, it considers in particular the ways in which the distinctive textual properties and features of DVD – such as interactivity, electronic displays, stills galleries, commentaries, ‘making of’ featurettes, short films, and so forth – may be said to transform the experience of spectatorship and its spatial and temporal framing. By foregrounding and embracing the material hybridity and intermedial potential of both still and moving images, Ratcatcher points toward the emergence of what Laura Mulvey, D.N. Rodowick (2007), and other scholars have identified as a new ontology in which, to quote Mulvey, ‘ambivalence, impurity and uncertainty displace […] traditional oppositions’ (2006: 12). More specifically, I argue that the stills gallery feature insists on an experience of the uncanny that is given renewed importance in an era of digital spectatorship.



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Place of publication

Bristol, UK

Title of book

Framing Film: Cinema and the Visual Arts




Steven Allen, Laura Hubner


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Legacy Faculty/School/Department

ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)

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