History as Ghost in the Films of Sophie Bredier, Claire Denis, and Chantal Akerman Open Access

Dana, Catherine (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/h128nf37h?locale=en


Ghosts are supposed to be invisible. However, ghosts become ghosts only when they are visible. In the common language, seeing a ghost is to be able to distinguish something--usually a person-- that cannot be visible in the real (a dead, most of the time). The artists I study are (or have been) confronted to something that in their lives has been hidden, concealed even and that they want to understand. Their artistic process starts with this individual quest--shown or not in their movies, but always motivated by what Jean-Paul Sartre calls "an extreme situation." Sophie Bredier, an adopted child, is looking for the reasons of her adoption in the Korea after the partition; Claire Denis has lived in colonized Africa until her adolescence and wonders what she knows of this mysterious time; Chantal Akerman's mother has been deported to Auschwitz but will not speak about it. The three filmmakers aim first to discern, and make discernable to the spectators, something that in their lives has been silenced, perhaps lost. Their films however don't stop at this point. I will argue that the work of these artists is not necessarily aimed at revealing themselves as individuals but at revealing what in their own lives have made them artists, and these artists. For this purpose, in their works, Bredier, Denis and Akerman are aiming to reveal what has been hidden, while keeping, at the same time, its hidden character. I will show that this double character of the ghost (invisible and visible) is mirrored in the artistic process: the ghost is figure and action. It has both an esthetic and ethical role. Furthermore, it is since it is an artistic figure that the ghost can be action. Indeed, the filmmakers use the intrinsic qualities of the cinema, its ghostliness, to show, bear witness and transmit what is haunting them. The ghosts are therefore what allows the private quest to become a collective one.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Other Me: Sophie Bredier's Nos traces silencieuses and Séparées 8

Amputation 10

Looking for oneself 17

Returning and revenants 21

Chapter 2 Fragmented Bodies: Claire Denis' Chocolat and Beau Travail 27

Protée, from boy to ghost 30

Moral obligation 34

From Protée to Galoup 39

Chapter 3 Story of a Void: Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman 23, quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles 46

The story of the void 51

The story of a woman

The haunted spectator 57

Second-Generations and ghosts 62

Conclusion 64

Filmography 67

Bibliography 69

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