This article examines the relationship between the dynamic of desire/fantasy, spectatorship, and the embodiment of characters by actors in regard to film’s unique ontology of absence and imaginary presence. This complex relationship is apparent in films that challenge the classical marriage between character and actor–‘bodiless-character films’–thus refraining from satisfying the spectator’s desire to see. Bodiless-character films evince the imaginary nature of film, in Metz’s terminology, its ‘daydream’ status, while emphasizing narrative film’s role of teaching us how to keep desire alive. They demonstrate the affinity of Lacan’s definition of the role fantasy plays in the neurotic subjects with Metz’s definition of the filmic experience as daydream, as defined by Freud. In doing so, they also reveal the unconscious operation inherent in the spectator’s engagement (via inscription in the primal scene) with the dynamic of desire/fantasy, one that demands a balanced economy of it. The article focuses on Rebecca and Her to demonstrate that narrative film has the power to enhance our skills as desiring subjects without falling into the trap of attempting to answer the question of fantasy ‘What does the Other want from me?’ but with the sole purpose of engagement with a film.
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