Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Arts and Humanities
Dr George Karpathakis
Dr Cathy Henkel
This creative work and its associated exegesis examines the concept of what I have termed a ‘transcendental structure’ in relation to a documentary film form, and what outcomes, specific to a non-fiction mode of representation, result from the application of this structure. A transcendental structure in film has a long history of investigation and interpretation in narrative fiction film theory and practice, but is substantially absent from documentary scholarship. The topic appears, in different forms, in the critical writings of Zavattini (1940), Bazin (1946), Pasolini (1965), Schrader (1972), Deleuze (1985), and more recently, Perez (1998) and Minghelli (2016). All of these theorists have identified a cinema of a double nature: on one level, explicit in its narrative programme and engagement, while on another level, simultaneously registering a spatial and temporal ‘beyond’ that invites an alternative experience based on a formal engagement. This aesthetic or non-narrative dimension is made perceivable through cinematic strategies that aim to interrupt or suspend the narrative flow and foreground elements external to the narrative programme. It is for this reason that landscape holds particular importance to a transcendental structure; in its physical interaction with and set-apartness from the human narrative, and through this, in its contrasting temporality to the narrative and less tangible level of registration.
This research will proceed by testing this structure through my own creative practice: a documentary feature on Fremantle’s Rajneesh sannyasin community, titled The Beloved. This is an ongoing community in Fremantle, which in the eighties, experienced a dramatic and public rise and fall as a movement. It is also a community with which I have an enduring personal relationship. This has allowed me to address not only their public history, but also the troubled memory that survives within the community. This documentary will be accompanied by the exegesis which will identify the concept of a transcendental structure within fiction film scholarship and, in the absence of critical writings that relate to this concept in documentary, will examine documentaries that are able to be discussed in these terms. The key films that I examine in the exegesis include Shoah (Lanzmann, 1985), which brings the incomprehensibility of the Holocaust into the realm of present experience by rejecting archival imagery in favour of landscapes from the concentration camps in their contemporary state; and sleep furiously (Koppel, 2008), in which the unprocessed trauma of community disintegration is registered through affect-based experience rather than the narrative or representational programme.
From the sum of this research, I argue that the interview based historical documentary is particularly suitable as a platform for a transcendental structure, and useful to historical subjects of a sensitive, troubled, and unresolved nature. The double nature of the structure, exhibited in the dissociation of the voice recounting the historical narrative from imagery of present-day settings, opens up new communicative possibilities and spaces for the contemplation and processing of incomprehensible, repressed, or traumatic experience.
Access to this thesis is restricted to the exegesis.
London, J. (2018). The Beloved: A documentary film on the history and aftermath of Fremantle’s Rajneesh sannyasin community – and – Hidden Realities: Transcendental Structures in Documentary Film: An exegesis. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2130