The digital apparatus: reimagining cinema in new media

2017-02-08T00:55:14Z (GMT) by Tutton, Charles Robert Heugh
This dissertation examines the notion of digital cinema in relation to its analogue predecessor by relocating debates about ontology into the realm of media theory in order to re-imagine the function of realism. The dissertation is in parts a selective history of practices in realist film, a structuralist theory of medium specificity, and a critique of digital aesthetics in recent mainstream cinema. The introduction orientates the dissertation within the current debates, both popular and scholarly, over the film-to-digital transition taking place in cinema and indicates how this dissertation departs from recent theories of intermediality and digital cinema. These debates converge on contentions around teleology, medium essence, and subjectivity. The first chapter examines the relationship of art to realism and takes the two oeuvres of Dziga Vertov and Jean Rouch as templates for identifying a persistent and developing ideology of camera-reality. This ideology forms the foundation for the thesis’s later qualification of cinema in the digital age. The second chapter posits a broadly structuralist account of media that challenges the notion of material medium essence. This chapter offers the neologism of ‘alreadiness’ to stress the immaterial underpinnings of a ‘cinema-image’ most purely informed by camera-reality. The third chapter interrogates the notion of film language within classical film theory with a view to laying down a concept of film discourse that is uniquely hermeneutical and specialises cinema without recourse to a material essence that would otherwise qualify realism. This concept of film discourse as purely hermeneutical contracts the separation of roles/subjectivities for the filmmaker and viewer. The fourth chapter investigates the historical development of illusion alongside the technological developments that saw a move from a dominating idealism to a dominating realism in pictorial representation. This chapter draws on a Bazinian notion of realism and, with regard to the changing ontologies of illusion, offers the analogy of the journey from magic to science. The fifth chapter takes the ideology of camera-reality and demonstrates how it comes to bear on percepts of illusion while also using the oeuvre of director Michael Mann to trace a development of camera-reality into the digital realm. Building on this, the sixth and final chapter critically engages digital cinematic examples that fulfill or corrupt the antecedent yet persistent immaterial cinema-image outlined in the first three chapters.