Sunday, December 8, 2013

spectral cinema

At Residual Noise, James Riley argues for A Field In England as a hauntological film

That makes two, then - with Berberian Sound Studio as the other. Not quite a movement, and one integer short of a trend according to the old journalistic rule. But significant.

The H-connection is clear because of Julian House's involvement in Berberian (doing the credit sequence to the film within the film, Il Vortice Equestre) and his making of an alternative trailer for A Field:

Riley points out where both Ben Wheatley's film and Julian's trailer overlap with a neo-psychedelic aesthetic but also how they differ and veer away into something darker and more unsettled:

"Here we have a similarly high contrast palette indicative of stereotypical psychedelic imagery. The trailer is shot through with the kind of mescalinized intensity described by Aldous Huxley in Heaven and Hell (1956). However, House adds a number of additional details. Unlike the smooth, HD black and white that embellishes the film, what’s emphasised in the trailer is the grain of decaying film-stock. House emphasises the degraded materiality of celluloid which seems to enhance the paranormality of the of the events in the filed as depicted in the film. The impression is created of spectral emanations momentarily captured on film with distorting results"

Haven't yet seen A Field In England, really keen to. Recently, finally watched Berberian, having had the DVD sit around for ages, and thought it brilliant.


  1. Perhaps more plainly retro than hauntological, but I think the case could be made for Beyond the Black Rainbow being part of this canon as well: Ever seen it? Currently streaming on Netflix...

  2. I say "The Iron Lady" maybe fits the hauntological tag too: Its plot can be summarized as "An old woman lives in an apartment with ghosts, loose threads of memory and alucinations, she cant tell these from reality and goes in and out of them" all of these with hauting 80´s sounds, news etc in the background. And of course Derrida coined the term hauntology when neoliberalism, which this woman was its greatest symbol, was at its peak and the "end of history" was proclaimed.

    And speaking of retromania I think there is also a plot common to a bunch of recent movies that, it seems to me, has something to do with retromania and the digital: The characters live in a place that is perfect, asceptic, and sterile. The place doesnt feel real and its a labyrinth. The characters are obsessed by faces/voices from the past that tell them to "come back" to reality, to the past, because they are in dreams, they are clones. This mazes of sterlie irreality are made of modern architecture.

    Inception, Oblivion and Aeon Flux have all this elements.

    In Pig, the character finally looses his haunting memories, and his identity with them, and stops living through the repetitions of the same story (with slight differences) he has been put through.

    In The Host, the digital element is present through the aliens that look human but are only optic fiber (literally, the "real" aliens were made with optic fiber) and they dress all alike and use the same cars and their stores sell the same homogenic stuff, like everything, everyone was cloned. Their world is perfect, but something from the past, "someone" inside of them tells them to come back.

    In Warm Bodies they´re zombies, and their memories of the "alive days" come in analog stuff and they like playing 80´s songs in vynils. They live in an airport (the modern day cathedral I say). The main character complains about zombies just staring at displays or gadgets or unable to look at people when walking (I dont remember very well)

    Vynils and paper books are also a link to reality and the past in Oblivion.

    In a different way Cosmopolis has the same elements; the main character shows no feelings, is cold, invests his money creating a sterile, perfect environment. Things are unreal, the dialogs are unreal and cold, robotic, people speak about what happened to them as if it happened to someone else. The main character is looking for something of his past, the old barber shop he has gone to since he was a kid. As he moves through Manhattan the phrase from which hauntology was coined "A spectre is haunting the world" is seen in a LED board. And it is the end of the world that day, or at least of capitalism. Cosmology happens the day of the apocalypse in Manhattan, in Inception and Oblivion we see a postapocaliptic Manhattan.

    And In Looking for a friend for the end of the world the characters also spend some time before apocalypse hearing old vynils

    I say that´s a trend.