Echoes of a mechanical man dream: creative approaches in contemporary documentary filmmaking
Zemaityte, Simona (2010) Echoes of a mechanical man dream: creative approaches in contemporary documentary filmmaking. [Thesis]
Official URL: http://192.168.1.20/record=b1304493 (Table of Contents)
The MA thesis argues that contemporary tendencies in creative documentary filmmaking echoes one of the dreams of a modern man – to construct a Mechanical Man. It looks back to two examples of creatures that appeared in modernist cinema: German expressionist film ''Metropolis'' (1927) by Fritz Lang, and ''Frankenstein'' (1935) by James Whale. The thesis claims that the part of reality in creative documentary is nothing more than the reflection of the biological input into the construction of the Mechanical Man. The major power is condensed in the hands of the director -- author and creator -- who is driven by a personal dream to recreate reality and in such a way, philosophically speaking, win the competition with nature. The term ''documentary'' is highly affiliated with truth. What ever is shown under this title is usually perceived by the audiences as (negotiably) ''real''. This raises one of the biggest concerns – is creativity along with the media technologies contributing to the development or the construction of a creature? If this assumption is true, documentary films are contributing to the social dissociation and de-realization of reality. Such experience of ''real'' in psychiatry would serve as indications of disorder, which is essentially a psychological escape when physical escape is impossible. Dissociative process is the separation of perceptions, identity, memory and consciousness. The theoretical part of the study embraces ideas in philosophy that are analysing influence and effect of media on a contemporary society. The thesis discusses theories of Marshal McLuhan, who claims media to be an extension of a man, Situationalists ideas of spectacle and society and Expanded artists' thoughts on cinema. In addition, thethesis is exploring the history of the idea of a Mechanical Man and mechanization, rooted in Industrial revolution. These ideas were articulated differently by artists and art groups, such as Dada and Italian Futurists. The most widely acknowledged form of a documentary film among the audiences is still the ''reportage'' or television documentary. However, increasing number of creative documentaries produced effect the image of non-fiction. Novel hybrid forms of film embrace documentary footage, usage of new media technologies, clearly articulated author's perspective, and per-formative actions. Documentary films can be created and experienced as both, visualization of facts and a form of art. Slavoj Zizek pinpoints that what is seen and what we call reality can no longer be reduced to a fact: virtualization of our daily life, understanding that we are more and more absorbed into an artificially constructed world is evoking unbearable need to come back to reality. Documented reality is usually far beyond actuality: animated documentaries, mock-documentaries, re-contextualized documentary footage, replaced or displaced characters make the reality fictional, surreal, and dream-like. Societies are highly influenced by mediated experiences and therefore are confronting mixed feelings towards ''lived real'' - nostalgia and incapability to comprehend the actuality as it is. In order to compare techniques and methods used in creative documentary production with the construction of the Mechanical Man, theoretical part of the thesis serves as a framework for qualitative analysis of the films screened in 4th International Documentary Film Festival Vilnius 2009, and 12th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2010. In addition, theoretical framework is applied for the analysis of two online documentary projects -- David Lynch's ''Interview Project'' and Jonas Mekas's ''365 films'' and personal artistic practice. The methods used: · construction of a theoretical framework based on comparative analysis of literature on the idea of the Mechanical Man and contemporary media theories; · the qualitative analysis of the films; · personal artistic practice – documentary films ''All about beauty'' and ''Born in the USSR'' – that visually and conceptually explores the above mentioned categories. The literature review, qualitative analysis of documentary film festivals' programs, documentaries online and personal artistic practice all lead to the following conclusions presented in the thesis: · philosophical theories and influential artistic ideas on media and society adopted to the phenomenon of documentary film suggest theoretical possibility to connect the idea of production of documentary film and creation of the Mechanical Man; · the observation of the process of the development of the the Mechanical Man and the development of a creative documentary film, demonstrates a number of similarities in terms of creator's role, conceptualization, implementation of the idea, and the effect on public; · the analysis of literature suggests a framework for qualitative analysis of this thesis, based on similarities between the construction of a Mechanical Man and the process of production of a creative documentary film, where the processes are compared in terms of idea development, creator's vision, construction of the body and mind; · relevant films selected and analysed from the screenings of VI International Documentary Film Festival Vilnius 2009, and 12th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2010 shows that there is a significant similarity in the process of creation of documentary film and the Mechanical Man; · the framework of analysis applied to the discussion on two online documentary projects -- David Lynch's ''Interview Project'' and Jonas Mekas's ''365 films'' -- demonstrates different forms of application of concepts, and reveals a few problems of comparison between documentary and the Mechanical Man; · the reflection on personal artistic practice – short documentary film ''All About Beauty'', and short animation documentary ''Born in the USSR'' -- based on the framework of analysis presented above, connects the theoretical and practical sides of this thesis, and shows the similarities between the production of the Mechanical Man and the creative documentary.
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