Thursday, August 2, 2012

Germaine Dulac on Integral Cinema



The term integral cinema was first used by French avant-garde filmmaker Germaine Dulac in the 1920s. Dulac employed this term to describe cinema that utilized the natural inherent language of the cinema to evoke the interior life normally hidden beneath the exterior life of the objective world (Flitterman-Lewis, 1996). This form of cinema was also called pur cinema or visual music, because of the contention by its adherents that the language of the cinema is a language all its own, more related to music or poetics, than to literature or drama. In order to liberate the cinematic image from literary or dramatic expression, “…Dulac sought to create for the spectator a ‘cinegraphic sensation’ that could be achieved through the contemplation of pure forms in movement—the melodic arrangement of luminous reflections, the rhythmic ordering of successive shots” (Flitterman-Lewis, 1996, pp. 69-70).

While Dulac’s theoretical writings and public discourses on integral cinema mostly focus on this definition, her films reveal two distinct types of cinematic approaches. Whereas some of her films did seek to explore pure visual music approaches of using cinematic imagery, movement, and rhythm to reveal the interior life, films like her 1928 classic, La Coquille et le Clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman), reveal the raw beginnings of a more comprehensive or “integral” approach that attempts to use the inherent language of the cinema to capture and express the interior and exterior lives of both the individual and the collective. Dulac hints at this approach when she writes, “It isn’t enough to simply capture reality in order to express it in its totality; something else is necessary in order to respect it entirely, to surround it in its atmosphere, and to make its moral meaning perceptible…” (Dulac, as cited in Flitterman-Lewis, 1996, p. 49). This more comprehensive approach hauntingly captures some of the constructs of Jean Gebser’s integral worldview (1985) and Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory (1995) while predating both by 21 and 67 years, respectively.

For more on this see my article Toward an Integral Cinema, available for download at: http://integrallife.com/integral-post/toward-integral-cinema

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