'Time, Place & Empathy' published in Visual Studies


Our essay 'Time, place and empathy: the poetics and phenomenology of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film image' has now been published in Visual Studies (Vol. 28, No. 1): 1–16. Engaging modes of creative critical writing and expanded drawing techniques, with one of these drawings appearing on the front cover of the journal, the essay forms part of our research into the theory and practice of Tarkovsky's film image, also pursued through the project Gorchakov's Wish. The following is an abstract of the journal article:

Acclaimed Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovksy’s specific understanding of what constitutes the ‘film image’ is outlined in his collection of writings, Sculpting in Time (1986), and evidenced by his body of film work. Our aim in this article is to identify the specificity of Tarkovsky’s theory and practice of the film image and to argue that the film image is a meaningful composite of poetic, spatial and material properties. We unpack this complexity through a close, careful and attenuated reading of a single scene from Tarkovsky’s film Nostalghia (1983).

In this scene, the film’s protagonist – the poet, Gorchakov – carries a lit candle across the expanse of the Santa Catarina pool. The pool, a geothermal bath in the Tuscan hillside town of Bagno Vignoni, Italy, is emptied for this shot, but still steaming. This infuses the film image with atmospheric qualities ofplace. We read these qualities in relation to Tarkovsky’s use of symbol, the relationship of this scene to others in the context of the filmic narrative, and the filmic syntax of the long take and tracking shot. We also examine how the film image is received, as a projection, by an embodied recipient, and to what effect. Through this discussion, we defend Tarkovsky’s work against charges that it embodies a naïve realism, exposing the critical potential inherent in Tarkovsky’s nostalgic impulse.

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