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Cinema, subjectivity and psychosis: towards a phenomenological approach

Matthews, Peter and Anderson, Sal (2010) Cinema, subjectivity and psychosis: towards a phenomenological approach. European Psychiatry: 18th European Congress of Psychiatry, 25 (Supp.1). p. 72. ISSN 0924-9338

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Matthews, Peter and Anderson, Sal

According to the Jasperian model, phenomenology ‘gives a concrete description of the psychic states which patients actually experience and presents them for observation’ (Jaspers, General Psychopathology, 1963, 44). Narrative cinema is arguably no less phenomenological in that it employs a phalanx of aesthetic strategies (visual design, framing, editing, camera angle, point of view) to materialise subjective consciousness and thereby facilitate the process of emotional identification with onscreen characters. But in representing psychosis, most popular cinema resorts to a shorthand of Expressionist cliché and crudely objectifying stereotypes. We suggest that the concern for clinicians and responsible filmmakers is much the same: how to treat psychotic conditions empathetically, testing empirical understanding and knowledge against ‘first-person’ accounts of mental illness. Our paper focuses on a case study of a short film in production.

Sal Anderson's observational fiction Froth: Whose Drama is it Anyway? juxtaposes the media-fed public perception of epilepsy with its subjective experience. During shooting, the neurological condition was explored through a series of improvisatory workshops where people with epilepsy re-enacted and then reflected on the stages of a seizure. This methodology is proposed as a template for the development of alternative strategies in the portrayal of psychosis on film. Finally, we offer a speculative link between Jaspers’ notion of the ‘ununderstandable’ in relation to psychosis and the intractably resistant nature of the cinematic image.

Official Website: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924933810700729
Additional Information (Publicly available):

Conference Paper presented to the 18th European Congress of Psychiatry in Munich March 2010.

Science trained (chemistry, zoology) Sal Anderson worked as an arachnologist at the Natural History in Paris, in the Microbiology Department at Cape Town University and in scientific publishing before studying writing and directing at the UK's National Film and Television School. Sal has made award-winning short films in France and the UK. Recent projects include Wellcome Trust Arts Award film/neuroscience collaborations investigating the representation in film or neurological and psychiatric conditions.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Psychiatry, film, mental health, cinema and psychosis
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Elsevier
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Date: 7 June 2010
Copyright Holders: Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Masson SAS All rights reserved.
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1016/S0924-9338(10)70072-9
Projects or Series: Research Outputs Review (April 2010 - April 2011)
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2011 14:56
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2017 09:41
Item ID: 4342
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/4342

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