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Approaching the Other as Other: A Study of the Ethical Nature of Chantal Akerman's Film


Approaching the Other as Other: A Study of the Ethical Nature of Chantal Akerman's Film

Rennebohm, Katherine S. (2011) Approaching the Other as Other: A Study of the Ethical Nature of Chantal Akerman's Film. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Rennebohm_MA_S2011.pdf - Accepted Version


Filmmaker Chantal Akerman utilizes specific representational devices in her films in order to address the film spectator in an ethical manner. The ethical nature of Akerman’s films results from the form of character presentation Akerman employs. Approaching the Other as Other performs a detailed examination of the presentation of character in Akerman’s films, analyzing Akerman’s use of conventions of classical cinema as well as her use of devices associated with experimental and avant-garde cinema. Through the systematic avoidance of psychological or emotional insights into her films’ characters, while still maintaining a ‘realistic’ presentation of character, Akerman presents the characters in her films as ‘unknowable’ and opaque individuals to the spectator.
This treatment of character points to Judith Butler’s discussion of ethics in Giving an Account of Oneself (2005). According to Butler, the ethical lies in discarding the belief that the other can and should explain themselves; this is because, in Butler’s view, both the self and the other are fundamentally unknowable. This thesis uses Butler’s conception of ethics to show that Akerman’s presentation of character is ethical, as Akerman’s films ask the spectator to contemplate the impossibility of knowing the other. Such contemplation, Butler argues, constitutes an ethical resource. Examining various films of Akerman’s, Approaching the Other as Other outlines the operation of these films’ ethical address, illustrating the divergences and continuities in the address across Akerman’s different styles of filmmaking, and ultimately contends that Akerman’s films address the spectator as a being capable of ethical reflection.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Rennebohm, Katherine S.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Film Studies
Date:13 April 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Maule, Rosanna
Keywords:Chantal Akerman, Ethics, Film, Identification, Spectatorship
ID Code:7202
Deposited On:09 Jun 2011 15:09
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:30
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