TALKS@MFM: Laura Rascaroli (2015)

Framing: The Essay Film as Theoretical Practice” [MFM Research Seminar] by PROF LAURA RASCAROLI [Video Recording]. Chaired by Dr Alisa Lebow at the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex, December 9, 2015.


Essay films are performative texts that explicitly display the process of thinking; their reflexive and self-reflexive stance implies that issues of textual and contextual framing are at the center of their practice. The act of framing—intended both as the literal operation of mise en cadre and as narrative, ideological, and cultural framing—in essay films often becomes the visible search for an object, either in the living image of the world or within film or photo archives. I will argue that the specificity of the essay must however be sought not in its production of objects, but in their arrangement, and that this arrangement reflects a fundamental structure of gap. To frame is, ultimately, to detach an object from its background and, thus, to create an interstice between object and world. Through engagement with a number of case studies, including Irina Botea’s Picturesque (2012), Mohammadreza Farzad’s Gom o gour (Into Thin Air, 2010), and Peter Thompson’s Universal Diptych (1982), this paper will conceptualize the function of framing as the coming-into-being of the essay film as theoretical practice.


Laura Rascaroli is Professor and Co-Head of Film and Screen Media at University College Cork, Ireland. Her interests span art film, modernism and postmodernism, geopolitics, nonfiction, the essay film, and first-person cinema, often in relation to issues of social, political, intellectual and artistic European history. She is the author and editor of several volumes, including The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film (2009), and is currently under contract with Oxford University Press for a monograph entitled How the Essay Film Thinks. She is general editor of Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media.

Video production by Catalina Balan