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The Spectral Body: Aspects of the Cinematic Oeuvre of Istvan Szabo

The Spectral Body: Aspects of the Cinematic Oeuvre of Istvan Szabo (Hardback)

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The Spectral Body: Aspects of the Cinematic Oeuvre of Istvan Szabo analyses some of the films made by Academy Award winner Hungarian filmmaker Istvan Szabo to establish an interpretative matrix disclosing the root of haunting effects in the visual and the narrative levels of the diegeses. By combining two distinct-and often incongruous-lines of psychoanalytic thought (by Nicolas Abraham and Jacques Lacan), Zoltan Dragon argues that these films are fuelled by the work of a phantom on all levels, hiding the secrets of the family history of the characters and producing uncanny visual scenarios to make the act of hiding even more effective. The book brings the reader into the realm of the "phantom text" generating the film texts and crypt screens of the oeuvre, and investigates the causes of undiscussible and painful secrets that propel some pivotal characters to reappear in subsequent films, apparently driven by a compulsion to continue their narration, failing to finish their stories-even when they appear to be successful.

The Spectral Body: Aspects of the Cinematic Oeuvre of Istvan Szabo introduces a visual reinterpretation of Abraham's phantom theory that opens up possibilities for an alternative way of studying film. I first saw this work in the form of a full and detailed draft. I was impressed by the boldness of the ideas, the attempt to integrate and work with different theoretical positions and the quite extraordinary reading of the films of Istvan Szabo. There was clearly a powerful and creative and original intelligence at work. A further draft accomplished one important thing that had been missing from the first one - the direct analysis of the visual material and its contribution to the overall narrative and theoretical framework. The work employs a psychoanalytic framework with some key concepts such as 'the phantom' drawn from the work of Torok and Abraham. This theory is fairly well known but it has not, to my knowledge, been used in any extensive way in the analysis of film texts before. Zoltan also makes reference to Freud and uses some Lacanian ideas in his analysis at the level of the visual.

These multiple theoretical references are not inconsistent; they are finely judged and are most productive. Theory is never used as a grid to be imposed on the material. There is a fine balance between theory and textual analysis that is hard to achieve, but it is successful here. I think that the position that Zoltan Dragon has forged for himself and from which he writes, is a highly original and interesting one. He has been most successful in developing his framework in relation to Szabo's oeuvre which he knows in the greatest detail. His readings of that oeuvre are rich and powerful and will provoke considerable debate in the world of film studies and also of psychoanalytical studies. Parveen Adams, Core Teaching Faculty, London Consortium

Art, Fashion & PhotographyPhotography & photographsCinematography, television cameraworkFilm, TV & DramaFilms, cinemaFilm theory & criticism Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing Publication Date: 01/04/2006 ISBN-13: 9781904303756  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Zoltan Dragon is Assistant Professor at the Department of American Studies, University of Szeged, Hungary, where he teaches film theory, visual culture and contemporary American fiction. He has published widely on issues of film adaptation and psychoanalytic film theory. He is founding editor of AMERICANA - E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary, and is currently working on Encounters of the Filmic Kind: Guidebook to Film Theories with Reka M. Cristian.

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