Politics of Indeterminacy: Utopia and Crisis in the Essay Film

Coley, Rob (2021) Politics of Indeterminacy: Utopia and Crisis in the Essay Film. Screen, 61 (4). pp. 525-544. ISSN 0036-9543

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjaa052

Politics of Indeterminacy: Utopia and Crisis in the Essay Film
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The essay film, currently subject to significant critical attention, is championed as an unorthodox and utopian mode of audiovisual thinking. This article argues that such characteristics express a broader political principle of indeterminacy. In Laura Rascaroli’s recent examination of ‘how the essay film thinks’, the twentieth-century development of this principle can be traced to a strange brew of Adorno and Deleuze, where the essay film’s indeterminacy comes to be understood as a power that is not simply based on discontinuous disjunction but also on differentiation, its politics grounded not just in negative encounters with untruth but in the fabulation of other, alternative truths.

This article, however, disputes the assumption that a politics of indeterminacy still challenges the orthodoxy in any real sense, and assesses the extent to which the conventional source of the essay film’s utopianism is now under threat. It also examines another more promising tendency in contemporary essayistic practice, one that marks a withdrawal from such obligations. It considers two examples, two directions in this tendency. The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda) (2015), is an essay film that diagnoses the limitations of the form’s dominant Deleuzian mode, whereas Arcadia (2017) prompts speculation – by way of François Laruelle’s negative utopianism – on how the essay film might proceed otherwise. This article argues that contemporary essayistic film practice can invoke another, strange utopia, one that is neither reducible to the production of the new, nor to the differentiation of the present, but is instead found in the mutation of thinking reality itself.

Keywords:essay film, François Laruelle, film philosophy, Capitalism, utopia, Post-truth
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:41730
Deposited On:06 Aug 2020 12:16

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