Living with the dead: cinematic love and death

O'Neill, Mary (2010) Living with the dead: cinematic love and death. In: Representations of Love in Film and Television, 11th November 2012, Milwaukee (USA).

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


In recent years the understanding of grief as a consequence of love and death has developed beyond the model that suggested that the bereaved would eventually ‘recover’ and be able to replace the loved one. More recently bereavement theories have incorporated the knowledge, which has so often been expressed by the bereaved in the arts, that ‘recovery’ my not in fact be possible or desirable for the bereaved person. In this paper I will discuss two films that explore the consequences of love and death. In Christopher Hampton’s Carrington (1995) we witness the intense love of Dora Carrington for Lytton Strachey which results in her being unable to face a life without him and consequently commits suicide. In Francois Ozon’s Under the Sand (2001) we see a character who is also unable to accommodate the death of her husband and appears to her friends to have ‘gone mad’. My interest in these films lies in the connection between the portrayal of the reactions of the two female characters to the death of their life companions and recent understanding of grieving. Focusing on cinematic temporal devises such as the lingering gaze of the camera and hesitation I will discuss how these devices embody reactions to death and the experiences of mourning. These works exemplify the two
characteristics of film that Laura Mulvey identifies in 'Death 24x a Second' as the human fascination with the boundary between life and death and the animation of the inanimate. I will explore the historical parallels between the treatment of death in film and clinical understanding of grief from a sociological and a phenomenological
perspective with reference to the history of cinematic portrayal of bereavement. These films will be discussed in relation to the recent work of Colin Murray Parkes and the work of John Bowlby, both of whom have contributed significantly to our understand of the relationship between love and death. I will also explore the unique possibilities that film offers for the treatment of this subject through the stellar time of cinema where we can see what no longer exists.

Keywords:Cinema, cinema and death, colin Murray Parkes, John Bowlby, love and death, art and mourning, mourning, Carrington, Dora Carrington, Under the Sand, Laura Mulvey, understanding of grief, Francois Ozon, Christopher Hampton
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
ID Code:6182
Deposited On:19 Sep 2012 19:03

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