IInnovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Border Zones: Travel, Fantasy and Representation

Deserting the Real: The Collapse of Representation in Desert Movies

Ekkehard Knoerer (University of Konstanz)



Some of the most radical explorations of zones of transition in recent movies have lead filmmakers into the desert as a place where not only the idea of landscape dissolves. Bruno Dumont's much reviled "29 Palms" (2004) directs a multinational couple into the spiritual waste land of the Californian desert, where they experience sex, violence and ultimately murder. The desert is to be read not so much symbolically here, what this film aims at, I would argue, is rather a desiccation and deserting of representation as such. In my paper I want to read the desert in recent movies - Gus van Sants "Gerry" (2002) comes to mind, but also parts of Michael Winterbottoms "Code 46" (2004) - not as a representation of current political and spiritual affairs, but as the more radical diagnosis of a collapse of any "realistic" approach to the present and its spiritual, economical or political discomforts. In "Gerry" the desert becomes a place where any conventional notions of space - as habitable space or as transit space - slowly unravel. At the same time the ideas of a subject and intersubjectivity, of language as communication come into doubt. The experience of the liminal turns out to question the very possibility of experience and representation - offering the idea of a radical liminality that takes place in the desert as an impossible space.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-22