Vortragsreihe "Kunst - Forschung - Geschlecht"

Elizabeth Watkins: Tales of Unease, liminality, sexuality and excess in three films by Andrea Arnold: Wasp, Red Road, Fish Tank

Theories of cinematic excess signal details that are too much or superfluous to narrative action and threaten the decomposition of the filmic system.
Analyses of classic film melodrama have associated colour and excess with the feminine and desire, a manifestation of the ‘inner violence and energy of the characters’ linking film style and technique to theme (Elsaesser). The fraught familial relationships, identity and expression of melodrama persist in Andrea Arnold’s recent depictions of young women in prosaic scenarios intercut with fraught sexual encounters. Arnold’s Red Road, commissioned by the Advance Party Project, follows select criteria of the Dogme ‘95 Manifesto: the film ‘must be in colour’, yet ‘avoid the elevation of cosmetics’ making minimal use of props and refusing the use of optical work, filters or supplementary lighting. In Red Road and Fish Tank, film form retains the influence of projects with Von Trier and Sigma Films, but also employs cinematic devices of film melodrama to refigure the work of social and poetic realism. Arnold’s films combine claustrophobic domesticity with the peripheral spaces occupied by each female protagonist (doorways, corridors, stairwells, marshlands) adjunct spaces from which devices (mirrors, windows), mediate the protagonist’s point-of-view. Mirrors reveal ‘a space that is simultaneously close yet separate’ and like a screen (CCTV, camcorders) show another place or location (Metz [1990] 2015) that has independent significance, underscoring the main action; the recurrence of these devices tracking a ‘rhythm of experience often establishes itself against its value (moral, intellectual)’ (Elsaesser).

Dr Liz Watkins’ research interests include film theories of sexuality, gesture, colour and cinema, and the fantastic in early 1900s scientific expedition photography. She has published in Screen, Paragraph and has edited books on Gesture and Film (Routledge 2017) and Color and the Moving Image (Routledge, 2013).
Tales of Unease, Watkins