No place like home: trauma and the moral subject in contemporary Argentine cinema

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Clancy, Fiona
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University College Cork
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Over the past two decades, cinematic production from Argentina has been enjoying increased commercial success and critical acclaim on both the national and international film scenes. This thesis investigates the representation of trauma in six films produced during this new wave of Argentine cinema by three Argentine directors – Albertina Carri, Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero – who are among the most iconic filmmakers to be associated with the so-called New Argentine Cinema. This thesis contends that it is both timely and appropriate to examine these films beyond the temporal and thematic confines of the critical category of ‘New Argentine Cinema’, thus opening up the work of these directors to a wider field of analysis. I argue that Argentina’s filmic representations of trauma go beyond the political to the very heart of the human condition, occupying the opaque, ambiguous spaces between the private and political, the individual and collective, and the national and global. Placing six films in comparative perspective, the thesis establishes an original framework for exploring trauma, offering a nuanced approach to the myriad ways in which it is presented in cinematic production. Each of these films powerfully captures, in different ways, the complex dynamics of physical and psychological trauma, and demonstrates that trauma is more than a psychic phenomenon or a physical wound – it is also a social construct. The thesis considers three key facets of trauma: the bodily, the psychological and the social. The former addresses the cinematic representation of bodies, and the way in which trauma is transmitted in and by the body, in order to scrutinize the link between trauma and corporality. The latter two examine the psychological dimensions of trauma, and explore how the aftermath and ongoing fallout of traumatic experiences are represented in films by engaging with a structural theory of trauma and a phenomenological approach to the human person. Drawing on the Edith Stein’s underexplored phenomenology (1989, 2000) as a means of negotiating the physical, psychological and social spheres, I assert that the way in which these three dimensions of trauma are interconnected elucidates the variety of ways in which violence remains present in society and continues to proliferate in subtle forms. By interrogating the ambiguous spaces between the physical and psychological, the individual and collective, and the private and political, I argue that these films offer original insights into the relationship between physical and psychological trauma and thus elucidate the subtle ways in which violence permeates the globalized world. In so doing, the thesis highlights Argentina’s exceptional contribution to contemporary cinema as a creative didactic force within a precarious national and global culture.
Argentine cinema , Argentina , World cinema , Trauma , Morality
Clancy, F. 2018. No place like home: trauma and the moral subject in contemporary Argentine cinema. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.