This talk explores the impact of new technologies of sound (e.g. Dolby Atmos) on cinematic space and the classical concept of the diegesis using the trope of the ‘turn’. The turn as performed by a character or the camera within the film helps to carve out the space of the diegesis, to lend it a depth denied it by the two-dimensionality of the image. For the turn makes visible that which was concealed – the ‘other side’ – an other side that does not materially exist in the two-dimensional realm of cinema but is continually evoked, imagined, assumed. Given the physical immobility of the spectator, the necessity of facing forward to see the screen, that turn must be delegated to someone or something else – character, figure, camera. Navigable space is on the side of the screen. The turn of the spectator toward the back of the theatre must be taboo. What are the effects of this delegation to figure or camera of a bodily gesture that is critical to the subject’s relation to space? New sound surround systems, in addition to IMAX and 3D, seek to expand the space of the diegesis into the auditorium, to produce a ‘frameless’ space and hence to foster the notion of spectatorial ‘immersion’. In doing so, they risk activating the space behind the spectator’s head, drawing attention away from the screen. This lecture analyzes these strategies and risks in relation to the more general delocalizing effects of contemporary media networks and the commodification of the environment.
Mary Ann Doane is Class of 1937 Professor of Film and Media at The University of California-Berkeley, and currently the Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She is the author of The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (2002), Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (1991), and The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (1987). In addition, she has published a wide range of articles on feminist film theory, sound in the cinema, psychoanalytic theory, television, and sexual and racial difference in film. She is currently completing a book on the use of the close-up in film practice and theory, and the way in which screen size and its corresponding scale have figured in the negotiation of the human body’s relation to space in modernity.