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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathAkerman

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The Role of the Text

Like Rohmer, and like Dreyer in «Gertrud», Akerman allows the text an importance that conventional naturalist cinema does not. It is the centrality of verbal address, its excess and maldistribution, that produces the sense of theatricality in her films talking past each other, as well as relaying unnecessary dialogue, characters by default address the audience. Akerman's hyperboles—the extended length of her shots, her distended or compressed dialogues—do invoke an extra, material dimension of representation that is in important respects akin to the modernist, second-degree realism of Bresson, Rosselini, Dreyer, and Straub and Huillet. This European cinema proceeds through an intensification of discourse. It may incorporate indirect narratives (or at least literary qualities) into spoken discourse («Pickpocket» 1959); it may stretch dialogue into an exchange of monologues (Straub and Huillet's «Othon» 1969, Rohmer's «Ma nuit chez Maude» 1969, «Les Rendez-vous d'Anna»); it may double gesture and speech («Gertrud»), and play spoken against written word («Diary of a Country Priest»). With the important exception of Straub


and Huillet's work, this layered cinema works through an overall texture of homogeneity. It is Bresson's work, however, that best clarifies the import of these intensifications for a decentering representation. His work generates a redundancy, a blocking of psychological interpretation, that resembles Akerman's effects; his resistance to naturalist synchronization leads him to fold commentary over image, spoken over handwritten word, gesture over speech, always in slight anticipations or delays. What might have passed unnoticed, absorbed as «natural,» creates instead a sense of repetition—one feels one has already seen certain images. In «Pickpocket,» Michel raises his finger as if searching for a direction. This gesture can only be read as the hailing of a cab in the next shot, yet it anchors, perhaps unwittingly, the voice-over commentary, «I did not know where I was going.» The gesture is split between meanings. The defamiliarizing effect of these strategies of redundancy relates to Akerman's use of redundancy (and literalness) to preempt interpretation.

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