The Aesthetics and Politics of Landscape film

Szabó, Zoltán
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This paper explores the intersection of landscape painting and neo-avantgarde cinema, collectively referred to as landscape film. Through examining selected works from three different filmmakers (James Benning, Stan Brakhage, Chris Welsby), I identify certain formal and thematic principles which can be used to establish an overarching typology of the genre. Based on the interpretative/contemplative distinction made by W. J. T. Mitchell concerning the approaches to the study of landscape, I argue that the majority of the filmmakers belonging to this genre utilize one of these two strategies to create visual landscape studies – the interpretative landscape film, inspired by 19th century romanticism, treats its subject as a textual system where spatiality is directly articulate of the social and political discourses which produce it, while the contemplative landscape film, drawing from post-impressionism, works toward the purification of the visual field by moving from figurative representation towards abstraction and making the material qualities of landscape its focal point of investigation.
landscape film, phenomenology, landscape painting, avant-garde film