Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

Curiosity in Morvern Callar

Liz Watkins


An exploration of the significance of colour amidst a recent emphasis in film studies on phenomenology indicates a paradigm shift that seems to respond to criticisms of theories that sexualise the gaze whilst displacing the materiality of the body. However, phenomenologically inspired analyses of embodiment in cinema have usually not been coupled with a consideration of questions of gender. An analysis of colour and gesture through Irigaray’s critique of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodied perception indicates the forgetting of sexual difference in a formulation of subjectivity which is operative between language, vision and tactility. Irigaray’s writing through of Merleau-Ponty (Irigaray 1993) is reflective yet questioning, a process that indicates recollection and curiosity and remains open to the possibility of alterity in the solipsistic structure of Merleau-Ponty’s theory of subjectivity (Butler 2006: 107-126). In Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2003) the emergence and dissolve of the image into darkness details and is evocative of the reminiscence of touch. For Merleau-Ponty the intimacy of such gestures is sedimented in the body as memory (Merleau-Ponty 1962). The dislocation of the film’s title character from the world around her is marked by visual disorientation. This specific interplay of the photographic and cinematic codes (from lighting and sound effects to close-ups) - of materiality, temporality and meaning - traces a level curiosity and visuality (Mulvey 1996). In Morvern Callar, the cinematic articulation of colour and gesture as dimensions of body, vision and language is not a dialectic of inside and outside (Mulvey 1996) but elicits sensation, memory and desire in the reflexivity and articulation of female protagonist’s curiosity.

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About the Presenter

Liz Watkins
University of Leeds
United Kingdom

Liz Watkins is a Lecturer at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include the significance of colour for film theories of subjectivity, perception and sexual difference. She has published on feminism, film/philosophy, cinema, archive and the materiality of film in Parallax, Paragraph and the British Journal of Cinema and Television and has co-edited a collection of essays on Color and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. She is currently working on a monograph The Residual Image: Film Theories and Philosophies of Color (Routledge) and special issue journal on Cultures of Gesture.