'Let me see her face when he kisses her, please': Mediating Emotion and Locating the Melodramatic Mode in Stella Dallas

Ilka Brasch


This article explores melodrama's capacity to evoke strong emotional responses with a focus on the ending of King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937). It suggests a consideration of the phenomenological concept of instrument-mediation as coined by Vivian Sobchack as a filmic structure that fosters melodrama's emotional appeal and the spectator's engagement with it. It suggests a self-reflexive element in highly emotional film scenes that inscribes the spectator's subject position into the film, thus enabling the film to impact the spectator's body. This reflection of a spectator's perspective enables and fosters the communication of emotionality. Consequently, instrument-mediation describes one function and strategy of the melodramatic mode.


Phenomenology; Sobchack; Stella Dallas; Melodrama; Self-Reflexivity

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