Lost and Found
: Studies in Confusing Films

  • Dominic Lash

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis uses the concepts of disorientation and confusion as a means of providing detailed critical accounts of four difficult films, as well as of addressing some more general issues in the criticism and theory of narrative film. Although the familiarity of the emotional and affective aspects of disorientation and confusion provides its starting point, this thesis is chiefly concerned with textual and hermeneutic matters, rather than with spectator affect.
Lost and Found argues that disorientation, as a concept, combines aspects of objectivity and subjectivity. The thesis also articulates two distinct – albeit related – meanings of confusion: the familiar affective meaning and a more technical, non-pejorative sense that refers to the way different aspects of a film may be entwined ("confused") with one another. Two theoretical chapters (chapter one and chapter four) explain and explore two critical and rhetorical terms that can assist the film critic in addressing the implications of understanding disorientation and confusion along these lines. These terms are metalepsis and figuration. Four more chapters are devoted to exploring the various distinct critical consequences that follow from attending to the disorienting and confusing aspects of four recent films.
This thesis concludes that there is a continuum between orientation and disorientation; all films are at least somewhat confusing, but no film is utterly disorientating. The disorientating aspects of the films studied herein, it is argued, highlight or exacerbate qualities that are present to some degree in all narrative films. Lost and Found defends the view that the best critical methodology is one that responds to the demands of the film in question rather than attempting to build a toolkit that is ready to take on all comers, and that studying disorientating and confusing films can be of great help in showing how we might develop such a critical practice.
Date of Award7 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAlex S Clayton (Supervisor) & Kristian O Moen (Supervisor)

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