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The Peripheral Aesthetic:


Purpose of the study

The purpose of this research is to unveil and analyze the shared thematic and aesthetic cinematic style currently developing in the peripheral nations affected by the 2009-initiated European economic crisis. Specifically, the research is poised to study how the most recent outcropping of arthouse and festival-acclaimed independent films from Greece, Spain, and Portugal attempt to reflect the modulations of a subjectivity attempting to cope with the spiralling debt, compounding unemployment, and public shame associated with their government’s purported feckless contribution to a growing political instability in the continent. In attempting to address this, the cinemas of these nations have promulgated a new form of film language interested in articulating the process of subjectification via alternative narrative techniques, acting methodologies, filming mediums, and sound augmentations, while also addressing the political agency in the viewer. The study will follow film theoretical frameworks such as the phenomenology of sound, the use of corporeality and body politics, and the idea of the “post-cinematic effect.”

For example, the Greek Weird Cinema, now better known as the Greek New Wave, features the trope of the grotesque performing body and how it is framed in recent Greek films such as Dogtooth, Attenberg, and Alps, which frame subjectivity via their cinematic form using a political agent that empowers public discourse. Additionally, the film uses phenomenological and theoretical agents to drive academic discourse. The films of Portugal, like those of prominent filmmaker Miguel Gomes, expand upon this notion by utilizing narrative complexity and self-awareness to emphasize the superficial nature in which Portugal has acknowledged the crisis and the general gloom of the daily grind in the largely unemployed populace. Spanish filmmakers too admit to finding it difficult to refrain from addressing their economic issues, both in the context of the shooting of their cinematic ventures but also in the thematic content of their escapist narrative stories.

The films of these three nations all reflect very different concerns and aims in relation to the economic crisis – some internalizing the crisis more and focusing on the plight of the psychologies of the population, while others touch on the absurdity of the matter, and yet others still merely force the effects of the crisis reside as a backdrop of social context and cultural change on account of it. In the case of the Greek film “Wasted Youth” by Argyris Papadimitropoulous and Jan Vogel, the deepening financial crisis very much resides as a foreground for dramatic potential. These are rare and somewhat premature, but function interestingly as both relics in form and content to the proposed research.

The following research questions will be addressed directly in this proposed study: How does contemporary European cinema reflect a changing cinematic landscape and a rejuvenating of the film language in its reflecting of the social and economic crisis of the Eurozone? And, In which way do their aesthetics reveal a changing political landscape in Europe that is often referred to as the “Depression Era?”

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