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Death and the Moving ImageIdeology, Iconography and I$
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Michele Aaron

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748624430

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624430.001.0001

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The Cinematic Language of Dying

The Cinematic Language of Dying

(p.99) Chapter 4 The Cinematic Language of Dying
Death and the Moving Image

Michele Aaron

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter presents and evaluates a cinematic language of dying through surveying a selection of the principle mainstream films about terminal illness from Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939) to The Death of Mr Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005). Though Elaine Scarry declared pain's inexpressibility in Western culture, mainstream cinema is shown in this chapter to provide a rich language for illness, injury and bodily decline. It is a language rife with displacement, distortion and conservatism however. Sensationalism and sentimentality and the mythic proportions of the good death are privileged on-screen but, more than this, all the films discussed in the chapter share and promote the common emphases upon triumph, betterment and futurity. The cinematic language does express dying, however, and is even capable, especially outside of mainstream North American cinema, of doing this extrasensorially and without prohibiting the truths of the body. These latter examples are shown to privilege embodied and mundane dying more reflective of the physical, economic and demographic realities of the contemporary deathbed.

Keywords:   terminal illness, cinematic language of dying, the good death, embodiment, extrasensorial, Scarry, Elaine

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