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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The art of becoming : performance, temporality, and the composition of the filmic body in contemporary cinema Brooks, Andrea Katherine


Film performances have long served as a point of contention in Film Studies. The elusive nature of the art form is often overlooked, and consequently approached via history, star studies, or in reducing a performance to the mise-en-scène. The aim of this thesis is to theoretically root film performances by deviating from classical performance analysis, and focusing on the abstract qualities that demarcate the practice of becoming other. To do this, I turn to the works of Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) when confronting the unique relationship between the actor’s frame and process to suggest that film performances are necessarily informed by the body and time. The film body is a doubled body, belonging to both actor and character. It serves as an aesthetic platform for the medium, and a technical substructure that maintains artistic cohesion. In investigating this interaction across cinema’s fractured temporality, we can address not only the implications of the film actor’s art, but art more generally. In What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari argue that “composition is the sole definition of art,” and “what is not composed is not a work of art” (1994 191). Not only are film performances composed for the sake of the medium, they are bound by their own compositional structure. This calls for a negotiation between the materiality of a physical body and the potentiality of a screen body that embodies otherness. In this project, I emphasize the film body’s ability to house and negotiate Deleuze and Guattari’s technical and aesthetic planes of composition. In doing this, the film body navigates the before and the after, the self and the other, and the interior and surface throughout the duration of a performance. With the increasingly popular wave of body-centered cinema emerging post-twentieth century, we can draw explicit parallels between the performative process and the physical conditioning endured prior to shooting – particularly in portrayals of pain, suffering, and emaciation. In navigating this compositional interplay, I seek to illustrate how the art of the actor is not so much dictated by the character she becomes, but rather, by the process of becoming.

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