The cinematics of surveillance
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 10:15 by Jonathan Ogilvie
This thesis examines the increasingly liquid boundary between cinema and surveillance through an integration of critical writing and an innovative screenplay, my adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel, The Secret Agent entitled Lone Wolf. My central research question is how the proliferation of surveillance in society has been and might be interpreted and incorporated into screen storytelling. Building on contemporary work in screen studies, this research queries the notion, prevalent in the study of surveillance and cinema, of a rigid psychoanalytic power disparity in the surveillance relationship. Instead it argues that new surveillance technologies have complicated the dynamic between the viewer and the object. New analysis and modeling is required for understanding digital age surveillance and its symbiosis with cinema. The critical framework of this thesis encompasses close readings of specific surveillance films including Rear Window, The Conversation, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Lost Highway, Caché, The Social Network and Snowden. It references the disciplines of film studies, sociology, philosophy, psychology, art history, writing studies, and adaptation studies in identifying an element that has been largely overlooked in the study of surveillance and its relationship to cinema: the role of the apparatus. Analysis of the differing modes of surveillance, mise en scène, sound and voyeurism are the pointers in this investigation of surveillance and cinema. I argue that the influence of the apparatus is a significant factor in the dialogue between surveillance and cinema and is reflective of the ubiquity of digital surveillance in the twenty-first century. I propose that the confluence of apparatuses, between the two visual expressions of surveillance and cinema, has fomented a new dispostif for the fictional screen narrative: the cineveillant film. The tropes that I identify as cineveillant are trialed in my screenplay adaptation. Lone Wolf represents an opportunity for reflexive research-led practice and suggests a possible model for a screen narrative form than contemplates surveillance imagery beyond its prevalent delineation as merely spectacle. Through research and practice I underscore my assertion that the cineveillant dispostif is not just the causality of art imitating life imitating art imitating life but, more specifically, art imitating technology imitating art imitating technology.