In this article, I analyze Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (Ah-gassi, 2016) by addressing its puzzle narrative and complex interactive dynamics as embodied and affective categories. In particular, I employ Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the chronotope together with Giuliana Bruno’s work on media theory and Steffen Hven’s notion of the embodied fabula to show how the film, in all its aesthetic complexity, enacts a creative and transformative experience based on the continuous subversion of the power dynamics I describe. Furthermore, I demonstrate how this semantic and experiential reconstruction couples viewers’ alignment with the two main characters in their rebellion against patriarchal power and obsessive male fantasies. Ultimately, then, in this article I aim to connect the experiential and affective engagement of the film with a critical reading of power dynamics as ecologically situated structures to be challenged and revolutionized through a creative process of becoming.
Spinoza's Radical Enactivism and You Were Never Really Here
Since the emergence of embodied cognitive theories, there has been an ever-growing interest in the application of these theories to media studies, generating a large number of analyses focusing on the affective and intellectual features of viewers’ participation. The body of the viewer has become the central object of study for film and media scholars, who examine the conceptual physicality of the viewing experience by associating body states with parallel intellectual and moral constructions. In this article, I contribute to the study of embodied cognition and cinema by drawing upon Baruch Spinoza's philosophy, especially from his process-based notion of the body. I will put this ecological and dynamic concept of the body in connection with recent studies on enactive cognition, and define a radical enactivist approach to be applied in the discussion of the experiential dynamics of Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here.
Jeff Smith, Dominic Topp, Jason Gendler, and Francesco Sticchi
Giorgio Biancorosso, Situated Listening: The Sound of Absorption in Classical Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), xi +246 pp., $55 (hardback), ISBN: 9780195374711.
Reviewed by Jeff Smith
Lea Jacobs, Film Rhythm after Sound: Technology, Music, and Performance (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), 280 pp., $34.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780520279650.
Reviewed by Dominic Topp
Miklós Kiss and Steven Willemsen, Impossible Puzzle Films: A Cognitive Approach to Contemporary Complex Cinema (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 240 pp., £70.00 (hardback), £19.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474406727.
Reviewed by Jason Gendler
Steffen Hven, Cinema and Narrative Complexity: Embodying the Fabula (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017), 261 pp., €22.00 (paperback), ISBN 9789462980778.
Reviewed by Francesco Sticchi