The scream itself: evaluating formlessness and formal innovation in recent British films

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


A number of recent British films have been aligned with Shaviro’s (2010) conceptualisation of the ‘post-cinematic’. To what extent does British cinema explore post-cinematic creativity, to what extent is this creativity ‘without criteria’, and how can the ensuing formal innovation and formlessness be evaluated? The Uprising (Peter Snowdon, 2013), a film about the Arab Spring, is a compilation of YouTube amateur footage recorded by people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, downloaded and fashioned into a story of an imaginary panArab uprising where ‘a stone hurled in Syria might land in Egypt’. Form here cannot be easily evaluated in relation to conventionally useful
categories such as genre (fictionalised documentary realism), authorship (singular and multiple), or context (the unreal history of real events). A different but similarly compelling example of formal manipulation can be found in Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012), a drama concerning an English sound engineer supervising the soundtrack for a giallo film in an Italian post-production studio. By showing the mechanics of creation, sound is made visible as a series of (real) effects without (fictional cinematic) causes, and the film offers ‘the scream (itself) rather than the horror’ as Deleuze notes about Francis Bacon’s ‘human cry’ paintings. Departing from a unified narrative and rational image-sound relations the film enacts formal disintegration, generic form is used as content but does not itself provide a clearly
formed cinematic experience. How are these manipulations of form and formlessness to be understood? Neither film provides alternative
solutions to the absence of conventional narrative form. However, in both films there is an insistent and novel materiality; the materiality of fervent and fearful action and the materiality of sound. Drawing on Shaviro’s articulation of Whitehead’s aesthetics in Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze and Aesthetics (2009), the discussion will consider the value of formal innovation, formlessness and materiality in contemporary British cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2015
EventFilm-Philosophy Conference 2015: The Evaluation of Form - St. Anne's College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Jul 201522 Jul 2015


ConferenceFilm-Philosophy Conference 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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