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The Long Take: A Spectacular Film Realism for the Anthropocene

Jeng, Jonah (2023) The Long Take: A Spectacular Film Realism for the Anthropocene. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores how film realism models and induces an ethical and epistemological posture apposite for the Anthropocene, our current era in which the human species has become a geological force and is increasingly confronted by the nonhuman ecological realities devastated by its actions. I examine the technique of the long take as a heightened expression of what I call cinema’s realist automatism, or those realist qualities of cinema that make it responsive to our ecologically fraught present; specifically, I contend that, through pairing photographic denotation with onscreen movement, cinema embodies a subject-object interplay that attunes the viewer to nonhuman realities from which she is irreconcilably different and yet to which she is joined in a shared process of becoming. Departing from conceptions of the long take as contemplative and decelerating, I underscore the technique’s affective force, embodied most fully in the recent mainstream trend of virtuosic long takes. I develop this theory of the long take over five chapters. The Introduction lays the theoretical groundwork by delineating the subject-object dialectic of cinema’s realist automatism. Chapter 1 examines how the long take functions as a spectacular expression of this dialectic, and how the technique can be valuably conceived of as “a shot that is felt as long.” Chapter 2 explores how the long take’s thematization of cinema’s realist automatism receives an additional level of thematization in the series Black Summer. I argue that, in pairing virtuosic long takes with the figure of the zombie, whose vacated subjectivity foregrounds abject bodily surface, the show reframes cinema’s realist automatism as a surfacing of the world, in which humanly visible surfaces exist in tension with withdrawn, nonhuman depths. Building on this analysis, Chapter 3 investigates how cinema underscores the limits of the human while, simultaneously, rejoining the viewer to reality’s dynamism via the element of motion. The chapter concludes by reflecting on how Black Summer counteracts the danger of homogenizing the human posed by theories of posthumanism. Chapter 4 demonstrates that cinema’s realist automatism persists even into the digital age and considers how digitality’s affordances can actually enhance cinema’s eco-critical potential.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jeng, Jonahjoj44@pitt.edujoj440000-0002-8551-7986
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLowenstein, Adamalowen@pitt.edu0000-0002-8438-0746
Committee MemberMajumdar, Neepanmajumda@pitt.edu0000-0002-3712-3616
Committee MemberHorton, Zacharyz.horton@pitt.edu0000-0002-3300-0344
Committee MemberHalle, Randallrhalle@pitt.edu0000-0002-7715-3895
Date: 6 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 July 2023
Approval Date: 6 September 2023
Submission Date: 2 August 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 202
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Film Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: long take, realism, Anthropocene, phenomenology, action cinema
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2023 16:33
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2023 16:33


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