Thinking images essayistic discourses in the film work of Harun Farocki, Jose Luis Guerin and Chris Marker

  • David Montero

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The current tum towards more subjective models within the field of non-fiction filmmaking has sparked consistent academic interest on the essay film as form and on the work of Chris Marker, Harun Farocki and Jose Luis Guerin as an example of an essayistic approach to cinema. A recent wave of articles, book chapters and monographs has laid the foundations of scholarly discussions of the subject. Nonetheless, these attempts to come to terms with essayistic filmmaking seem to get consistently bogged down in the problem of finding a valid definition for the form. This thesis sets out to consciously circumvent the problem of generic definition, focusing on the connective lines that link theorisation of the literary essay as form with the cinematic work of Harun Farocki, Chris Marker and Jose Luis Guerin, without proposing such connections as a coherent generic formula.

Further contradictions within the nascent debate on the essay film have also been addressed. This thesis rejects current attempts to integrate the cinematic essay within the realm of documentary filmmaking. It argues for essayistic discourses in film as autonomous forms, which are non-fictional mainly by virtue of their self-reflexive approach to images. A historical overview of the assimilation of essayistic discourses by cinema is also provided, in the conviction that it is only through an understanding of how essayistic discourses have developed at different historical and cultural junctions that a proper discussion around the essay film as form can actually take place.

The final section of the thesis also contains a complete analysis of essayistic filmmaking as a dialogical practice. Using structural and specific elements within Bakhtin's theoretical approach to language and the novel, aspects such as the exploration of subjectivity in direct relation to alien discourse, the promotion of active patterns of spectatorship and the conception of reality as dialogised by film images have been addressed with reference to work by Chris Marker, Harun Farocki and Jose Luis Guerin.

Date of Award30 Jul 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorW E Everett (Supervisor) & Nina Parish (Supervisor)

Cite this