Closed CircuitsScreening Narrative Surveillance

Closed CircuitsScreening Narrative Surveillance

Garrett Stewart

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226201214

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Long before the 2013 NSA scandal about electronic surveillance, narrative cinema had become a weathervane of social phobias in regard to national security, drawing on a long history of surveillance both as theme and as audiovisual machination that saw its first heyday with the Weimar cinema of Fritz Lang. This book’s analytic return to apparatus theory, and especially to suture theory’s contrapuntal logic of seeing unseen, contributes to a new view of digital optics in this regard: one of contemporary cinema’s most urgent cultural as well as technological flashpoints. By comparison with the prose treatment of audiovisual surveillance in George Orwell and John le Carré, this “narratographic” analysis of some three dozen films moves from Lang’s M (1931) to Rear Window (1954) and on to Lang’s own last film, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960), including Peeping Tom from the same year, and from there through The Conversation (1974) to Caché (2005) and beyond to the latest Bourne film (2012). Backed by major cinema theorists from Jean-Pierre Oudart through Gilles Deleuze to Jacques Rancière, investigation probes the medium-deep relation of screen framing to various modes of regulatory supervision and constraint, as climaxed in such post-9/11 fantasies of retroactive time-travel surveillance and its resulting terrorist interception as Deja Vu (2006) and Source Code (2011). The book’s subtitle thus indicates three fields of consideration in media studies that telescope into a single phrase of interlinked and overlapping visualizations whenever cinema locks down on the coterminous framing of e-spionage and screen montage.