Ecstasy, Choreography, and Re-enactment: Aesthetic and Political Dimensions of Filming States of Trance and Spirit Possession in 1960s Southern Italy

Schäuble, Michaela (2019). Ecstasy, Choreography, and Re-enactment: Aesthetic and Political Dimensions of Filming States of Trance and Spirit Possession in 1960s Southern Italy. Visual Anthropology, 32(1), pp. 33-55. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/08949468.2019.1568112

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States of trance and spirit possession have inspired the modernist imagination perhaps more than anything else, as they typically exceed the limits of visual representation. This article investigates different approaches to coping with these challenges, focusing on the works of a group of Italian documentary filmmakers, including Luigi di Gianni, Cecilia Mangini, and Gianfranco Mingozzi, who used a novel set of audiovisual techniques to explore ecstatic religious expressions in southern Italy in the postwar years. I look into the processes through which trance and possession rituals (e.g. Apulian tarantism) themselves have inspired and initiated innovations in audiovisual documentation by means of combining—or blurring the boundaries between—ethnographic and experimental modes of cinematic practice. Through highly stylized image/sound compositions including high-contrast lighting, wood-cut like silhouettes, montage, abstract sound effects and poetic, partly fictionalized commentary, as well as by consciously making use of re-enactments and staged encounters, these films contest both the realist-observational narrative and the focus on individuals otherwise prevalent in ethnographic filmmaking. Reading the Italian films against the backdrop of the earlier and contemporaneous, yet much better-known trance films of Maya Deren and Jean Rouch, the article argues that their antirealist audiovisual aesthetic fabricates a social aesthetic that raises sensitivity to human experience and fosters a radically humanist stance.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Schäuble, Michaela

Subjects:

300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology

ISSN:

0894-9468

Publisher:

Taylor & Francis

Language:

English

Submitter:

Lisa Alvarado Grefa

Date Deposited:

10 Aug 2017 09:57

Last Modified:

22 Jan 2020 10:31

Publisher DOI:

10.1080/08949468.2019.1568112

Additional Information:

Special Issue on "Filming Religious Rituals"

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/97507

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