Constructing Atmospheres: A Phenomenology of the Film Image and Its Relation to Place

Kreider, Kristen and O'Leary, James. 2009. Constructing Atmospheres: A Phenomenology of the Film Image and Its Relation to Place. In: , ed. Proceedings for Architecture and Phenomenology 2 International Conference. Architecture and Phenomenology 2. [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The ‘film-image’ – drawing together Eastern and Western poetics of image-making; embodying the material specificity of film – ultimately generates a particular experience of place for its recipient. We argue this point with specific reference to Andrey Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983), shot on-location at St. Catherine’s pool in Bagno Vignoi, Italy. The pool is a natural geo-thermal spring which generates an active surface of water and steam, the atmospherics and materiality of which are harnassed by Tarkovsky when shooting scenes from the film. The pool becomes a means to evoke the subjective psychological state of the protagonist, the poet Gorchakov. Meanwhile Tarkovsky’s syntactics of the long-shot instill in the viewer a contemplative state from which to observe, over a prolonged time, the pool as film-image – as worldly ‘fact.’

Bridging Eastern and Western poetics of image-making, Tarkovsky theorises the film-image in his collection of writings on art and film Sculpting in Time (1986). Tarkovsky approaches the film-image first through a discussion of the image in poetry, with specific reference to Japanese Haiku. We look at the particular relationship that the haiku has to time and place before turning to how this translates into Tarkovsky’s theory and practice of the film-image.

Tarkovsky theorises the film-image in particular relation to time. In this paper we position his argument in relation to discussions in phenomenology and film-theory to suggest that, imbued with a sense of time, the film-image also gives rise to a corporeal understanding of place for both the film-maker and recipient of the film-image – and we liken this embodied act of cognition to one engendered by certain architectural experiences. We then turn to a specific scene from Nostalghia in order to appreciate that the film-image is, in fact, a ‘constructed atmosphere’: one that bears a naturalistic and poetic – material and symbolic – relation to place; one that therefore cultivates and embodied and imagined occupation of place.

In presenting our ideas, we shall also draw from our own artistic practice and, specifically, a project entitled ‘Gorchakov’s Wish’ generated while in residence at Bagno Vignoni. This situated filmic and poetic project embodies our relation to the psychological space of Nostalgia as well as the material and immaterial elements of St. Catherine’s pool, constructing a further immersive environment through video and sound that extends a phenomenological understanding of the film-image and its relation to place through art practice.

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Book Section

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Paper published as part of conference proceedings for Architecture and Phenomenology 2 international conference at Kyoto Seika University (Kyoto, Japan, 2009).


Tarkovksy, Film-Image, Architecture and Phenomenology, Kreider + O'Leary, Kreider, O'Leary, Nostalghia

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Date Deposited:

22 Sep 2017 14:39

Last Modified:

22 Sep 2017 14:39


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