The Audio-Visuality Of Transcendental Style in Film

Scovell, Adam. 2018. The Audio-Visuality Of Transcendental Style in Film. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Transcendental style in film is an expression of spiritual, ineffable and even holy subjects, often conveyed via a reduction of cinematic aesthetics and further aided by narratives of hardship. In audio-visual studies, the concept of the transcendental has been a consistent presence, especially in descriptive language concerned with the use of music in film, due in part to music’s abstract, ineffable form. Film studies, on the other hand, have been more concerned with the notion of the transcendental as a reception effect, linked to an aesthetic style rather than simply a formal outcome. In this thesis, the various aspects of a transcendental style will be addressed within a cinematic context with two aims:

• To highlight a neglect of aural analysis within the cinematic realm of transcendental studies.

• To critique the etymological and philosophical assumptions regarding the transcendental elements found in the language of audio-visual scholarship.

The labelling of something as transcendental is simultaneously distinctive and vague. This duality allows writers to identify aspects of audio-visual work that are ultimately beyond the reach of language-based communication. The word has complex connotations within a variety of different philosophical and theological movements, and the use within cinematic academia - as a descriptor of an aesthetic style - is equally as complex.

In his 1972 work, Transcendental Style in Film, Paul Schrader suggested a transcendental potential within cinema through discussing a number of temporal means and aesthetics. Music is mostly absent from his analysis, however. Film supposedly needs to move from "abundance" to "stasis" and this is often suggested by the reduction of the general cinematic style and the removal of music due to its editorial intonation.

I argue, on the contrary, that music and sound used in specific ways can inform the viewer of transcendental qualities and create both old and new ways of expressing transcendence. What my thesis will show is how this is achieved by a number of different filmmakers with emphasis on their aural character as well as the aural potential already found within previous theorisations of the style.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Music, Film, Film Music, Aesthetics, Transcendental, Philosophy

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 July 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Sep 2018 14:53

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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