Embodying Virtual War: Digital Technology and Subjectivity in the Contemporary War Film
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Addressing a perceived absence of critical attention to changes in the war film brought about by the advent of the digital, this thesis aims to construct an original study of contemporary (post-2001) US war cinema by exploring the shifting relationship between embodiment, subjectivity and digital (military-technological) mediation. In order to update the critical framework necessary for comprehending how the war film is altered by the remediation of digitised military interfaces, I draw on a highly diverse set of approaches ranging from journalistic accounts of the wars in Iraq (2003-11) and Afghanistan (2001-present), studies of military technologies from Paul Virilio to Derek Gregory and Pasi Väliaho, as well as film/media studies work on ethics and spectatorship. The corpus is similarly diverse, encompassing mainstream genre films such as Zero Dark Thirty (2012), documentaries, and gallery installations by Omer Fast and Harun Farocki, thus offering a comprehensive and inclusive portrait of contemporary cinematic trends. The thesis begins by identifying the genre’s post-Vietnam turn to embodied, subjective experience and explores the continuation of this tendency through films such as The Hurt Locker (2008) and its complicity with phenomena such as journalistic embedding. Subsequently, I trace how drones and simulations radically alter conventional cinematic constructions of subjective perceptual experience through readings of Omer Fast’s Five Thousand Feet is the Best (2011) and Harun Farocki’s Serious Games (2009-10), noting in particular the emergence of the virtualised yet embodied ‘presence’ of the drone operator and the conditioning of trans-subjective, cybernetic networks via CG simulations. Finally, I turn to the remediation of various digital interfaces in films such as Redacted (2007), comparing the emergent models of military subjectivity discussed in the previous chapters with the spectatorial positions evoked by this hypermediated aesthetic.
- Theses