The Death of the Father and Cultural Renewal: The Anticipation of Home in The Edge of Heaven (2007) and Father of My Children (2009)
Thursday 27 November 2014, 4.30 – 6pm
Project Room, 50 George Square
This paper examines two global art films which are also family melodramas infused with pathos. It argues that both films are characterized by melodramatic trauma and backwardness, but also by awakening, transience and renewal. Both films are also melodramatic in the way they oedipalize history and articulate the social via the psychic; but nonetheless move beyond the domestic to examine work and the public sphere, Europe and modernity, and the recent global economic crash. Both films are distinctive in their mix of masculine and feminine focalization, and are also less neo-Bazinian in their modes of enunciation. In keeping with this, the two films are also lower on abjection, suffering and melancholia than other recent global family melodramas. They nonetheless focus on loss and are marked by restlessness. This restlessness can be theorized as the melodrama of parallelism and a longing for an unspecified elsewhere. This, arguably, is an expression of melodrama’s ability to move beyond circularity and alienation; to move from the post-sacred to the post-post sacred – and toward fantasies and a legibility less tied to moral and historical absolutes.
Michael Stewart is senior lecturer in film and film and media programme leader at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. His research is focused on film melodrama. He has published on this subject in various journals – e.g. Cinema Journal, Scope, Journal of British Cinema and Television, and recently edited an international collection of essays on contemporary film and television melodrama – Melodrama in Contemporary Film and Television (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).