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Title: The ethics of incompletion : film bodies and absence in the films of Rithy Panh and Joshua Oppenheimer
Authors: Chia, Justin Ian Soon Hann
Keywords: DRNTU::Visual arts and music::Film
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: The Ethics of Incompletion addresses the relationship between film bodies and absence in essay films that explore the traumatic events which shaped and scarred the socio-political landscapes of Cambodia and Indonesia. The primary texts to be analyzed are Rithy Panh’s S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (S21, la machine de mort Khmère rouge, 2003) and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012). This essay argues that both texts manifest a drive to address unaccounted-for trauma not solely through the presence of their film bodies but also the absences that haunt the fissures generated by such embodiments. As a multi-sensorial medium, presence is privileged over absence as the images and sounds that engage the spectator’s senses are the foremost concerns of cinema. However, this essay asserts that a consideration of absence is also necessary to circumvent the epistemological violence inherent in any meaning-making operation. Paradoxically, while these absences are not embodied onscreen (or if so, then only partially and obliquely), it is the very presence of the film bodies onscreen that imprints and underscores said absences onto the spectator’s filmic experience. Can absence be read as having the potential to disrupt the meaning-making operations of the cinema that seek to impose a codified, final meaning onto the spectator? Is there the potentiality for these absences to escape the representational operation—that necessarily leads to assimilation into unitary knowledge or capital production—to impact upon the spectator’s filmic experience and in such a way, provide an opening for dialectics? This essay analyzes how both presence and absence work within the texts to undercut cinema's ability to resolve ethical and moral quandaries solely within itself, to be essentially incomplete, thereby providing the possibility for any such imperatives to be shifted onto the spectator to grapple with.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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