Pinar Post-traumatic Cinema abstract

Post-traumatic Cinema: The Language of Loss and Mourning


How does cinema as a visual art translate the traumatic past which resists visualization, into its own language? In other words, how can the issue of nonrepresentability of trauma be translated into film language?


Based on the premises that “trauma is beyond representation” by Cathy Caruth, we argue in this essay on the relationship between trauma and cinema that different film forms in the history of cinema emerged as cinema attempted to transform trauma into image. As J. Hirsch once stated, cinema’s attempt of representing the Holocaust coincides with the cinema’a attempt of establishing itself (Hirsch, 2004). He discusses the formal properties of the cinema of trauma exploiting films like Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) and Shoah. Cinema of trauma, while trying to answer questions of how loss and trauma would be translated into sound, manifests that dealing with the loss also determines the form of the film.


As one of the leading figures in the psychoanalytic film theory, T. McGowan (2012) discusses the relationship between cinema and trauma using the notion of gaze and notes that cinema is taming trauma of any sort by creating submissive subjects while promising to face with it. In his book named Mourning the Nation, Bhaskar Sarkar refers to the relationship between cinema and mourning by arousing questions about “how cinema represents (national) trauma and undertakes (national) mourning”, and claims that cinema is convenient for mourning services while asking the following question to provoke the reader to think about the cinema apparatus itself: “Isn’t the cinema apparatus –and its antecedent, the photograph- already mournful?”. Ann Kaplan (2009), on the other hand, denotes that the analysis of alternative films and photographs which are about trauma creates a space where the oppresser and the oppressed confronts each other and mourns together, and she is interested in revealing that these works of art may suggest something about how the damages in the social structure can be ameliorated.


In a country where the relationship with the traumatic past is established on the basis of neglect and traumatic incidents have not been fully considered either politically or legally, the formation of the language of remembrance is a question. In this study to answer questions of this sort, we analyze two films, Babamın Sesi (Orhan Eskiköy, Zeynel Doğan, 2012) and Tepenin Ardı (Emin Alper, 2012), which are the examples of films in Turkish cinema dealing with the traumatic past.



Pınar Yıldız is a Research Assistant and a PhD candidate at the faculty of Communication,

Ankara University. Her research interests involve memory and cinema, Turkısh cinema, representation and cinema and art cinema. In addition to her academic research she makes documentary and fiction film. In 2004, she has produced and directed the documentary film Sürgün and in 2012 she has worked as an Assistant Director in the feature film Babamın Sesi.

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