Monday, 24 October 2011
I've written an article called, 'Seeking Substance in Historical Costume Films', for the webzine, Notes on Metamodernism. It is slightly more academic in tone than I usually write for online articles, although, I hope, still accessible. I put so much thought and passion into this article, and it's on a topic that I find truly fascinating. Here are a few excerpts:
From Jameson’s critique of postmodernism, we have fashioned a mode of postmodern nostalgia defined by the commodification, aestheticisation and deconstruction of the past in the present. The idea that our modern culture functions via the flattening out of history as a marketable “image” or a commodified “style” is assumed as fact. And it is a fact that is applied to a whole host of contemporary historical and period films that utilise the appeal of the past through a type of museum aesthetic, where the cultural legacy of the past is displayed as a pleasing aesthetic, and nothing more. I don’t deny the logic of such an argument, but I also believe there is a considerable search for substance that goes hand-in-hand with our rampant consumption of style and image, which moves us beyond postmodernism. It is a search for substance that begins with the very meaning of the word “nostalgia”.
I view Campion’s Bright Star as a metaphor for how to approach many other costume and period films. Looking at them purely as a form of aestheticised postmodern superficiality ignores their varied searches for something behind the beautiful veneer of representation, style and image. We may be deeply enamoured with the styles of the past, with representation over “fact”, and we may still be lingering in the pain of a loss of historicity. But we are no longer content to remain in nowhere land, without a home. Campion’s Bright Star reminds me that if, on the one hand, we continue to accumulate aestheticised imagery in place of substantial history and can no longer approach history with a credulous innocence, we are still, nevertheless, digging beneath this imagery with eyes wide open, searching for clues into who we are, where we belong, and how we choose to re-imagine that which has been lost.
Click here to read the whole article. And I would love to hear some feedback if you'd like to offer some. I'm also fascinated by the concept of "metamodernism", as explained here, here and here.
On a separate note, thank you so much for all the kind comments and emails I received about this post. I really don't know what to say, other than thank you.