How many children had Lady Macbeth? In the 1930s, F R Leavis ridiculed fellow literary critic A C Bradley for asking illegitimate questions about fictional characters. For Leavis, a character like Lady Macbeth had no back story as she was fictional, so it was foolish to indulge in extra-textual speculations about the number of her progeny. But what if the character is “real” such as those we meet in documentary film? Can we ask questions of these characters that go beyond or behind the filmic text? Drawing on film phenomenology, I will suggest that we can ask these questions. And, if this is the case, can we also analyse characters in documentary film through psychoanalytic categories? Can we speculate about the psychic life of documentary characters who exist for us only as filmic avatars?
Dr Bruce Eadie
For many years, Bruce Eadie was a documentary film producer, making films about troubling and traumatic events: the compulsory eugenic sterilisation of poor whites in Virginia, USA; the Holocaust in France; the death penalty. He won a number of international awards for his work including an Emmy in 1997 for his film on the Nuremberg Trials. More recently, he has completed a PhD looking at the deployment of fictional interludes in a number of contemporary documentary films, where fictions seem to be the only way to represent and then perhaps to generate a meaningful account of traumatic personal histories.
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