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Title: The home movie imagination in UK and US fiction films
Author: Wąsik, Marta
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 6143
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the representation of home movies in UK and US feature fiction films released between 1939-2013. For the purposes of the thesis home movies are defined as a subset of amateur (i.e. non-professional) film concerned with the representation of home and family and intended for domestic consumption. Home movies are further distinguished from home video and domestic productions recorded digitally referring specifically to films shot on, or connoting, small-gauge film. Drawing on James Moran’s notion of the ‘imaginary medium’ (There’s No Place Like Home Video, 2002) and the scholarship on the Imaginary in media, this thesis advances the concept of the ‘home movie imagination’ to describe the way in which cinema constructs home movies in the process of representation. Using textual analysis, this thesis identifies a series of shifts in cinematic depictions of home movies. Accordingly, each case study chapter focuses on a selection of examples which best exemplify these transitions and continuing trends. Placing cinematic home movies in the context of the histories of amateur film and small-gauge technology, this thesis demonstrates that home movies in fiction films should not be perceived as a reflection on developments of the technology, but studied specifically as fictional stylisations. The first chapter explores the emergence of home movies as a motif in feature fiction films, interrogating the technology’s pervasive association with wealth and spectacle in films released between 1939-1949. The second elaborates on these concerns, observing an incongruity between cinema’s continued affiliation of home movies with affluence and the developments in the social history of amateur filmmaking following the Second World War. Chapter Three looks at films released between 1964-1980, investigating the dual role of home movies deployed as sentimental reminders of lost familial cohesion and a tool to challenge the family ideal. Chapter Four focuses on the adaptations of Thomas Harris’ novel Red Dragon (1981) — Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986), Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002) — charting the impact which the advent of home video had on the representation of cinematic home movies. Home movie obsolescence is explored further in Chapter Five which interrogates the transition of home movies from an aim to memory (prop) to texture of memory (aesthetic). The final chapter focuses on the depiction of home movies in Super 8 (2011) and Frankenweenie (2012), investigating the nostalgia which they express towards the materiality of small-gauge technology. This thesis argues that home movies in feature fiction film constitute a unique, and widely overlooked, object of study. As films-within-films they frequently function as a self-reflexive device, a tool for filmmakers to reflect on their art. However, they are also specifically a domestic technology, focusing an inquiry into the role which media and mediation play in the cinematic construction of family narratives. Exploring the ways in which cinema constructs home movies in the process of representation the home movie imagination offers an innovative approach for studying the depiction of domestic moving image technologies, one which recognises their character as stylisations and responds to their historical variability.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures