Drawing trauma: visual testimony in Caché and J'ai 8 ans (2007)

Author(s): Austin G

    Abstract: The Algerian War (1954–1962) is a trauma that runs through the recent social and cultural histories of France and Algeria, and which has also punctuated the film histories of those countries. For years after independence the only officially sanctioned topic of Algerian national cinema, the ‘undeclared war’ has been more marginal within French film, but has received much recent attention. The most talked about example of this is Michael Haneke's Caché (2005) – as the recent Screen dossier testifies. By and large, the approach taken in the dossier reflects the more general critical reception of Caché: a fascination with Haneke's formal and ontological experimentation via point of view, the video image and the interpellation of the audience. Certain contributors also raised the political and ethical issues dependent on the film's postcolonial context and the historical trauma it evoked. None of the analyses, however, mobilized trauma theory or looked in any depth at the function of the drawings (as opposed to the video images) within the film. It is my contention that the drawing of trauma is a crucial issue explored in Caché and one which relates the film back to contemporary accounts of the Algerian War by child witnesses. To modify Martine Beugnet's assertion, I would suggest that the inscription of trauma in the body of Caché is achieved via the drawings (rather than the video image).

      • Date: 01-12-2007
      • Journal: Screen
      • Volume: 48
      • Issue: 4
      • Pages: 529-536
      • Publisher: Screen Enterprises
      • Publication type: Article
      • Bibliographic status: Published

      Professor Guy Austin
      Professor of French Studies