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A cinema of immanence: the films of Paul Verhoeven in Hollywood and beyond

Waters, Thomas (2020) A cinema of immanence: the films of Paul Verhoeven in Hollywood and beyond. PhD thesis, University Of Essex.

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Existing Anglo-American scholarship on the films of Paul Verhoeven is overwhelmingly concerned with the director’s Hollywood productions and tends to apply frameworks of analysis based on Cartesian dualist thought. Much of this scholarship consequently finds contradictions between the politically progressive qualities of Verhoeven’s work and the reactionary politics assumed to be inherent to the popular form. This study aims to re-contextualise Verhoeven’s films as a cinema of immanence, which does not think in those dualist terms. Building on existing work that centres the body and sensation in film scholarship, and drawing on the writings of Deleuze and Guattari, this thesis asks about Verhoeven’s body of work: what is a cinema of immanence, what does it do and how is it different? In this context, immanence means thinking of everything as inherent to the material world. Through close readings of Verhoeven’s films, the thesis makes the argument in three stages over three chapters. The first chapter defines what is meant by a cinema of immanence through a consideration of how bodies are presented on-screen in Verhoeven’s pre-Hollywood films. This chapter identifies a body of work that consistently decentres subjectivity in favour of a presentation of the human body as a multiplicity, also collapsing planes of the symbolic and fantasy into the world of bodies. Consequently, the film-worlds are shown to think in terms of immanent ethics, rather than a transcendent morality. Building on the definition of a cinema of immanence in Chapter One, the second chapter looks at what a cinema of immanence does by reframing the encounter between the spectator and Verhoeven’s Hollywood films in terms of immanence, affect and habit. The chapter determines that Verhoeven’s films can express the formation of rigid Hollywood frameworks of realism, genre and sexual difference, arguing that they operate as popular Hollywood genre films through camouflage or as simulacra. This opens up potential becoming-others to the spectator as habits and expectation are disrupted. The third chapter shows how Verhoeven’s films are different from films that think in terms of dualism by comparing Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987) and Total Recall (1990) with their contemporary remakes. Through this comparison, Verhoeven’s films can be seen to show a supple segmentarity and micropolitics of the individual, whereas the remakes present unified models of individuality that resonate with the interests of the nation-state and capitalism. The study concludes that the capacity to think in terms of immanence allows Verhoeven’s films to express what Deleuze and Guattari call the molecular dimension of the film world. This disrupts the function of dualist thought, which works to unify, centre, hierarchise and impose finality. Further research is recommended to shift emphasis away from scholarship that imposes dualist frameworks of analysis on the popular form, toward how a film thinks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Verhoeven, Immanence, Cinema, Deleuze, Guattari, RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Hollywood, Dutch cinema.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Thomas Waters
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2020 14:54
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 14:54

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