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Darkness on Screen: Subjectivity-Inducing Mechanisms in Contemporary Estonian Art Film

Martin Oja


The main purpose of the article is to bring more clarity to the concept of art film, shedding light on the mechanisms of subjective reception and evaluating the presence of subjectivity-inducing segments as the grounds for defining art film. The second aim is to take a fresh look at the little-discussed Estonian art cinema, drawing on a framework of cognitive film studies in order to analyse its borders and characteristics. I will evaluate the use of darkness as a device for creating meaning, both independently of and combined with other visual or auditory devices. The dark screen, although not always a major factor in the creation of subjectivity, accompanies the core problem both directly and metaphorically: what happens to the viewer when external information is absent? I will look at the subjectivity-inducing devices in the films of two Estonian directors, Sulev Keedus and Veiko Õunpuu. For the theoretical background, I rely mostly on Torben Grodal’s idea about the subjective mode as a main characteristic of art film, and the disruption of character simulation as the basis for the film viewer’s subjectivity.


art film; reception; Estonia film; darkness; meaning making; subjectivty induction; Õunpuu; Keedus

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