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Loewy, M. (2016). Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film by Agnieszka Piotrowska Routledge, London, 2013; 272 pp; £29.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(1):225-228.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(1):225-228

Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film by Agnieszka Piotrowska Routledge, London, 2013; 272 pp; £29.99

Review by:
Monika Loewy

While film theory in general has provided considerable employment for psychoanalysis since the 1970s, documentary film theory has not. It is this lack that Agnieszka Piotrowska attends to in her book Psychoanalysis and Ethics in Documentary Film, which is based upon her experience as a filmmaker. Piotrowska sets out to explore how documentary films are impacted by an unconscious encounter between the subject and filmmaker. Since the two participants are often haunted by their past, Piotrowska contends that a deep affective bond is created, which she calls “transference-love”. “The aim of this work,” she writes, “has been mostly to demolish the notion of ‘the objective’ in documentary film and suggest that profoundly powerful unconscious mechanisms take place in that encounter which make it most difficult to be seen” (p. 193). She approaches this by disclosing hidden encounters within various documentaries including her own, through an interdisciplinary -predominantly psychoanalytic - point of view.

The author successfully shows that at stake in the hidden subject/filmmaker relationship is the effect of transference on the subject's representation, thus obscuring objectivity and assumed truths. What, she asks, does this do to the concept of autobiography and testimony (of trauma), and how is the third party (the broadcaster or unknown public spectator) involved in the outcome?

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[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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