Although Douglas Sirk’ All That Heaven Allows (1954) and Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven (2002) are both characterized as melodramas, they address their spectators differently. The divergent (emotional) reactions towards both films are the effect of different rhetorical strategies: the first can be seen a typical example of baroque discourse and the latter as a specimen of mannerist discourse. The reference to the terms melodrama, mannerism and baroque does not imply that these films are just formal repetitions of historical periods or that they thematically and structurally refer to historical styles, but that they are characterized by opposing discursive strategies which came to the foreground in a specific historical time and constellation. Because these discursive strategies return in other historical periods and social-political circumstances in different guises and with different aims, they can be compared to what Aby Warburg calls Pathosformeln (pathos formula). The expressive forms, gestures and discursive modes of melodrama, baroque and mannerism can thus be understood as trans-historical (gestural) languages of pathos that recur in history.
|Image & Narrative
|Published - 1 Jan 2012