Inflections of the gothic in New Zealand film : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English and Media Studies at Massey University

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Massey University
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Sam Neill and Judy Rymer in their documentary Cinema of Unease (1995) vocalised what many have thought, which is that New Zealand film has a dark side to it. The film's subtitle is a "personal journey" taken by Sam Neill therefore it is obviously his point of view that is put across in the film's narration. In the documentary Neil and Rymer examine the images that they believe make up the "uniquely strange and dark" atmosphere of New Zealand films. Sam Neill states that there are varied feelings making up the dark tone; these are alienation, abandonment, horror, madness, fear and violence. He believes that what essentially encouraged the prevalence of these feelings in our cinematic texts was a growing distance between the colony and the "Motherland" and the gradual focus of New Zealand film on the less "sunny" side of American film that was produced in the fifties and consumed here. The way of depicting these images, he believes, was achieved in the dark and menacing (and sometimes isolated) natural landscape of New Zealand. I am, in this thesis, suggesting a different explanation from Sam Neill and Judy Rymer's account for this "uniquely strange and dark atmosphere". In fact I think it is not unique but has much in common with an older tradition and style, namely Gothic . I will be calling "Gothic" a style or form in this study because I believe that it has qualities that enable it to be adapted to different generic types. My discussion in Chapter Three is an example as elements of the Gothic style have been adapted to film noir and the paranoid woman's film. My suggestion that there is a significantly Gothic character to New Zealand film expands the range of this present study of national film because the amount of information and theory on Gothic is immense. The fluidity of the style has allowed it to cross over into many different genres of literature and film which again extends the range of possible parallels with New Zealand film. For practical reasons of scale, I have chosen just three aspects of the Gothic that I believe New Zealand film exemplifies. I shall begin with traditional Gothic literature and its themes and devices as a possible influence on New Zealand film. I shall then go on to look at other areas where the Gothic style is operating: New Zealand literature and its commonalities with the national cinema, and finally examine Hollywood film and explain some of it's parallels with our comparatively small industry.
Motion pictures, New Zealand, Gothic film, New Zealand films, New Zealand movies, Gothic literature