A New World of Plaster of Paris: A Biographical and Historical Reading of The Invisible Man (1933)
Barnhart, Scotty N.
Savannah, Ga. : Savannah College of Art and Design
Thesis (M.A.) -- Cinema Studies
Savannah College of Art and Design -- Department of Cinema Studies
Includes bibliographical references (p.32-34).
This thesis revives a dismissed form of biographical auteurism proposed by Robin Wood. It employs James Whale's life to reinforce a historicist reading of The Invisible Man. In the film, Dr. Jack Griffin, the Invisible Man (Claude Rains), is an external threat introduced into an apparently stable situation, just as the foreign Depression was introduced into the United States. Griffin may trespass any barrier while invisible and quiet. Villagers believe various barriers will protect them, yet Griffin evolves beyond Michel Chion's acousmêtre (the voice we cannot connect to a speaker). He can acousmatize, de-acousmatize, and reacousmatize, rendering these barriers ineffective. The fragility of these barriers reflects the production's context, when certain experts perpetuated a barrier of denial against the Depression. They claimed America's borders were secure, but the Depression trespassed. As a result, in both the film and its context, fragile barriers shelter/sheltered an apparently stable situation from an external threat. This central tension between stability and instability plays out in the film's mise-en-scène, which Whale orchestrated. This fragile mise-en-scène articulates Whale's belief that economic and social stability are fragile: a belief reinforced by his biography.
CHAIR: Cox-Stanton, Tracy
PDF : 34 p
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