Bridging the Absence: Jonas Mekas’s Hybrid Cinema

Angelo Grossi

Abstract


In this essay I will focus on Jonas Mekas’s ‘diary films’ such as Walden (1969), Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), and Lost Lost Lost (1975), interpreting them as a trilogy that constitutes one of the most seminal expressions of Laura Marks’s theoretical notion of “hybrid cinema” or “experimental diasporan cinema” (1994). As Marks argues, experimental diasporan films are characterized by an autobiographical attitude that “mediates a mixture of documentary, fiction, and experimental genres” in an aesthetic effort to create a formal correlative of the liminal and multicultural identities of diasporic auteurs (1994, 245). Moreover, they often incorporate intermedial strategies.

This notion applies to Mekas’s films, which have been variously defined as diary films, documentaries, essay films, film-poems, home-movies (although the home represented is often a lost Heimat), and through the generic label of ‘avant-garde.’ His films are animated by a sense of identity (and of the film itself) as an unfinished process, which is exemplified by Mekas’s gestural and erratic camera. This process is put into dialogue with a sense of perpetual nostalgia that both reflects and repairs the discontinuity of the self, binding past and present. The resulting tension is further visible in the gap between Mekas as a (self-proclaimed) ‘filmer’—simultaneously filming and experiencing reality—and as a filmmaker—selecting the material, editing, and commenting it through his voice-over and the use of intertitles. Through the contemplation and enactment of this gap, Mekas’s intimate experience of loss and exile becomes a collective narrative shared with the spectators.


Keywords


Jonas Mekas; hybrid cinema; migration; intermediality

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13136/2281-4582/2021.i17.997

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