From subject-effect to presence-effect – A deictic approach to the cinematic


The late 1990s and first decade of the 21st century saw the release of a number of films that are decidedly self-referential about time and invoke a sophisticated media-literacy on the part of the viewer. In these films past, present, and future are often portrayed as highly mutable domains that can easily be accessed, erased, (re)designed, or modified. Examples include: SOURCE CODE (Duncan Jones, 2011), INCEPTION (Christopher Nolan, 2010), SHERLOCK HOLMES (Guy Ritchie, 2009), NEXT (Lee Tamahori, 2007), DÉJÀ VU (Tony Scott, 2006), THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (Eric Bress; J. Mackye Gruber, 2004), PAYCHECK (John Woo, 2003), ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (Michel Gondry, 2004), MINORITY REPORT (Steven Spielberg, 2002), DONNIE DARKO (Richard Kelly, 2001), and many more. As theoretical objects, these cases stand out for the ways they deploy their own artistic potential to foreground, articulate, and conjure critical thought about their own temporality and the modes of existence they afford. These films can be called post-classical to the extent that they resist classical modes of cinematic storytelling in favor of what Warren Buckland has called ‘puzzle plots’ – i.e., they are films in which the ‘arrangement of events is not just complex, but complicated and perplexing’.

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Preferred Citation
Hesselberth, Pepita: From subject-effect to presence-effect – A deictic approach to the cinematic. In: NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies, Jg. 1 (2012), Nr. 2, S. 241-267. DOI:
 author = {Hesselberth, Pepita},
 title = {From subject-effect to presence-effect – A deictic approach to the cinematic},
 year = 2012,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 1,
 address = {Amsterdam},
 journal = {NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies},
 number = 2,
 pages = {241--267},
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