Further Studies of Temporality in Japanese Film: Phenomenological Reflections on ‘Ma'(間), and the In-Betweenness of Sound


This presentation is part of an ongoing investigation into the absence, presence, and in-betweenness of sound and music in selected movies from the post-war Japanese film industry: Japanese film presents a distinct aesthetic that is often sparse and parsimonious in its use of sound and music. In these Japanese films, a notion of in-betweenness resonates with the concept of ‘Ma’ (間) a word standing for pause, gap, or emptiness in the Japanese philosophical tradition. ‘Ma’, is the Deleuzian rhizome that disperses rigid post-Cartesian dichotomies of absence and presence in sound and music: ‘Ma’ is a concept which collapses dichotomies of space-time relations and transcends any definition of space-time intervals. A notion closely relating to the Philosophical School of Kyoto and the predicament of its main scholars, the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida. Drawing connections between selected works of film directors Nagisa Ōshima, and Kiyomi Kuroda, all of whom have a particular relationship to the concept of ‘Ma’, I maintain that the absence of sound in these films relates to what in the western philosophical tradition is subsumed into the Husserlian phenomenological notion of retention and protention: the perception of a presence just passed, or yet to be. In this investigation, by examining the specific relation of Japanese film to music, I maintain that the dialogue between moving images and sound is never absent: rather that sound in Japanese film, even when unheard, is prepared, or amplified by its own ostensible muteness; by the temporal protraction of silent moments of stillness.

Author Information
Pellegrini Sascia, School of the Arts of Singapore, Singapore

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2023
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon