November, 2011 Archives

You would think that this beautiful young woman is looking directly at us. In fact, Erica is staring at an absence. The black chair in the front is where her father usually sits during family dinners, but Erica has fallen in disfavor and her father is not attending. She is frozen with apprehension and, in a way, she is not really present at the table either. This is the first film frame I have seen that perspectivally establishes an absence so prominently in the foreground. The absence couldn’t possibly get closer to us! The image also establishes Erica’s guilt through her gaze at an absence. Sartre linked absences to anxiety through a long chain of ontological arguments in Being and Nothingness. But we can bypass the ontology here, and stare directly (and anxiously) at the face of absence.

Hitchcock’s Young and Innocent (1937). More Hitchcock absences coming soon.

Guilt