Staging the Trip on the Screen : Analysing the Representations of the Drug Taking in Films.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Alexandre MARCHANT, ENS de Cachan (Institute for Political Social Sciences), France
History of drugs in contemporary society can be readdressed from the side of the senses, using popular culture and subcultures as materials. Among them, some films tried to deal with the experience of drug taking through a sensorial experience, especially in the second half of the XXth Century.

This paper will analyse a selection of movies depicting drug addiction : The Trip (Roger Corman, 1967), Easy Rider (1969), La Montana Sagrada (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973), The Shoot (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1978), Drugstore Cowboy (Gus van Sant, 1989), Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg, 1991), Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996), Las Vegas Parano (Terry Gilliam, 1998), Requiem for a dream (Daren Arnofsky, 2000), Blueberry (Jan Kounen, 2004)…

The talk will focus on extracts staging sensorial experience of ecstasy or of the bad trip, but also overdoses caused by drug ingestion. The key-questions will be : how cinema can describe what is unspeakable ? What are the roles of the senses (vision and sound) in the depiction on screens of the altered or parallel universes created by the drug ingestion ? How are suggested the role of the senses movies can’t show directly like smell or taste ? For what purpose, being known directors always wanted to express some feelings, values or judgements in the staging of extreme scenes ?

A particular attention will be held to visual grammar used to describe the drug trip: visual and auditory hallucinations, inserts and accelerated montage, slow motion, soft focus, filters of vivid colours… The way soundtrack is also worked to account the disruption of senses will also be highlighted.

Finally, as a lot of these movies were also termed “classics” by critics, these representations had also an impact on social imaginary. Thus their effects on our own perception of the world, passed through popular culture, will also be questioned.