From Joseph Conrad to Chantal Akerman: The Necessity of “déplacement”

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Chantal Akerman has been labelled experimental, feminist and minimalist. She often positioned herself against mainstream cinema and its industry. Despite this, she adapted Conrad’s first novel Almayer’s Folly (1895). “La Folie Almayer” (2011) is described by her as “librement adapté” which one can translate as “loosely based on” or as “freely inspired by”. In both cases, the relation between the text and its adaptation will need to be questioned to assess Akerman’s “betrayal” of Conrad. However, I propose to focus on what can be transferred from literature to film using the notion of “déplacement” (the French term condensing the ideas of shifting, displacement, transfer and journey). The first “déplacement” I will analyse is the necessity for Akerman to “shift” from the book because it is gendered and socio-historically grounded. Secondly, a more psychological and psychoanalytical approach will allow me to analyse the “déplacement” as displacement. I will look for a structural identity between cinematic and linguistic language. This “ideation”, using Jean Mitry’s conception, can be associated with the language of “folie”(folly and/or madness). I aim to show that both works share the same melancholia defined by Sigmund Freud and Julia Kristeva. Finally, I will question if the “déplacement” perceived as a journey to a new geographical location should be analysed in postcolonial terms. I will show that a phenomenological journey can offer an ethical justification for the many “déplacements” characteristics of Akeman’s cinema. I will conclude by explaining how the notion of “swaying” could summarise the process of adapting Conrad’s book.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAuthority and Displacement in the English Speaking World
PublisherCambridge Scholars
ISBN (Electronic)1443880949
ISBN (Print)978-1-4438-8094-7
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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