New Blood in Contemporary Cinema: Women Directors and the Poetics of Horror

Discusses how contemporary women directors have appropriated horror aesthetics, enlarging its generic scope and expanding its emotional spectrum

  • Revisits themes and concerns of the horror genre, from the perspective of women directors
  • Includes case studies of important female directed films, including A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Evolution, Raw and Atlantics.
  • Revisits feminist themes such as female agency, gender and race relations and affect by returning to the work of feminist directors of the 1970s and 1980s (not necessarily considered as generic horror films), in comparison to contemporary women directors
  • Includes women of colour as well as white women directors, thus acknowledges both differences of the specific ethnic and social political contexts and shared concerns

Since the turn of the millennium, a growing number of female filmmakers have appropriated the aesthetics of horror for their films. In this book, Patricia Pisters investigates contemporary women directors such as Ngozi Onwurah, Claire Denis, Lucile Hadžihalilović and Ana Lily Amirpour, who put ‘a poetics of horror’ to new use in their work, expanding the range of gendered and racialized perspectives in the horror genre.

Exploring themes such as rage, trauma, sexuality, family ties and politics, New Blood in Contemporary Cinema takes on avenging women, bloody vampires, lustful witches, scary mothers, terrifying offspring and female Frankensteins. By following a red trail of blood, the book illuminates a new generation of women directors who have enlarged the general scope and stretched the emotional spectrum of the genre. The book has appeared in 2020 with Edinburgh University Press.

See here for some online presentations of the book. The booklaunch in EYE Filmmuseum can be seen here (in Dutch). An online lecture for the University of Southhampton about the book can be watched here (in English).

Filming for the Future

Patricia Pisters, Filming for the Future: The Work of Louis van Gasteren (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015)

Book on the work of Grand Old Master of Dutch cinema Louis van Gasteren; illustrated and including 3 DVDs containing 7 films (with English subtitels). Published by Amsterdam University Press. The film titles are A New Village on New Land (1960), The House (1961), Hans Life Before Death (1983), A Matter of Level (1990), The Price of Survival (2003), Changing Tack (2009) and Nema Aviona Za Zagreb (2012).

Louis van Gasteren (1922-2016) was one of the Netherlands’s most prolific filmmakers. He has made about eighty documentaries as well as two feature films, art works, and several publications. His film Now Do you get it Why I am Crying? (1969) played an important role in the recognition of the enduring psychological effects of war trauma. Hans Life Before Death (1983) presents a deeply empathic portrait of the post war generation of youth rebels in Amsterdam in the 1960s that addresses major existential questions. In his autobiographical film, Nema Aviona Za Zagreb (2012), Van Gasteren declares his passion for filming and his desire to register everything from both the outer world as well as from inner life. This book presents a journey through the rich audio-visual and artistic sources of the world of a filmmaker who, over the last sixty years, and long before we all became accustomed to carrying mobile cameras in our pockets, always had his camera on standby.

Van Gasteren has been relentless in filming a range of topics, phenomena, and events of national and international scope and universal value. His camera eye was visionary, documenting not only the tumultuous happenings of the different presents that he witnessed, but also the return of the past and anticipation of the future. His work demonstrates a fascination for technology, a deep interest in politics, and a continuous concern for the traumatic effects of war and the passage of time itself; always looking for new doors of perception, always returning to his home in Amsterdam, always departing again to new or recurring points of interest. Filming for the Future explores the most salient features of a wide-ranging and vital oeuvre that becomes ever more amazing and important as time goes by. Van Gasteren’s work is an invaluable source of historical documentation and percipient cultural analysis made by an adventurous ‘participating observer’ of the twentieth century that is worthwhile (re)discovering in and for the twenty-first century.

On the occasion of the passing away of Louis van Gasteren on 10 May 2016, the EYE film institute organized a special screening of Nema Aviona za Zagreb. The introduction (in Dutch) to this film can be read on my blog entree here.

Filming for the Future was awarded the Louis Hartlooper Prize for Best Film Publication 2016. 

The Neuro-Image

Patricia Pisters, The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Filmphilosophy of Digital Screen Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012) 370 pp.

This book approaches 21st-century globalized cinema through the new concept of the “neuro-image.” Pisters begins with the premise that today’s viewers no longer look through a character's eyes; instead, they move through his or her brain or mental landscape. Her book elaborates the threefold nature of the neuro-image by drawing on research from three domains—Deleuzian (schizoanalytic) philosophy, digital networked screen culture, and neuroscientific research—and is accordingly divided into three parts. The first reads the brain as screen, or “neuroscreen,” thereby grounding contemporary cinema in our bodily materiality. It investigates clinical and critical aspects of schizophrenia alongside contemporary films that deal with the same disease, elaborates connections between film theory and cognitive neuroscience, and reflects on the omnipresence of surveillance. Next, the book explores neuro-images from a philosophical point of view, paying less attention to science and more to their ontological, epistemological, and aesthetic dimensions. Individual chapters deal with Bergson, Deleuze and questions of time, Hume’s skeptical epistemology and the increasing blurring of the false and the real, and the affective powers of what has come to be called the neo- or digital baroque. The final section of the book is dedicated to the political and ethical aspects of the neuro-image, including the production of historical memory, the ways in which the neuro-image can impact politics, and the multiplication of screens in the context of war and war films. Pisters leaves us with an understanding of why it is that the neuro-image has emerged in our present moment.

Link to Stanford University Press

Read the Introduction in PDF

David Sterritt's review of the book in New Review of Film and Television

Claire Colebrook's review of the book in Deleuze Studies 

Maria Walsh's review of the book in Film-Philosophy

The Matrix of Visual Culture

Patricia Pisters, The Matrix of Visual Culture: Working with Deleuze in Film Theory (Stanford University Press, 2003) 288 pages

This book explores Gilles Deleuze's contribution to film theory. According to Deleuze, we have come to live in a universe that could be described as metacinematic. His conception of images implies a new kind of camera consciousness, one that determines our perceptions and sense of selves: aspects of our subjectivities are formed in, for instance, action-images, affection-images and time-images. We live in a matrix of visual culture that is always moving and changing. Each image is always connected to an assemblage of affects and forces. This book presents a model, as well as many concrete examples, of how to work with Deleuze in film theory. It asks questions about the universe as metacinema, subjectivity, violence, feminism, monstrosity, and music. Among the contemporary films it discusses within a Deleuzian framework are Strange Days, Fight Club, and Dancer in the Dark.


Link to Stanford University Press

From Eye to Brain

Patricia Pisters, From Eye to Brain (PhD, University of Amsterdam, 1998) 295 pages

From Eye to Brain presents an explorative journey through a landscape of images and sounds. Gilles Deleuze, often accompanied by Félix Guattari and others, is the virtual guide on this voyage. Along the way three basic questions will be addressed. The first question concerns the classic “images of thought,” which is defined by representation and the model of the eye. Can we still take the eye as a model of thinking or would it be more appropriate to install a model of the “rhizomatic” brain? The psycho-semiotic apparatus theory in film studies is connected to the model of the eye. Even though representation has been criticized, especially by feminist psychoanalytic film theory, the second questions in this book concerns the function and adequacy of Freudian and Lacanian theory for conceiving cinema and new images at the end of the second millennium. The first two questions are related to a third one: the underlying question of the subject. Psychoanalytic film theory has provided a strong model for subjectivity based on opposition (with the “other”) and desire (caused by a fundamental lack). However, we might ask if this model is still adequate. The model of the brain, looking for heterogeneous connections, calls for a refiguration of the subject in film theory as well. The many encounters with contemporary audiovisual products presented in this book force us to open up the subject, defining desire in an affirmative way and invading “the subject” with multiplicities of all kinds.