The Auteur Affect: "Forces of Encounter" between Shakespeare and Kurosawa in The Bad Sleep Well
Shakespeare Bulletin: a journal of performance, criticism, and scholarship
Johns Hopkins University Press
Copyright © 2016 The Johns Hopkins University Press
Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well is only loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, yet its themes of cruelty, revenge, social madness and singular emotional intensity are as quintessentially Shakespearean, as they are fiercely Kurosawan. Continuing the theme of this special issue on the auteur, this article examines how an author, or auteur, especially one as well defined and debated as Shakespeare or Kurosawa, can be said to generate authorial affect(s). Taking Colin MacCabe’s ‘Revenge of the Author’ as a starting point, the article moves towards a theory of authorship that is polyvalent rather than fixed, and like the text or film itself, is ‘continuously determined’ in meaning, deferring neither to the author/auteur nor reader/viewer exclusively. The Bad Sleep Well bears the marks of its authors, yet cannot be fully determined by them. The auteur, I suggest, is not dead, nor purely exalted or fetishized, but rather haunts the film, (theme, style, autobiography) conveying a myriad of ‘transindividual codes’ to be felt or sensed by the viewer. An examination through the philosophical tenets of affect theory, then, considers the idea that an absent auteur is part of a network of affects that generate sensation, and, meaning. Affect theory considers how a given exterior reality is charged by the energy of minute shifts in movement, perception, or imagination. Often this is hypothesised through the relations between a subject and an event, or an object. Enlisting this phenomenological approach, with particular focus on film form, the article demonstrates the infinite potential of authorial affect reverberating through the post-war landscape of Kurosawa’s Hamlet-inflected Tokyo.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Johns Hopkins University Press via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 34, Iss. 3, pp. 413 - 432