What is the self that leaves the cinema? This is one of Roland Barthes questions in his 1975 formative essay, “Leaving the Cinema.” This short piece occasions a pathbreaking strain of film theory that deals with the self's relation to cinematic images. In tracing this short but vital lineage out of the history of film theory, mentions will be made of Jean Louis Schefer’s work, including his poetic book The Ordinary Man of Cinema. After setting the theoretical, historical, and cultural stakes of this type of theory, I will narrow to a particular case study: the romance between a woman and a ghost-image in Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Through this relationship I hope to illuminate the conditions of togetherness between spectator and image that vibrate long after the closing credits.
Thomas Quist is a PhD student in the Cinema Studies Institute. He is interested in film theory, theories of the image, and aesthetics.