Cinema and cartography

As a rule I try to keep posts that curate a small set of links to papers on the cinema arising outside film studies to the last Thursday of the month, but we need to bring this one forward by a week to give me time to do some other things for subsequent posts.

More excitingly, it gives me a chance to link my interest in the cinema to my interest in cartography. I am obsessed with maps (and satellite images and aerial photography too), and will quite happily spend hours looking an atlas. They are simply fascinating things. If you want to see map-making at its most fascinating then check out the Warren-Bachelder maps of the battle of Gettysburg here.

The best place to start is this introduction to a special issue of The Cartographic Journal.

Caquard S and Taylor F 2009 What is cinematic cartography?, The Cartographic Journal 46 (1): 5-8.

Maps are ubiquitous in movies. They appear constantly and in a variety of forms: hung on the wall of a classroom, framed in an office, and unfolded by gangsters on a table. In movies maps serve a variety of purposes: They serve as decoration, as a means of location, to aid narration, as metaphors as well as to increase the dramatic tension of a sequence. They can play a prominent role in the unfolding of the action or appear only for a split second behind a closing door. They can serve to address the audience or as a mean of interaction between characters. They can be classic and static, or unique and dynamic. This pervasive presence of diverse cartographic artifacts in films contrasts dramatically with the marginal impact that cinematographic techniques, concepts and artifacts have had on cartography over the course of the last century. There has been substantial use of cartography in cinema but this has had very limited impact on the theory and practice of cartography.

From the same issue we have Sébastien Caquard’s article on digital cartography and its relation to cinema.

Caquard S 2009 Foreshadowing contemporary digital cartography: a historical review of cinematic maps in films, The Cartographic Journal 46 (1): 46-55.

Through an historical review of cinematic maps – or ‘cinemaps’ – this paper argues that contemporary digital cartography was conceptualized in films. This argument is first developed through a discussion of the emergence of animated maps in docudramas of the 1910s. These early cinemaps were followed by more sophisticated examples that foreshadowed the structure and design principles of ‘modern’ cartography. The cinemap that appears in the movie M (Fritz Lang, 1931) can be considered the first ‘modern’ map as it prefigures many of the current functions of contemporary digital cartography such as the combination image/map, use of sound, shifts in perspective and spatial analysis. The remaining functions of digital cartography, including zooming and live data rendering, were conceptualized in cinema by the 1960s, as illustrated by examples from movies such as Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove and Goldfinger. When professional cartographers were creating their first animated maps, most of the functions of contemporary digital cartography had already been implemented in cinema. Building on these results, the paper anticipates the future incursion of mapping technologies into interpersonal, confidential and private spaces through the study of contemporary cinemaps.

From a leter issue in the same volume we also have an interesting dialogue between a catrographer (Caquard) and a filmmaker (Amelia Bryne).

Caquard S and Bryne A 2009 Mapping globalization: a conversation between a filmmaker and a cartographer, The Cartographic Journal 46 (4): 372-378.

This paper is an edited version of a written dialogue that took place between the fall of 2008 and the summer of 2009 between a filmmaker (Amelia Bryne) and a cartographer (Sébastien Caquard) around the issue of representing globalization. In these conversations we define some of the key means for representing globalization in both mapmaking and filmmaking discussing local/global, strategic/tactical, data/narrative, and unique/multiple perspectives. We conclude by emphasizing the potential impact of new media in ushering in hybrid digital products that merge means of representation traditional to filmmaking and cartography.

And now for some other papers:

Barnet M-C 2011 ‘Elles-Ils Islands:’ cartography of lives and deaths by Agnès Varda, L’Esprit Crateur 51 (1): 97-111.

My article will analyze some of [Agnès Varda’s] latest projects, the (nomadic, international) art installations that she invents, modulates, and thoughtfully adapts or alters, according to different spaces and cities. They follow therefore the location-scouting process of her films, driven by discovering places and people. I will focus on her relatively “new waves” and (mis)directions given in L’Île et Elle, her monumental efforts to recreate her world linked to the Île de Noir-moutier, if not to say the big expanse of the Atlantic ocean, around the twenty kilometre-long island, off the Western coast of France, which was her major exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in 2006, with echoes of her touring exhibitions of sea huts and portraits in Sète (2007) and Basel (2010).

Lukinbeal C 2010 Mobilizing the cartographic paradox: tracing the aspect of cartography and prospect of cinema, Digital Thematic Education 11 (2): 1-32.

Understanding the contrast and challenge of cinematic cartographies may lie in querying what John Pickles (2004, p.89) calls the “cartographic paradox.” The cartographic paradox is that linear perspective and projectionism inform cartographic practice. Yet, these two scopic regimes are both complementary and contradictory. The cartographic paradox has been mobilized by montage, animation and motion pictures. The penultimate technology of linear perspective is cinema, whereas the penultimate technology of projectionism is GIS and animated cartography. I argue that understanding the mobilization of these scopic regimes may lead to the production of affective geovisualizations.

Patch AM 2010 Nicolas Roeg/Chromatic Cartography, unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Exeter.

The aim of this thesis is to analyse the function of colour in film through three films by British director Nicolas Roeg. To this end, this thesis has the following three correspondent aims: first to consider the theoretical relationship between colour and film within film studies as a discipline. Second, to propose a means of discussing film colour outside the dominant approach of restoration and degradation. Third to explore how Roeg’s implements colour within three of his films Performance, Don’t Look Now, and finally Bad Timing, and the ideological and aesthetic questions that emerge through a consideration of colour in these works. By looking at colour and Nicolas Roeg this thesis will not only present a critical response to the research question but it will also fill a small gap in the current dearth of work that exists on both colour and British cinema in the 1970s.

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on August 23, 2012, in Film Studies, Geography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This is something I can relate to totally. I am a young Indian filmmaker, and passionate (or rather, obsessed) about cartography as well. Since the age of 8, I am making maps, and have thoroughly researched on both historic and political branches of mapmaking. Recently, I studied the medieval Mappa Mundii map, which fascinated me the most. I have this thought of combining cartography into filmmaking, but in a more creative way other than going for cinemaps. As if, the entire film is being mapped, or a map is being filmed. I am yet to conclude on a specific answer, but this post of yours shall help me in doing so. Thank you for the post, which made me believe that I am not alone with such obsessions. 🙂

  2. Thank you for this post. I’m particularly interested in maps in European cinema – any references from contemporary cinema?

  1. Pingback: Cinema and cartography « Research into film | Cinematic Narrative |

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