In this essay I consider the device of depthlessness in film. I am interested in particular in the ways in which this device can determine, or at least raise questions about, the nature of the fictional world. Taking my cue from two films from the turn of the century – Gary Ross' 1998 film Pleasantville and Matthieu Kassovitz' 1995 La Haine – as well as, more broadly, arts historical and cultural theoretical debates, where rather more attention has been devoted to the issue of depthlessness, I focus on moments in which depth, that is, in Andre Bazin's oft-cited words, the “continuity” of the fictional realm, is flattened so as to trace the correlation between depthlessness and the ontology of the fictional world. The two strategies I look at are shallow focus and the dolly zoom. What I intend, here, is to offer some first, superficial (no pun intended), reflections that may allow us to begin thinking about this cinematic notion of the depthless as a device and concept in its own right, with its own rationales and implications, just as art historians and cultural theorists have found it an interesting concept by which to study and categorize artistic and cultural developments. There is so much discussion in film studies about depth – from Bazin's discourse about neorealism's “decisive step forward” re-introducing deep focus, to Gilles Deleuze's talk about Orson Welles' “freeing” of depth, it might be helpful to consider its supposedly backwards, “restrictive” antithesis as well.
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