Using Henry Selick's Coraline (2009) as an exemplum, this essay investigates what sort of desire digital 3-D cinema produces and satisfies in its spectator and how it integrates itself into Western systems of representation. Selick's film manipulates our biocular vision to offer us a new receptacle for the uncanniness of digital verisimilitude, namely, its virtual depth of field. Exploiting biocular vision as binocular vision, it returns our natural stereoscopy to us as mediated spectacle, as uncanny, and as a new standard for cinematic regimes of vision, now that indexical realism faces its obsolescence. However, the film provides a new representational metaphor through both its name and its depiction of three-dimensionality, namely, Plato's chora. The chora's significance as a metaphysical figure—an unintelligible space that gives form to matter—erupts in Coraline as the Beldam, a wicked witch who lives outside yet supports the materialist and gender-normative fantasies of Coraline's world. Evoking this instability through stop-motion animation and digital 3-D cinematography, Coraline invites the spectator to meditate on the psychic dynamics of dimensionality, not to mention the gendered dimensions of materiality. It builds on the uncontrollable animatedness of its stop-motion to capture the tenuous connection between matter and image as well as the cinema's precarious relationship to indexicality and the inherent uncanniness of the body. These it offers back to the spectator as the digital 3-D experience, the pleasure of postindexical spectatorship.
Caetlin Benson-Allott; The Chora Line: RealD Incorporated. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2011; 110 (3): 621–644. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1275815
Download citation file: