This video essay demonstrates how a filmic space can be utilised to create a historical time stamp. In the video I primarily analyse Adam and Paul (Lenny Abrahamson, 2004) and Rosie (Paddy Breathnach, 2018) and examine the differences between their spatial constructions. I observe the characters’ relationships with the filmic space and the construction of it in relation to framing, setting of real locations, alternative domestic spaces and public vs private image. The spatial construction in both films outlines how the characters are perceived by society and how they interact with their environment based on their living circumstances. When comparing these two spatial representations together, it exemplifies how the issue of homelessness on screen has developed in correlation with the escalation of the problem in reality.
Initially when I started to explore this topic, I wanted to primarily focus on how space is used in Adam and Paul to reflect the characters’ relationship with the city. When researching the topic however, I began to consider the various methodologies for applying space in film. For example, when reading Martine Huvenne’s article ‘Editing as an Audio-Visual Composition’ on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2014), it allowed me to understand how sound and editing become the space in that film. This was an important factor in helping my understanding of filmic space as a whole during my early research. At this time, I considered and edited extra footage on sound and editing as spatial representations. In the end, I decided to omit this from the final video footage, but it was a necessary part of the researching process. (See link below).
Conn Holohan’s Cinema on the Periphery, was a key element of my research and strongly influenced the final video. In this book, he states a quote from Edward Soja, ‘The geography and history of capitalism intersect in a complex social process which creates a constantly evolving historical sequence of spatialities, a spatio-temporal structuration of social life’. From here, I recognised how the geographic location and the historical period of a filmic space are directly relevant to its social and ideological context. How real locations in film are reflections of this intersection between historical and geographical contexts and social-economic standings.
This shot from Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) (fig.1) was the first film that I considered in analysing space as a visual time stamp. By considering this in relation to its spatio-temporal structure, I was able to recognise how Adam & Paul utilises the same methodologies in fig.2. Though social and economic backgrounds are vastly different, the spatial communication displays the city at a moment in time, thus creating this geographic and historical intersection that Soja was referring to.
The opening of the video essay outlines some of the different methods of applying space and how it can be utilised to serve both character and narrative. I demonstrate how multiple scenes are communicated to the audience based on their spatial constructions. I relate these scenes to Éric Rohmer’s theory of three types of space in film: Pictorial, Architectonical and Filmic. This premise lays the groundwork for defining space in cinema and by doing so reinforces my analysis for the rest of this video essay.
The majority of the video essay examines how both Lenny Abrahamson and Paddy Breathnach utilise space to reflect the same issue of homelessness at separate periods of Ireland’s economic history. I look at how the space is presented in Adam and Paul and how it is analysed by scholars such as Conn Holohan and Barry Monahan. I compare this to how the space in Rosie (Paddy Breathnach, 2018) is presented and how it is analysed by Peter Bradhsaw and I outline the reasonings for these differences in relation to Ireland’s economic standpoint at the time of each film’s release. By placing the films within their respective economic periods, I explore the reasoning for the spatial construction of each film. The characters and the writing of each film are the premise for representing the growing issue of homelessness in Ireland, but the spatial constructions are the methods of translating that representation to screen, doing so by exemplifying how the characters are perceived by the rest of the country, how they interact with their environment based on these perceptions and how that perception has shifted between the 14 years of their releases. It also examines how an alternative domestic space is created in both scenarios.
I finally solidify my argument, that it is in fact the spatial construction that creates this perception of the characters as opposed to the writing by going to the James Joyce Bridge in Dublin City Centre and recreating one of the scenes from Adam & Paul. By visiting the real location of the film, it enabled me to demonstrate how the framing and setting of the scene captures the characters’ relationship with the functioning city around them. By keeping every other aspect of the scene as similar as I can, (allowing for the differences in time of year, night vs day and professionalism of the production) I outline how the framing of the characters tells the story of how they are perceived by the city. By recreating this scene and shifting the angle of the camera I reinforce what is being communicated by each shift. Going to the real location was an exciting mode of research, which I felt was crucial, in order to finalise my argument.
— Andrew Kingston
- Annette Kuhn and Guy Westwell, ‘Filmic Space – A Typology’ in A Dictionary of Film Studies, Osford University Press, 2012
- Conn Holohan, ‘The City Space’ in Cinema on the Periphery: Contemporary Irish and Spanish Cinema Rosa González (Irish Academic Press, 2010)
- Marine Huvenne, ‘Editing Space as an Audio-Visual Composition’, in Film Text Analysis, 1st Edition, Routledge, 2016.
- Monahan, Barry, ’Adam and Paul’, Estudios Irlandeses, University College Cork, 2005
- Patrice Rollet, ’The Filmic Space According to Farber’, in Negative Space. Manny Farber on the Movies. Expanded Edition. New York. Da Capo Press. 1998
- Patrick Keiller, ‘Film as Spatial Critique’ in The View From the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes (London: Verso, 2013)
- Peter Bradshaw, ’Rosie review – the heartbreak of homelessness’, The Guardian, 2019
- ‘Rosie’ in Sight & Sound. Derek O’Connor. Vol.29 Issue 4. April, 2019
- Seán Crosson, Mark Schreiber, ‘Q&A with Lenny Abrahamson and Mark O’Halloran’, Contemporary Irish Film: New Perspectives on a National Cinema, Seán Crosson and Werner Huber. Volume 102. 2011
- 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick. 1967. Stanley Kubrick Productions.
- Adam and Paul. Leonard Abrahamson. 2004. Element Pictures.
- James Cameron. 2009. 20th Century Studios.
- Boiling Point. Philip Barantini. 2021. Vertigo Films.
- City of God. Kátia Lund, Fernando Meirelles. O2 Filmes.
- Alfonso Cuarón. 2013. Heyday Films.
- The Two Popes. Fernando Meirelles. 2019. Rideback.
- Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels. Chantal Akerman. 1975. Paradise Films.
- La La Land. Damien Chazelle. 2016. Summit Entertainment.
- Modern Times. Charlie Chaplin. 1936. United Artists.
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Céline Sciamma. 2019. Lilies Films.
- Brad Bird. 2007. Walt Disney Pictures.
- Rome Open City. Roberto Rossellini. Minerva Film.
- Paddy Breathnach. 2018. Element Pictures.
- Safety Last. Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor. 1923. Hal Roach Studios.
- Steamboat Bill Jr. Charles Reisner. 1928. United Artists.
 Marine Huvenne, ‘Editing Space as an Audio-Visual Composition’, in Film Text Analysis, 1st Edition, Routledge, 2016.
 Conn Holohan, ‘The City Space’, in Cinema on the Periphery: Contemporary Irish and Spanish Cinema fd. Rosa González Irish Academic Press, 2010
 Patrice Rollet, ’The Filmic Space According to Farber’, in Negative Space. Manny Farber on the Movies. Expanded Edition. New York. Da Capo Press. 1998
 Conn Holohan, ‘The City Space’ in Cinema on the Periphery: Contemporary Irish and Spanish Cinema fd. Rosa González (Irish Academic Press, 2010)
 Monahan, Barry, ’Adam and Paul’, Estudios Irlandeses, University College Cork, 2005
 Peter Bradshaw, ’Rosie review – the heartbreak of homelessness’, The Guardian, 2019
The video essay may also be seen on You Tube here:
…and bonus footage may be seen here: