Going Down the 'Wabbit' Hole
: A Remediative Approach to the Filmmaking of the Coen Brothers

  • Gregg Barrie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

The Coen brothers are sometimes dismissed as mere parodists or imitators, simply copying images, themes and motifs from a variety of sources. In a postmodern world, however, strict definitions are more complicated. Whilst we may think of this practice as a mode of intertextual practice, what was once considered intertextuality is now out-dated, as it refers only to works of literature. Instead, when inspirations can cross media from other forms, it is most appropriate to consider this as intermediality. Yet, whilst the Coen brothers’ films are certainly in keeping with intermedial theory, this alone does not define them. They are best understood through the underlying process of remediation, as advocated by Bolter and Grusin. This posits that all works, no matter which medium they belong to, can only be interpreted through their relationships with other works which they recall, be it knowingly or not. In all of their eighteen films so far, the Coen brothers have revealed themselves to be consciously remediative filmmakers, using other sources (including literary fiction, other films and music) to inform their work. This process, by which their films become new amalgamative wholes, marks them out. It is defined by the ways in which they use remediations of other sources to both revive period styles and genres, further informing their own stories, creating connections and through-lines to cinematic history and allowing them to revisit the past in a postmodern way. This thesis will primarily demonstrate this process by outlining the theoretical basis of this process and by creating a catalogue of many (although not all) of these remediations, ultimately showing why they should be viewed as remediative filmmakers, by analysing nine of their films in detail, alongside their most high-profile unfilmed screenplay, to show how creative and significant the practice of remediation is when used as a theory of filmmaking.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKeith Williams (Supervisor) & Ana Salzberg (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Film
  • Film making
  • Film Studies
  • Coen Brothers
  • Remediation
  • Intertextual
  • Intermedia
  • Film Noir
  • Western

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