Threshold faces: The physiognomy of Comédie | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2045-6298
  • E-ISSN: 2045-6301



Since its re-emergence in 2000, and its re-exhibition as a gallery film as opposed to a piece of cinema, Marin Karmitz’s film adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Comédie – filmed in 1966 in close collaboration with Beckett himself – has been recognized as an important and even canonical work of avant-garde film. Along with Beckett’s other work for the screen, it foreshadowed some prominent aesthetic tendencies that emerged in artists’ film and video in the decades that followed. This article focuses on Comédie’s use of close-ups of the human face, and discusses this medium-specific trope as a threshold image that ‘auto-expressively’ both conceals and reveals its subject. This dichotomy of simultaneous concealment and revelation is shown to manifest through the ‘threshold space’ of the close-up being occupied but never transcended by the film’s protagonists. The figures are deprived of the intersubjectivity that would be engendered through interfacing with another, a notion developed by exploring the dynamic between the virtual face/s we see on-screen, and the face of the viewer. It is posited that the ambiguity of the faces’ directness of address comes to inscribe a perpetual process of unveiling, perpetually towards a state of transcendence, of ontological totality; such absoluteness only arriving inasmuch as it is constituted by the formless presence of the black screen. The article argues that Comédie’s faces represent an abyssal, reflexive awareness of an incarceration inside the process of becoming, and thus inside the very process of their representation.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Beckett; close-up; face; Karmitz; reflexivity
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