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Frontiers in Atom Egoyan’s Films: Identity, Imagination, and Crossing through Images

Isabelle Singer

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With many thanks to David Goldie for his advice

1Atom Egoyan is a Canadian filmmaker, born in Egypt in 1960, to parents of Turkish nationality, the descendants of Armenian refugees. This amalgamation of identities feeds his work, particularly his earliest films. The frontier theme is expressed in different ways: a symptom of a problematic search for a cultural identity, a relationship to an imaginary territory, a confusing boundary between past and present, reality and imagination, or even between cinema, video, and photography.

2Scenes at customs check points are noticeably frequent in Atom Egoyan’s films: Exotica (1994), Felicia’s Journey (1999), Ararat (2002), Adoration (2008), Remember (2015). For travellers, crossing a border is never a mere formality; they have something to hide, a secret to preserve: the smuggled eggs of protected birds (Exotica); fruit which is not allowed to be imported (a pomegranate that Saroyan, the fictive filmmaker in Ararat, wants to bring into Canada); drugs (that Raffi, the young man in Ararat, is unknowingly carrying); a gun (Zev’s tool of vengeance in Remember); or even a bomb (at least in Simon’s fiction in Adoration, where the orphan, Simon, is writing a play in which he pretends that his father, of Lebanese origin, had tried to kill his mother while she was carrying him, by booby-trapping her suitcase). In these scenes at customs, characters face their identities: in Ararat, the customs officer reminds Raffi of the fact that he is the son of an Armenian terrorist. In Adoration, the fictive customs scene questions Simon’s Arabic ancestry which, until this point, had been denied (his maternal grandfather is the only survivor able to tell him who his father was, but the old man is a racist and pretends that Simon’s father deliberately killed his mother in a car accident).

3Peter in Next of Kin (1984) and Van in Family Viewing (1987) face similar identity issues. Van rebuilds his Armenian identity by helping his grandmother. Peter completely fabricates his identity, transforming from Peter, the useless son of a middle-class family, to Bedros, the son of an Armenian family, lost during the exile. Identity fraud is also the theme of Remember: in Zev’s case, the aim is to flush out a Nazi torturer, and thereby unearth his own identity. In Calendar (1993), Atom and his wife, Arsinée, return to Armenia, the land of their ancestors, in order to photograph twelve churches for a calendar. But Atom does not recognize Armenia as part of his identity. As he says in the film: “We are both from here, yet being here has made me from somewhere else.” On the other hand, Raffi, who undertakes the same trip, recognizes Armenia as both his country of origin and his father’s legacy.

4In Calendar or Ararat, crossing the border is symbolized by Mount Ararat; a genuine emblem of Armenia, it is nevertheless situated in Turkey. Mount Ararat is the talismanic image of an ancestral, but prohibited, territory (the Turkish border is still closed). Thus, frontiers may be symbolic: the sea between Ireland and Britain in Felicia’s Journey, or metaphoric: the river which separates Simon from his mother when, as a child on his grandfather’s estate, he was looking at her, playing the violin, perched on a pontoon on the river. Later, Simon returns to his childhood home, which, once again, he observes from the far side of the river. In this house, he carries out a ritual to restore the identity from which he is symbolically separated by the river: he burns his grandfather’s effigy and saws off the scroll of his mother’s violin. Through this ritual, his line of descent is returned to him: despite all the separations (including that between the living and the dead), Simon is able to look at his parents in a literal way, and to recognize them. The shot (Simon’s view at the end of his journey) is juxtaposed with the reverse-shot (his parents’ view of him), as present and past blur.

5It is clear there is a large element of imagination here, just as the sea in Felicia’s Journey is imaginary when Felicia dreams about Ireland and Johnny, her child’s father. Water (be it the sea or a river) constitutes a symbolic frontier which separates the characters from a golden age or an inaccessible promise (Felicia dreams once more about Johnny in Ireland, carrying their son, whom she is aborting). In Remember, the symbolic association between water and memory is particularly palpable in this remarkable shot (37.07): struggling with his failing memory, Zev puts his hand on the vertical surface of a fountain. The figure of the old man, seen through that water screen, is blurring as his memory gets blurred. The hand gesture is a desperate bid to hold back what, like water, is escaping him.

  • 1 Hamid Naficy, "The Accented Style of the Independent Transnational Cinema: A Conversation with Atom (...)

6Just like Felicia, the filmmaker Edouard Saroyan (Ararat) is haunted by the films he is about to direct when he crosses the Canadian border: the missing pictures of the Armenian genocide. His face dissolves into the image of Mount Ararat as a stimulation of the Armenian imagination. This film is structured in a particularly complex way, mixing several temporalities: the genocide, the painting of a work by Arshile Gorky, the shooting of Edouard’s film, Raffi’s journey to Armenia, his examination by the customs officer. There are no fewer than seventy-eight temporal transitions in the film, some of which give an illusion of continuity. Speaking of Calendar, Egoyan remarked to Hamid Naficy that “the viewer has to identify the whole organization of time"1 but the structure of Ararat is just as complex.

  • 2 A sequence with Arsinée running among a flock of sheep reoccurs throughout the film.

7In Calendar, sequences from the two-week journey to Armenia and sequences from the following year in Canada alternate. In the Armenian sequences, we see Arsinée breaking up with Atom. In the Canadian sequences, he stages a strange ritual consisting of inviting women to phone their lovers. Time has a peculiar elasticity: two weeks and a whole year match. However, the editing blurs the boundaries between these two temporalities; each is subdivided into temporal areas which shift between one another. For instance, we slide from a temporality located in the past (the taking of photographs of a church) to a different, less specific, temporality,2 over which we hear the dialogue about the church, an entangling of past temporalities that the viewer finally identifies as Atom’s recomposed memory. Music in the previous sequence is an anticipation of the ritual (we recognize it in the Canadian sequences with the women calling their lovers). Thus, there is a new overlapping of sound between present and past: the voice of the woman ringing her lover is superimposed over Arsinée’s speaking to Ashot, their Armenian driver and Atom’s rival. Through this polyphonic vocal effect, we go back to a multilayered, complex past mixing Arsinée running among the sheep and, at the same time, continuing to speak to Atom. A new shift occurs: we are no longer in the past, or in memory (the frontier between the two is indeterminable) but within the temporality of Atom’s viewing of the videotape which documents the journey in Armenia, as the speeding up and freezing of frames indicate. The manipulations of the tape lead us to the future and identify the temporality of the viewing. Not only do temporalities slide into each other but they are also held in a relation of simultaneity: the picture of Arsinée running among the flock is, at the same time, a flashback, a recomposed memory and the mechanical reproduction of the video tape shot in Armenia. Arsinée is also the picture of a ghost, that of the woman Atom has lost and who is addressing him: “Why don’t you answer me?” And Atom begins to write an answer. The viewer may consider temporarily that Arsinée’s message and the writing of the letter are contemporary: thus, a new shift occurs between Atom’s voice, beginning his answer, and his message on the answerphone. What we took to be the continuation of the answer (“It’s May 23”) is flung into another temporality, thanks to a simple dialling tone. Temporal boundaries are made indeterminable, through latency, combination, and migration.

8For Atom, Armenia is an imaginary country, which is why he does not recognize it in the real Armenia. And that confrontation is violent, as Egoyan explains to Jason Wood:

  • 3 Jason Wood, "Atom Egoyan", in Morris, Atom Egoyan Interviews, 105.

As an Armenian born in Egypt, so much of what I thought was Armenian was actually Middle Eastern, but that’s the culture I was raised in and certainly that my wife has been raised in. Arsinée Khanjian was raised in Lebanon and what we share as what we think are Armenian are actually Middle Eastern traditions and when you go back to Armenia you realize that it’s not a Middle Eastern culture at all. It’s a Caucasian culture and their habits and their social manners are really different to what constitutes Armenian; and that was a shock.3

  • 4 "[Un] tissu conjonctif des horizons extérieurs et intérieurs" in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le Visible (...)

9At the beginning of Calendar, Mount Ararat is a symbol consistent with his imagination, a “visible”, to quote Merleau-Ponty, “a connective tissue of external and interior horizons”.4 There is no clear-cut boundary between reality and imagination; the picture is what stitches them together. Often – in Family Viewing, Speaking Parts (1989), Calendar, and Ararat especially – the introduction of the video brings about the transition in imagination. In Speaking Parts, the different narration levels are particularly porous, particularly contaminated by the imagination of the characters: Clara remembering her brother, who sacrificed himself by giving her one of his lungs, the director distorting Clara’s script recounting this tragedy, Lisa adoring Lance, the actor chosen to incarnate Clara’s brother.

  • 5 "d’empilement, de prolifération, d’empiètement, de promiscuité," Ibid., 152. My translation.
  • 6 « … où la vidéo empiétant sur le cinéma lui permet d’entrer dans l’image comme lieu manifeste de vi (...)

10This porosity culminates in the talk-show scene where different textures of images, from analogue film and several video formats, blend on different narrative levels: fiction, reality show, fantasy, film-within-a-film, slide into each other, in a time-space “of stacking, proliferation, encroachment, promiscuity.”5 This effect of proliferation and stacking results from unpredictable substitutions: the true brother for the false one, as a manifestation of the struggle which sets in opposition Clara’s and the director’s fantasies, and the nurse by Lisa, a figment of Lisa’s own imagination. The sudden appearance of Clara threatening to commit suicide reflects the imagination of Lance who has betrayed her by accepting the director’s new script. Lisa literally enters the picture after having touched the screen, that interface screen which materializes the site, as Raymond Bellour describes it, “where video, encroaching upon cinema, allows it to enter the picture as a manifest site of vibration and metamorphosis.”6 Vibration and metamorphosis, the increasingly jumbled confusion of multiple worlds and conflicting fantasies, are particularly important in this sequence from Speaking Parts, but can also be found in Calendar, Family Viewing, and Ararat.

  • 7 Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma 2 l’Image-temps, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1985, 93.

11Without reaching such a level of confusion, Egoyan’s cinema offers numerous sequences whose origins are impossible to determine: are they the creation of a single character’s imagination, or are they part of the “reality” of the film? In Adoration, several sequences show Simon’s parents, but it is impossible to decide if these sequences are flashbacks, scenes from Simon’s play, or even his memories. In Ararat, the sequences of young Gorky with his mother appear to belong to a film-within-a-film, but this is far from certain. The second fiction (the film-within-a-film: Saroyan’s film) and the first fiction (Egoyan’s film) cannot be distinguished from one another. This is what Gilles Deleuze calls a “crystal-image,"7 an image in which two sides coexist, namely: virtual/actual, imaginary/real, past/present and so forth. Even the characters are tricked; for example, in Ararat, Ussher is outraged by the intrusion onto the set of the script-consultant Ani while he is performing a surgical operation. He is no longer Martin, the actor of the primary fiction, but Ussher, the missionary of the second fiction. In The Adjuster, we can also see a film-within-a-film as the director character – named Bubba – shifts levels imperceptibly: he prepares to sacrifice himself in the house which is, in fact, his film set. Surprised by the owner of the house, he crosses the frontier between the two levels of fiction: “You’ve come in just at the moment that the character of the film – the person who is supposed to live here – decides that he is going to stop playing house. So, are you in or are you out?”

12In the crystal-image, Deleuze notes:

  • 8 « L’image actuelle et l’image virtuelle coexistent et cristallisent. Elles forment une seule et mêm (...)

The actual image and the virtual image coexist and crystallize. They enter into a circuit which brings us constantly back from one to the other; they form “one” and the same “scene” where the characters belong to the real and yet play a role. In short, it is the whole of life in its entirety, which has become spectacle.8

13The whole of life has become a show, that is to say a film shoot. The boundary between the film-within-a-film and the film itself is thus completely blurred. Bubba is preparing to shoot a scene: he is fixing the frame of the camera, his own, just like Egoyan’s, and he gives his instructions to the actors: “Don’t move these wedges. These wedges allow the smooth movement of the camera.” Which camera is he talking about: the acting camera (that we cannot see on the set) or Egoyan’s camera? In the same way, in Speaking Parts, during Lance’s audition, Clara advises him to look carefully at the camera: Clara’s supposed camera and Egoyan’s are perfectly superimposed when the two characters look directly into the camera.

14The presence of a character who is filming or taking photographs is systematic. To a greater or lesser degree, there is always a director figure making decisions about the mise-en-scène. Another indeterminable frontier is lost, that between fiction and autobiography. Calendar is certainly the film in which Egoyan plays the most with the confusion of these two registers, as he acknowledges to Hamid Naficy:

  • 9 Naficy, "The Accented Style…", 65.

Calendar is a very interesting situation because a lot of people felt that it was directly autobiographical. Even people who were close to us assumed that Arsinée and I had broken up. This is great that the film is able to translate that feeling, but in fact it wasn’t true. […] we were really playing the opposite of what we were experiencing.9

  • 10 Wood, "Atom Egoyan”, 105.
  • 11 "[…] quand il se tient entre documentaire et fiction, témoignage et récit, hanté par la présence in (...)

15Egoyan even told Jason Wood: “I play a character who I think was involved in my own worst nightmare of who I might be."10 It is possible that, according to Bellour’s definition, we are dealing here with a “self-portrait” rather than an “autobiography”, because cinema is a favourite site for the elaboration of the self-portrait: “[…] when cinema lies between documentary and fiction, testimony and narrative, haunted by the insistent, constant and yet intermittent, hidden presence of a voice and a body.11 In Calendar, we are actually positioned “in between”: between documentary and fiction, past and present, here and there, film and video. As for Atom Egoyan’s body, its presence is radically hidden in Armenia since he stays behind his video camera or his film camera. However, its presence is asserted in the Canadian sequences, and it is very staged. As for his voice, it is omnipresent. We are still “in between”: between the voice’s presence and the body’s absence, between the hidden body and the fictionalized body.

16In Armenia, Atom restricts himself to the place of a viewer. When Arsinée invites him to go for a walk with Ashot, he refuses: “It’s not a question of wanting to go or not. It is much stranger than that. What I really feel like doing is standing here and watching. Watching the two of you leave me and disappear into a landscape that I’m about to photograph.” There is a frontier that must not be crossed: the frontier of the frame. Atom has a dialogue with Arsinée on both sides of the camera lens. Arsinée then looks at the camera to signify that she is looking at Atom. When, at the end, Arsinée and Ashot disappear into a cave, an unambiguous moaning from Arsinée is heard, while Atom stays within the limits imposed by his frame and by his field of vision. Calendar is the journey of a view that will never transgress its limits.

17Atom shares his viewer’s destiny with that of numerous characters in Egoyan’s films. In Exotica, the same optical system is used for both the customs and the nightclub: a one-way mirror through which clients or travellers can be watched. On each side of the one-way mirror, as on each side of the lens, there is a frontier: the optical interface which allows the view, but only in one direction. The viewer is placed in that strange position which consists of looking at a voyeur who is watching, just as in Felicia’s Journey, when Hilditch watches his mother’s television show through his binoculars, just as later he will look at Felicia’s legs in the same way.

18For Egoyan’s characters, being a viewer consists of looking at archived pictures: in Speaking Parts, Clara looks at her dead brother’s picture while Lisa loses herself in the contemplation of Lance. Hilditch watches his mother’s television cooking show closely. Examples abound. Looking at a picture is essentially lived through separation: from the deceased for Hilditch or Clara, from the beloved for Lisa or Atom, from the mother deprived of her daughter for Cassandra, the kidnapped child in The Captive (2014). Once again, when a character looks at a picture, the limit is indeterminable. In Family Viewing, Van discovers the image of his own childhood and, after a jump cut in the video, his mother’s smile: is it really what his father recorded or a picture fantasized by the young man? At the end of the film, his father collapses in the hotel room where he intended to find his fugitive son, and he sees on the television screen the woman he has lost.

  • 12 « […] l’entre-espace, ou l’entre-temps formé de la disjonction-conjonction entre représentation men (...)

19From the moment when the picture slides from recording to fantasy, going through the screen is possible: the pictures acknowledge the characters. Lance invites Lisa to meet him on the other side of the screen, as Arsinée invites Atom to leave his camera for a while and sing with the shepherds. In the same way, Hilditch sees his exasperated mother shouting “Joey” at him, no longer addressing the child who has just spilt some stuffing and run out of the frame, but the adult who is on the other side of the screen, even though his mother is dead, even though she is speaking to him from the television set. This shot/reverse shot represents the unrepresentable, what Bellour has called “the between-space, or the between-time, shaped by the disjunction-conjunction between mental representation and perception, surface and depth, front and back, present and past, consciousness and unconsciousness.”12

20In Egoyan’s films the characters frequently look directly at the camera. As early as Next of Kin, when Peter looks at the camera, it is the sign that he is addressing Bedros, the son whose identity he is usurping. In Family Viewing, Van, looking at the television screen, stares at the viewer: this glance materializes the interface between the viewer and the character. In contrast, Clara’s brother moves right to the foreground, up to the frontal limit of the picture, and watches Clara beyond the screen and beyond death. He is watching Clara who is filming him, just as Van’s father filmed his mother, or Atom filmed Arsinée. A symmetrical game plays out on both sides of the screen. The characters are watching us as much as we are watching them. Now the screen can be pierced, and the camera may enter its forbidden space: Clara enters the frame, her small camera in her hand. Moreover, the end credits of Next of Kin are made up of a sequence of photographs that relate the week Peter has spent in the Deryan Family. Thus, the viewer revisits some moments of the film, the father’s simulated heart attack, for instance, that Peter has photographed. In the very last shot of the film, we discover Egoyan’s camera behind the father with his wife and daughter. In an ultimate transgression, the camera enters its forbidden space of the frame.

  • 13 “ … le photographique,” Ibid., 139.

21At the end of Next of Kin, Egoyan gives a hint of what he will develop later on: the migration of one visual support to another. In his films, he mixes photography, analogue cinematography and video, in a relationship of permanent and mutual transformation. And once again, Egoyan works hard to blur their boundaries as much as possible. In Calendar, we discover Atom’s photograph in the calendar, but never full frame. What interests Egoyan is the imperceptible transition from cinema to photography. This transition works during a long and steady sequence shot which ends with the camera release. This is an example of what Bellour has called “the photographic”.13

  • 14 "… un lieu de passage et un système de transformation des images les unes par les autres," Ibid., 1 (...)

22In other sequences, the imperceptible mutation works from video to photography: in Calendar, the video frame freezes on Arsinée’s face, slips into a photographic portrait, without a precise boundary, as we need some time to perceive the photographic immobility of the frame. According to Bellour, video is “a place of transition and a system of transformation of the images by each other.”14 And that is exactly what happens in Family Viewing: Sandra, the father’s partner, is watching the father, in the grip of sexual frustration. The shot / reverse shot is perfectly organized, but the supporting images are heterogenic: one-inch Beta for Sandra and one-inch Beta re-shot on a screen for the father, this process giving the picture a very pasty and ghostly aspect. Literally, a body of flesh and blood is watching, in the same physical space, a body reduced to an image, just as two psychic worlds, radically divided, are mutually intensifying their natural difference. It is also a strange mirror effect of the viewer’s position since Sandra, by physically watching Van’s father, is looking at a picture on a screen. As Atom Egoyan commented to Rebecca Comay:

  • 15 Rebecca Comay, "Krapp and Other Matters: A Conversation between Atom Egoyan and Rebecca Comay" in M (...)

When you watch a film projected, you tend to assume that the image is caught by the truth of the camera – that it is real. But the moment you show a video monitor within a film, you become aware of this being a decision that someone has taken: that both images are constructed. This awareness comes about precisely by becoming conscious of the interface between the two mediums.15

23This interface is materialized by the presence of a picture display device: a television set, a monitor, the LCD screen of a handy cam or a mobile. In the frame within the frame, composition is manifest. The construction of the frame is shown to be deliberate. In Adoration, Simon shows the LCD screen of his mobile to the web cam of his computer: we are the viewers of an image inside an image inside an image.

  • 16 « La grande force de la vidéo a été, est, sera d’avoir opéré des passages. Passages entre mobile et (...)

24Video pictures are, by definition, very versatile. With electronic enhancement, they can transform before our very eyes. In a sequence from Calendar, we pass from an analogical photographic picture (a ruined fortress), to the same subject but in a video picture. With white toning, the picture is decomposed and recomposed and shifts in its nature. The video picture can be frozen, rewound, accelerated: that way, there is a transition from one image in analogous relation with what it is representing, to another one representing itself. According to Bellour: “The great power of video has been, is and will be to effect transitions: transitions from mobility to immobility, from photographic analogy to what is transforming it. The between-image is thus (virtually) the site of all these transitions.”16

  • 17 « Voir c’est toujours voir plus qu’on ne croit – il ne faut pas le comprendre dans le sens d’une co (...)
  • 18 Naficy, "The Accented Style…", 65.

25In Speaking Parts, the video image is blown-up and another frontier is reached, that of visibility. The number of pixels being fixed, the picture cannot be endlessly magnified. If you go beyond the limit, the pixels can be seen and the picture becomes unintelligible. There are numerous shots in Egoyan’s films that are at the very limit of visibility, whether it is due to superimposition in The Adjuster, to an out-of-focus effect in Exotica, to interference with the pixels in Speaking Parts. Beyond this limit, the picture is reduced to the materiality of its support: the long black shot after Hilditch’s suicide in Felicia’s Journey, with scratches and dust, or the white noise in Speaking Parts. These pictures that reach the limit of visibility suggest that there is something to see beyond their invisibility. Merleau-Ponty has described this hereafter of visibility by saying that, “Seeing is always seeing more than we believe – that should not be understood in the sense of contradiction; it should be understood that visibility involves a non-visibility.”17 This non-visibility has to be discovered in the shot at the beginning of Calendar, a fleeting, fragile and ghostly shot of Mount Ararat which shies away from our very vision, which is manifesting something hidden. Relating to Egoyan’s remark to Hamid Naficy, this non-visibility has a much stronger meaning than a simple representation of the mountain: “The most autobiographical element in the films for me is the notion of the submerged culture. The notion of a culture that has somehow been hidden, either for political or for personal reasons."18 Jammed, blurred, or bleached, the video image effects transitions: from an illegible visible to a beyond visible. In the first shot of Family Viewing, TV dinners obstruct our sight, obstacles that we have to cross to reach what is behind. It is the frontier of the picture itself that is to be crossed; the image is no longer a simple surface, but a volume of inexhaustible depth. According to Georges Didi-Huberman:

  • 19 « Regarder, ce serait prendre note que l’image est structurée comme un devant-dedans inaccessible e (...)

Looking would be to note that the image is structured as an inaccessible front-inside which forces its distance, however close it may be, because it is the distance of a suspended contact, of an impossible contact of flesh to flesh. That simply means that the image is structured as a threshold.19

  • 20 Naficy, "The Accented Style…", 35.

26To conclude, let us return to the border customs. Curiously, one scene is recurrent: a pregnant young woman reaches the customs, pursued by the theme of one film into another, as if the child that Felicia is carrying in Felicia’s Journey had grown in Simon’s mother’s womb in Adoration. In Exotica, Thomas experiences a kind of pregnancy: he is carrying eggs around his stomach. In this link between gestation and border crossing, there is a metaphor of the cinematographic creation process. The passage of frontiers, the quest for identity that goes with it, the secret and the endless interference are its catalysts. In Egoyan’s films, identity is a construction, as he remarked to Naficy: “I am definitively sensitive to the idea of our identity being a very, very self-conscious construct and to the possibility that our whole notion of personality is the thing that we choose to represent ourselves as opposed to something that is ingrained."20 This is blatant in Next of Kin, Family Viewing, The Adjuster, Ararat, Adoration or Remember. Yet, this identity construction requires us to decide on the scenario (did Simon’s father love his mother or want to kill her?), to assume a role (like Peter who becomes Bedros or Otto who becomes Zev), and to represent (staging the grandmother as a tramp in Family Viewing or staging an auto-da-fé as Simon at the end of Adoration). In these shots of Felicia, Simon’s mother or Thomas crossing the border and carrying children or birds, cinema itself is in gestation, beyond what is visible.

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1 Hamid Naficy, "The Accented Style of the Independent Transnational Cinema: A Conversation with Atom Egoyan", in T.J.Morris (ed.), Atom Egoyan Interviews, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010, 50.

2 A sequence with Arsinée running among a flock of sheep reoccurs throughout the film.

3 Jason Wood, "Atom Egoyan", in Morris, Atom Egoyan Interviews, 105.

4 "[Un] tissu conjonctif des horizons extérieurs et intérieurs" in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le Visible et l’Invisible; Suivi de notes de travail, Paris: Gallimard, 1964, 171. My translation.

5 "d’empilement, de prolifération, d’empiètement, de promiscuité," Ibid., 152. My translation.

6 « … où la vidéo empiétant sur le cinéma lui permet d’entrer dans l’image comme lieu manifeste de vibration et de métamorphose. » Raymond Bellour, L’Entre-Images: Photo, Cinéma, Vidéo, Paris: La Différence, 1990 , 197. My translation.

7 Gilles Deleuze, Cinéma 2 l’Image-temps, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1985, 93.

8 « L’image actuelle et l’image virtuelle coexistent et cristallisent. Elles forment une seule et même scène où les personnages appartiennent au réel et pourtant jouent un rôle. Bref, c’est tout le réel, la vie tout entière, qui est devenu spectacle, » Ibid., 112. Translated by Hugh Tomlison and Robert Galeta in Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, London: Athlone Press, 2000, 79-80.

9 Naficy, "The Accented Style…", 65.

10 Wood, "Atom Egoyan”, 105.

11 "[…] quand il se tient entre documentaire et fiction, témoignage et récit, hanté par la présence insistante, constante et pourtant intermittente, dérobée, d’une voix et d’un corps," Bellour, L’Entre-Images, 250. My translation.

12 « […] l’entre-espace, ou l’entre-temps formé de la disjonction-conjonction entre représentation mentale et perception, surface et profondeur, envers et endroit, présent et passé, conscient et inconscient. » Ibid., 38. My translation.

13 “ … le photographique,” Ibid., 139.

14 "… un lieu de passage et un système de transformation des images les unes par les autres," Ibid., 15.

15 Rebecca Comay, "Krapp and Other Matters: A Conversation between Atom Egoyan and Rebecca Comay" in Morris, Atom Egoyan Interviews, 142.

16 « La grande force de la vidéo a été, est, sera d’avoir opéré des passages. Passages entre mobile et immobile, entre l’analogie photographique et ce qui la transforme. L’entre-image est ainsi (virtuellement) l’espace de tous ces passages. » Bellour, L’Entre-Images, 12. My translation.

17 « Voir c’est toujours voir plus qu’on ne croit – il ne faut pas le comprendre dans le sens d’une contradiction, il faut comprendre que c’est la visibilité qui comporte une non-visibilité. » Merleau-Ponty, Le Visible et l’Invisible, 295. My translation.

18 Naficy, "The Accented Style…", 65.

19 « Regarder, ce serait prendre note que l’image est structurée comme un devant-dedans inaccessible et imposant sa distance, si proche soit-elle. Car c’est la distance d’un contact suspendu, d’un impossible rapport de chair à chair. Cela veut juste dire que l’image est structurée comme un seuil. » Georges Didi-Huberman, Ce que nous voyons, ce qui nous regarde, Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1992, 192.

20 Naficy, "The Accented Style…", 35.

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Electronic reference

Isabelle Singer, “Frontiers in Atom Egoyan’s Films: Identity, Imagination, and Crossing through Images”Film journal [Online], 7 | 2021, Online since 01 July 2021, connection on 29 May 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Isabelle Singer

Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, PRISM (Perception, Representations, Image, Sound, Music)

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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