A constant magic: explorations of magic and polyphasic consciousness in recent theatre and film
Thesis DisciplineFilm Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores what can be considered magical in contemporary theatre and film in an arguably post-magical age. I have taken an exploratory and interdisciplinary approach that brings together two diverse strands: the ‘deception’ of magical thinking and the ‘truth’ of neuroscience. This approach sees magic as an aesthetic experience that can be seen as significant for its immanence rather than its transcendence. Hence, I take a “mental-materialist” approach to neuroscience and focus on perception and affect as it impacts on the body and the senses. Bridging the diversity between magical thinking and neuroscience is the concept of ‘polyphasic consciousness’, an experiential and intuitive method of accessing knowledge that expands awareness and encompasses altered states.
My involvement as an actor and collaborator with Free Theatre Christchurch forms the basis of explorations into magic, which is underpinned by my experience with the magical myth of Faust. In addition to examining the Free Theatre production of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus from 2010, I will discuss Jan Švankmajer’s 1994 film Lekce Faust and Werner Fritsch’s film poem Faust Sonnengesang (2012-2015). The remaining films and theatre productions contain significant Faustian themes and can also be discussed in terms of a magical aesthetic experience. These include five films by Werner Herzog and the Free Theatre production of Frankenstein from 2016.