My video essay is the result of a failure, of my failure. I did not guess what film the text was about, I got the gender of its author wrong, and, despite the clear geographical clues, I even missed the context of their story. Yet, there was something so unmistakably clear about Cormac Donnelly’s beautifully written text, an allusion I was certain I understood so unquestionably and so deeply, that I focused on it without worrying much about anything else: I was completely taken by the reference to that magical moment of suspension when a film is over and “Everything else fades out and […] nothing else matters.”
Thus, my video essay is “That Moment.” It is the product of a displacement of emotions, what Sara Ahmed has called a rippling effect. It is not about the media object that inspired Cormac Donnelly’s text (i.e. 2001: A Space Odyssey). It is not about a 12-year-old boy’s passion for books (especially science fiction), his fear of horror (Carrie), and his trepidation, one night, while he watched alone, in the darkness of his kitchen, a film. It is not even a video essay about my own memories, inspired by Cormac’s recollections, of a 12-year-old girl’s fears—of school bullying (Carrie), of powerlessness (Alice), and of the supernatural (Poltergeist).
The musicality and rhythm of Cormac’s text—its alliterations (owl, stills, stool, bottles, lingers, clinging, etc.), its repetitions (fridge, fridge, fridge, and, and, and, check, checking, close, close, legs, legs, holding, holding, etc.)—contribute acoustically to that ripple that turns into an engulfing wave, an aural experience that I tried to reproduce in my video essay through a voice modulated by duplications, repetitions, echoes, and accelerations, with no pauses of breathing time in-between text fragments.
Ultimately, “That Moment” is about that moment of breathlessness, that suspension of both fear and pleasure, that lingering shiver that is felt more than feelings, that sense of void and fullness, when the curtain comes down. In Cormac Donnelly’s words, “that moment ‘is’ the film.”
Barbara Zecchi, PhD University of California Los Angeles, is Professor of Film and Iberian Studies and Director of the Film Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has published widely on feminist film theory, women filmmakers, and adaptation theory. In addition to about hundred articles and numerous video-essays, she is the author, editor or co-editor of ten volumes, including La pantalla sexuada (2014), Envejecimientos y cines ibéricos (2021), and Gender-Based Violence in Latin American and Iberian Cinemas (2020). In 2011 she launched the Gynocine Project on women in global cinema. In 2017 she was elected Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Spain.