« Cartographic Cinema » – Tom Conley

« Tom Conley has a sharp eye for capturing maps on the silver screen. The kinds of maps he deciphers are political, historical, emotional, aesthetic, narrative and metaphorical. As he decodes them, he takes his reader on a stimulating and engaging journey into the uncharted world of Cartographic Cinema.  »

Tom Conley voit des cartes partout au cinéma. Ces cartes sont tout aussi bien politiques, historiques, émotionnelles, esthétiques, narratives ou métaphoriques. À travers l’analyse qu’il en fait, il transporte son lecteur dans un voyage stimulant et original dans le monde encore mal connu du Cinéma cartographique.

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« Central to Cartographic Cinema is the author’s argument that “cartography and cinema share many of the same traits” (p.207). In Conley’s perspective, maps have forms, meanings and functions that are comparable to those of films. As he argues in the introduction, “A film can be understood in a broad sense to be ‘a map’ that plots and colonizes the imagination of the public it is said to ‘invent’ and, as a result, to seek to control” (p.1). The control that both maps and films can have on those who live under their effects without questioning their silent authority is a major theme of the book. In Cartographic Cinema maps are not the object of the study, rather they provide a lens through which films can be decoded and analyzed. This innovative means of using cartography as a deconstructive filter situates Conley’s book at a productive intersection between film studies and critical cartography. (…)

Cartographic Cinema benefits from the author’s style of writing and thinking. The style is rich and precise, humorous and at times poetic. It combines multiples ideas, concepts, disciplines and references. It engages the force and the beauty of the project with wit and spark, and serves well the mediums under study.  Through his cartographic lens toponyms become the subjects of historical and emotional digressions (chapter 4), while multi-level textual analyses of film narratives (chapter 7) reflect the ambiguous duplicity of cartographic discourse. Just like any film, maps have several levels of discourse that Conley takes pleasure in deciphering and interpreting. Conley’s writing remains rigorous and consistent throughout and is illustrated by relevant screenshots of the scenes discussed. These images provide key visual landmarks that help the reader contextualize the cinematographic situation and follow the author’s arguments. Nevertheless, it must be noted that at times the complexity of the author’s prose weakens rather than strengthens the text, making it difficult for the reader to follow some of the major theoretical points. (…)

Cartographic Cinema addresses the symbolic, political, and emotional dimensions of maps in films. It contributes substantially to the original percolation of cinematographic ideas into the field of cartography. Cartographic Cinema is not about cartographic design, but one could expect that it will inspire the emergence of new cartographic practices addressing issues of narration, emotion and symbolism in the mapmaking process. Cartographic Cinema might inspire cartographers to turn Conley’s work on its head and start the exploration of cinematic cartography. (…)”

This is what we have done in a special issue of the Cartographic Journal dedicated to Cinematic Cartography.

Excerpts from a book review of « Cartographic Cinema » by Sébastien Caquard in Cartographica.

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  • Caquard S. 2008. Book review of Conley T., 2006, « Cartographic Cinema », Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press. Cartographica 43(1): 73-74
  • Conley T. 2006, Cartographic Cinema. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. 264 p.

Une réflexion sur “« Cartographic Cinema » – Tom Conley

  1. Pingback: La revue Cinétrens entrelace cinéma et cartographie | (e)space & fiction

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