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Contemporary Chilean cinema and traumatic memory: Andrés Wood’s Machuca and Raúl Ruiz’s Le domaine Perdu

Traverso, A. (2008) Contemporary Chilean cinema and traumatic memory: Andrés Wood’s Machuca and Raúl Ruiz’s Le domaine Perdu. IM: Interactive Media, 4 .

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This essay contributes to the scholarship on Chilean cinema’s consistent engagement with the traumatic memory of the dictatorship.i It discusses two recent narrative films, both directed by Chilean auteurs, which depict the experience of the military coup that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende in 1973. The films are: Andrés Wood’s Machuca (2004) and Raúl Ruiz’s Le domaine perdu (2004). Where Machuca largely follows the conventions of mainstream narrative cinema, representing the historical past through a coherent, linear chronology, Le domaine perdu is full of the laberynthine and baroque temporal and narrative juxtapositions that have become Ruiz’s trademark.

This essay’s discussion is situated within ongoing debates in memory and trauma studies regarding the question of visual culture’s capacity, or lack of it, to represent trauma. In this respect I will discuss in relation to my analysis ideas by Dominick LaCapra, Joshua Hirsch, Miriam Hansen, and Susannah Radstone. One of the essay’s central concerns is the limits of the trauma framework in facilitating diverse understandings of cultures of political memory. Chile’s contemporary culture of political memory is far from homogenous and this diversity, as I argue here, is expressed in these two films: where Machuca seems driven by a desire to “remember” fixed memories that “act out” the traumas of the military coup, Le domaine perdu encourages responses that “work through” trauma by ellaborating a plural, heterogenous and unfixed sense of historical truth and cultural memory.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: National Academy of Screen and Sound
Copyright: © IM/NASS
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