Interpretation Makes It Real: Disability and Subjectivity in Three Women Artists' Biopics

Micki Nyman


In her (2005) added commentary to the re-released biopic An Angel at My Table (1990), director Jane Campion agrees with the subject of her film, New Zealand-born author Janet Frame (1924-2004), that "almost everything we do is imagined; it's only your interpretation that makes it real." Campion's subjective biopic was among the first to experiment with cinematic technique in order to convey the lived experience of disability, a category that now includes Richard Eyre's Iris (2001) and Steven Shainberg's Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006). All share a similar tendency to blend subjectivity, memory, and disability through the eyes of their film's respective protagonists. This essay explores the ways in which these films adapted from autobiography, biography, and memoir use cinematic technique to suggest that while subjectivity is plural and fluid, it must nonetheless ultimately contest a delimiting matrix of social oppression.

Key Words: disability, subjectivity, women, artists, biopics, film, adaptations, difference, impairment, aesthetics, biography, memory, gender, Bergson, Deleuze, Grosz 


disability; subjectivity; women; artists; biopics; film; adaptations; difference; impairment; aesthetics; biography; memory; gender; Bergson; Deleuze; Grosz

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Copyright (c) 2013 Micki Nyman

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ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)