Unsuturable realities: space and subjectivity in The Spider's Stratagem and Toby Dammit
Willison, Katie Elizabeth
A comparative study of Bernardo Bertolucci’s cinematic adaptation of Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” and Federico Fellini’s film based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “Never bet the Devil Your Head,” this thesis approaches such themes as space, subjectivity, narration, and the role of the viewer through the analytical framework of suture theory. In examining Bertolucci’s construction of three particular spaces—the labyrinth, the monument, and the theater—in the film The Spider’s Stratagem, I address how the active role imposed on Borges’ reader is transformed into cinematic subjectivity through Bertolucci’s formal choices, considering the effects of failed suturing on the subjective interpretation and reception of the film. The second half of the study builds upon the notion of unsutured subjectivity proposed in the first chapter, and explores the shift from third- to first-person narration in Fellini’s Toby Dammit. In addition to tracing each protagonist’s capacity for linguistic discourse, I suggest that in adapting the narrative structures that present the literary Toby and his transformation, Fellini gives us a protagonist whose fall from language demonstrates in his choice of the physical world over verbal abstraction, image over word, the process of adaptation itself.