Volume 22, Issue 2, 2021
COVID-19 Pandemic and Media
Liminality and Historico-Materialist Readings of Film Genre
Film scholars often label cinema that features strange spaces and odd narratives as ‘liminal’. Without further explanation, however, the term is somewhat of a blunt instrument that tends to provide overly neat explanations that are perhaps too broadly abstracted from the larger cultural and creative context. Some cinematic genre statements of ‘liminality’ derive from predominantly historico-materialist framings that see the notion as primarily about politically contingent space/place-based notions of borders, rather a subjective sense of ‘strangeness’ derived from a complex combination of the political, the social, and the personal. Eva Näripea’s description of the cinema of 1960’s Soviet Estonia as an innately liminal phenomena and her accompanying assertion that liminality is an inherent part of local Estonian identities, is perhaps somewhat problematic as an underpinning for a genre statement. This essay explores why and how liminality may indeed seem to serve as a kind of genre for Estonian films as Näripea suggests, but perhaps not for the (historico-materialist) reasons she argues.