Viviana Irving is a recent graduate from University of Glasgow and completed this dissertation under the supervision of Ian Garwood. First published in Notes on Videographic Criticism on August 17. 2020.
What prompted you to pursue an audiovisual dissertation as opposed to a written one? What drew you to the form?
I feel that video essays are the best way to demonstrate abstract concepts efficiently and accessibly. A twenty-minute condensation of an idea is much easier to approach than a 12,000-word written essay. Personally, I really love video essays, because of their endless potential to be creative with the medium itself and communicate complex ideas while doing so. I also have to admit that I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could do with video, after three years of film studies based almost entirely on writing, and putting my examination of the show in an audiovisual format allowed me to emulate its dramatic tone, specifically with choice of music.
The style of Hannibal is so affect-oriented that a written essay would have lacked the very qualities of the show that most contribute to its liminality. It prioritises emotion in its aesthetic narrative over everything else, and I feel that explaining this in words could not do it justice. I could write several paragraphs on how fluid reality is in Hannibal, but the reader would not be able to feel the visceral, textured experience of seeing and hearing a flayed, heart-shaped corpse beat for Will Graham in an ornate Norman chapel, which is essential to understanding his character development.
What is something new about your object of study that you discovered while creating this video essay? In other words, what did the video editing process teach you about Hannibal?
I think the most prominent thing that I discovered was how important subjectivity is in informing Hannibal’s uniqueness within an existing franchise. I spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting footage from the show with the films and noticed the personal fannish approach at its core giving it a sense of reclamation from established notions of the franchise’s tone and demographic. Seeing show-runner Bryan Fuller’s perspective add nuance to well-known lines, and change their meaning so strongly, made me think more about my own position as a consumer in juxtaposition to creators with platforms.
Why did you choose voice over? How did you make sure you were not merely reading a written essay and accompanying it with visuals?
I was very careful about which images I chose to demonstrate each aspect I was discussing, and prefaced each chapter with a clip, which would inform what I was going to speak about.
I chose voice-over as a way to make the imagery more accessible in the context that I was working in, because I feel that a 20 minute video-essay on three seasons of television doesn't allow for the level of emotional investment that it requires to fully understand it’s world and how it operates. I've met people who have only watched a little bit of the show and their first reactions have often been to dismiss it as pretentious or unrealistic, because they have not yet gotten the chance to align themselves with the show’s particular dream logic, which requires the suspension of disbelief and disregarding genre expectations.
My narration functions essentially as a shortcut to ‘get it’ within twenty minutes. Of course, this could also be done without voice-over, but I saw this as the most straightforward method in my particular circumstances.
Additionally, I had to connect the show to abstract concepts such as liminality, meta-reflexivity in television and the fanboy-auteur, so, in short, I used the images to explain my words, and words to give context to the images. For example, seeing and hearing the difference between the films and the show in my last chapter communicates its transformative aesthetic on a far deeper level than merely explaining it verbally.
How did you settle on a length for the piece? Did you have parameters? Did you always have this length in mind?
I was given the parameters of a long AV dissertation, so approximately 21 minutes, excluding credits. I had decided on the 20-minute video because I wanted to cover a wide topic in as much detail as possible, while demonstrating what I was talking about. I cannot confidently say how long the video would have become had I not been given a time limit, as I kept unearthing new angles to approach the show from, during editing.