Subjectivity in Legal Cinema
Kruthika N. S.
West Bengal National University of Juridical Science
Subjectivity on Screen
While theorists of the study of Law and Film have mainly focused on the portrayal of the law in various kinds of cinema, hardly any have ventured into the role of the spectator in Law and Film critique. As a result, studies have been confined to only the object of the film, which is usually the plot, the dialogue, or the montage at play. Seldom have studies deliberated on the subject of the film, which is the spectator. In this emerging interdisciplinary field, there is a glaring need for the inclusion of the subject in study. This is mainly because the subject and object which any film theorist would discuss will play a dual role in a legal film. They will no longer only be considered a viewer subject and an object of the film, but also take on the role of a legal subject and object.
With the rise of French and Italian new wave cinema, the concept of subjectivity has moved to the forefront of film critique and theory. The subjective camera enables the audience to experience film in a completely different way, manipulating or enriching viewers and coaxing them to engage with film as a medium. One of the earliest proponents of analyzing work through the subjective lens was Bertolt Brecht, playwright during the Nazi Regime. Brecht’s work encouraged spectators to engage in the visual literature, and contribute to the same, resulting in a ‘dialectic relationship’.
In this paper, building on the Brechtian notion of theatre, and extrapolating it to films, I seek to find what brings out subjectivity in a film, but restrict the scope of study to the legal genre. In pursuance, I shall discuss how an idea is delivered to the spectator through various tools used by the filmmaker, which will constitute the first part of the paper. Next, I shall discuss how the spectator may, in turn, respond to what the filmmaker offers her. This could be in the nature of assuming rationales for certain occurrences, motives of a character, or picking sides. This part will deal with why spectators respond differently, or expect different things from the same film, especially in the case of legal films. After analyzing the dialectic relationship between the filmmaker and the spectator, I will argue that subjectivity cannot be portrayed without the use of a spectator and question whether subjectivity can even be ‘portrayed’ itself.
 Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. John Willett, ed. Methuen, London (1964).