Doors possess the attribute of ‘passage’. The physical interaction that a door requires to perform its primary function in combination with the time-based ways in which people perceive means that doors are charged with expectation for specific kinds of interaction. Visual narratives use doors and the expectation of interaction as well as other meanings to convey particular themes to viewers. Uncertainty and the unknown are key words that have been particularly prevalent in both avant garde and commercial media today and with so much societal change, the state of many cultures is one of transition. It is time that transitional spaces gained adequate examination.
Doors are interwoven with everyday experience, and their effect upon a person’s experience of life has been too little explored within philosophy and cultural studies. My work investigates the phenomenology of doors and the experience of thresholds in visual culture, with a focus on film. Gaston Bachelard thought that the presence of the door enables change and progression (1994), Louis Hammer emphasised connections between spatial boundaries and thinking (1981), and Martin Heidegger described the presence of the unknown and its relation to thresholds (1995); Georg Simmel distinguished between the bridge and the doorway in spatial, visual, and experiential senses (1997). Yet all of these discourses often refer back to a subjectivity-focused position of experience; the effects of specific contexts are rarely examined. As culture changes, associations made with experienced phenomena also change.
I demonstrate how doors in films convey contemporary cultural concerns, particularly of place and displacement. Film, as a meaning-making medium, is ideal for locating such concerns. Stylistic decisions, such as the use of doors, are influenced by cultural context as well as crafted by filmmakers’ intentions; doors included as a result of pragmatic decisions also shape the meanings conveyed. It is timely because the drastic changes that are taking place politically, environmentally, and economically are affecting how people live and how settled they are able to feel in the places that they live due to issues such as migration or deprivation. I seek to encourage scrutiny into areas that have otherwise been overlooked and that can explain what is perceived, and thus how we can progress towards finding a sense of place again.