identity Vs. Imagined Communities: The lure of the Unknown

This essay was part of a series I wrote which focused on cinematic depictions of a modern Europe struggling to deal with a new-found pan-Europeanism. In it, I wanted to explore Bendict Anderson’s theories on ‘Imagined Communities’ through the personal crises of identity experienced by two young Western European men as they interact with and incorporate non-traditional identities – as depicted in Gadjo Dilo and The Spanish Apartment. Interestingly, note that both Xavier and Stephane are played by the same French actor – Romain Duris – probably due to his awesome hair (see below).

Benedict Anderson has described national cultural identities as ‘imagined communities’. Explore the concepts of ‘place’ and ‘displacement’ in relation to an imaginary ‘home’. How does such displacement affect our understanding of national and European cultural identity?

Gadjo Dilo (Tony Gatlif, 1998) and The Spanish Apartment (Cédric Clapish, 2002) explore the effects and processes exerted on identity when it is ‘displaced’ from an imaginary ‘home’ to a new, unknown ‘place’. Through the experiences of both Xavier and Stephane, the films offer insight as to the personal, national and cultural actualities that exist on the outskirts of what Benedict Anderson calls ‘imagined communities’. A framework for the inspection of the themes present in Gadjo Dilo and The Spanish Apartment will be provided by first expanding on Anderson’s taxonomy of nations, allowing for a clearer classification of the notion of ‘imagined communities’. Next, cinema theory will be called upon to explore the idea of the other in the form of the abject, and how this relates to both films. In addition, the linguistic interplay present in both films will be explored to highlight how cultural identities are based upon language differences. Ultimately allowing for a investigation into the struggle for an individual, non-aligned identity by Western Europe’s young adults, as portrayed by Xavier and Stephane.
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