Law as Cinematic Apparatus: Image, Textuality, and Representational Anxiety in Spielberg's 'Minority Report'
Cumberland Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 25, 2006-2007
21 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2009
Date Written: December 1, 2007
Law is an intensely textual practice. This textual character is manifest not only in the written sources of law (cases, statutes, regulations) or in the procedural bias of law towards document assessment and exchange, but in the interpretive techniques of law. Much has been made of those techniques being literary, but one aspect of law's power comes from a denial of its representational core. This alternate dependence on, and anxiety about, textual representation is shared by mainstream cinema, though it is rarely made explicit. Film is uniquely situated to support an image of law that suppresses its textual foundation. In the film "Minority Report," (2002), master manipulator of the zeitgeist, Steven Spielberg, concocts a system of law where textual authority is replaced by image. The result is a kind of romance of transparency in which the "real" infuses law without the mediation of representation. While the surface of the film ultimately condemns the futuristic legal system it represents as corruptible, its obsession with visual representation and seeing valorizes image over text. Yet ultimately, the film returns the viewer to an uncritical reception of present-day law, which is figured as a safely 'pre-technological' world of text-based authority.
Keywords: Law & Film, Minority Report, Steven Spielberg
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