Deakin University

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Uncanny suburbia, hauntology and post-traumatic poetics: conversations with Dirk de Bruyn’s Conversations With My Mother

journal contribution
posted on 2017-11-01, 00:00 authored by Glenn D'Cruz
Experimental filmmaker, Dirk de Bruyn was a ‘New Australian.’ An immigrant from Holland, de Bruyn arrived in Australia as an eight-year-old child with his mother and father in 1958, and his autobiographical film, Conversations with my Mother’ (1990) wanders through the suburban spaces that Robin Boyd famously described as the Australian Ugliness.

For many people, especially those immigrants from war ravaged Europe, these peripheral places provided sanctuary from a traumatic past. Moreover, many ‘New Australians’ — especially those accustomed to the confines of European domestic spaces — viewed the wide Australian streetscapes, with houses built on quarter-acre blocks, with something approaching wonder. Here was an apparently young country, familiar in some ways, but absolutely disorienting in others. The Australian suburbs, as de Bruyn’s film intimates, are uncanny in the Freudian sense — spaces of dread haunted by a myriad of ghosts. In psychoanalysis, the uncanny experience is marked by a sense of anguish and foreboding. People, places and things become strange, or, conversely, unfamiliar locations may contain traces of the familiar. Either way, the uncanny is perhaps best described as a kind of unsettling affect, a disquieting structure of feeling.



Senses of Cinema




RMIT University


Melbourne, Vic





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, Senses of Cinema