The Estranged World: The Grotesque in Sofia Coppola's Young Girls Trilogy

No Thumbnail Available
Graves, Stephanie A.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Steeped in collision and disjuncture, connoting both the grisly and the fantastic, and combining the aberrant and the quotidian, the modern construct of the grotesque synthesizes contradictions. The grotesque is a liminal concept, occupying gaps and existing on the edges, transgressing and destabilizing boundaries. Highly visual, it is a combinatory creature, a means of combining disparate concepts or objects to challenge established hierarchies of order and stability and to create new ambivalently-encoded composites. A common reaction to these grotesque elements is the compulsion to pull away, to avert one's gaze--the grotesque elicits the desire to escape the discomfort it stirs up in us at the same time that it induces fascination and the inability to look away. This sense of unease is a particular element of the grotesque that contemporary auteur Sofia Coppola exploits in her films in order to elicit specific emotional responses to her subject matter.
Coppola's first three films--<italic>The Virgin Suicides</italic> (1999),<italic> Lost in Translation</italic> (2003), and <italic>Marie Antoinette</italic> (2006)--form a loose trilogy that is thematically related by an interest in what constitutes femininity and how representations of women are socially constructed. A close reading of these films considers the conflation of the female body with the grotesque and the manner in which the transgressive, dislocating, liminal aspects of the grotesque inform Coppola's construction of the female experience. Coppola's work repeatedly foregrounds the inherent correlation of the grotesque with the conception and category of the feminine by considering the interiority of her female characters in opposition to the social constructs surrounding and circumscribing them. "The grotesque is the estranged world," writes Wolfgang Kayser, and Coppola's films are tremendously interested in this liminal, alienated world and characters that find themselves at divisive points in their lives within this disorienting context.
Grotesque, Liminality, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola, The Virgin Suicides