American Triumphalism and the First Gulf War

David Martin-Jones

in Deleuze, Cinema and National Identity

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780748622443
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651085 | DOI:
American Triumphalism and the First Gulf War

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This chapter examines how certain American films that emerged after the First Gulf War manipulated narrative time in order to construct national identity, beginning with a discussion of triumphalism, arguably the dominant national narrative of the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Triumphalism is a mythical inversion of colonial reality that has existed in American cinema since (at least) The Birth of a Nation (1915). The chapter first looks at Saving Private Ryan (1998), focusing on its use of flashback in conjunction with character memory, to determine how this contemporary movement-image facilitates the construction of a triumphal national narrative. Its use of narrative time to negotiate the recent transformation of America – from cold warrior to small-scale interventionist global police force – provides a clear contrast against which to then measure Memento's (2000) deterritorialisation of triumphalism. Memento is a time-image ‘caught in the act’ of becoming a movement-image. It offers a critique of the national narrative, using character memory, a fragmented narrative structure and national allegory to deterritorialise the triumphal narrative that dominates many American action-images.

Keywords: Saving Private Ryan; cinema; United States; Memento; national identity; triumphalism; time-image; movement-image; character memory; national allegory

Chapter.  15347 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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