Student Profile

Annabelle Doherty


Doctor of Philosophy

Thesis Title

French Heritage Film and Cinematic Cultural Memory


Dr Michelle Royer

Thesis Abstract

French heritage film, a contemporary genre of historical film and costume drama in France, provides a vivid reconstitution of French history, powerfully recreating the historical events, figures and landscapes of the past. Since its inception in 1980, the French heritage cinema has reached a vast audience, with films typically attaining in excess of a million spectators in France alone and achieving cult status through continued media re-release and film retrospectives. The success and critical acclaim of the French heritage film as popular and arthouse cinema designates the genre as a powerful medial object of cultural memory. With the advance of filmic technologies in contemporary decades and enhanced corporeal effect of heritage cinema’s immersion of spectators into an increasingly real, high-definition, surround sound, virtual filmic world, collective audiences essentially have the sensation of experiencing a past not directly lived, where the filmic image mimics and stimulates processes of memory. The powerful audio-visual sensuality of the cinematographic language of French heritage film’s reconstitution of the past encourages spectators to acquire a “cinematic cultural memory” of French history. In comparison to precursor genres of historical film, the recent cinematic technologies of contemporary heritage cinema are more potent in their embodiment effect, particularly when combined with the genre’s fetishism of fidelity through its minutely detailed recreation of the past, its meticulous costume and décor design, accurate heritage locations and authentic period music. Yet whilst heritage cinema strives for authenticity and historical realism, certain aspects of the filmic technologies impact the reconstitution, transforming the cinematic cultural memory spectators might form of French history. Audiences’ collective filmic memory is moreover influenced by the strong contribution of auteurs and their unique auteurial aesthetics, style, mise-en-scène and ideologies, in addition to the iconic presence of stars and their enigmatic on-screen star bodies, voice, performances and off-screen personas.

Professional and/or Community Engagement

Co-ordinated Birkbeck French Cinema Club during undergraduate BA French degree at the University of London
Alliance Française French Film Festival Regular Attendee

Conference Presentations

Annabelle Doherty, “Digital Tableaux of Cinematic Cultural Memory in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement” (paper presented at Australian Society of French Studies, University of Sydney, September 2010)

Annabelle Doherty, “Superimposition and Cultural Memory in Claude Chabrol’s and Jean Renoir’s Adaptations of Madame Bovary” (paper presented at Studies in French Cinema, Kings College, London, April 2011)

Annabelle Doherty, “Cinematic Cultural Memory and Auteurism in Claude Chabrol's Madame Bovary” (paper presented at Australian Society of French Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, December 2013)

Annabelle Doherty, “The Cinematic Cultural Memory of World War One through Filmic Technologies of French Cinema” (paper presented at UK Society of French Studies, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, June-July 2014)

Journal Article

Annabelle Doherty, “Digital Tableaux of Cinematic Cultural Memory in the French Heritage Film: Un long dimanche de fiançailles”, Australian Journal of French Studies 49.2 (2012): 196-207.