Dementia and Relational Forms in Gaspar Noé’s Vortex (2021)

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As the number of diagnoses grows, dementia increasingly seems to represent old age and the cultural fears that surround it. Representations of dementia have recently begun to multiply in a range of cultural forms as their authors rise to the challenge of exploring a condition that is frightening and hard to grasp. This article examines how Gaspar Noé’s latest film, Vortex (2021), provides a unique cinematic reckoning with dementia through its use of a split screen to register each character’s movements, independent from and simultaneous to the other. It argues that the split screen, along with a dense intertextuality and cinematic self-reflexivity, allows for an exploration of relationality that opens up multidirectional forms of narrative, attention, and care. Through these strategies, Vortex dismantles the illusion of the autonomous subject that dementia is often seen to threaten. The article asks about the ethics of representation with regard to Alzheimer’s disease and considers how Noé’s film, within the context of French cinema, might offer a different way of representing the illness: how does Vortex move beyond a neuroscientific reduction of self to memory, while also resisting a compensatory reframing of Alzheimer’s disease to such a positive degree that it disavows the pain and loss that the disease causes?
Original languageEnglish
Article numberknad161
Pages (from-to)614-628
Number of pages15
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2023


  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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