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Publication Date

Summer 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Theatre Arts


David Kahn


Film, Performance, Place

Subject Areas

Film studies; Performing arts; Communication


This thesis examined how place is performed in the films There Will Be Blood (2007), No Country for Old Men (2008), and The Tree of Life (2011). The goal of this thesis was to show that these particular films can be understood as composing a category called "topophilic films," in which characters, driven by a strong sense of place, uncover the cultural identity of a place and determine the terms by which they belong or do not belong to it. Such a category can assist filmmakers and critics by comprising a useful framework to place films into broader cultural contexts.

Through looking at key scenes selected from the three films, three specific ways in which the characters determine their belonging to place can be extracted. The first is belonging as home: the characters identify with, and feel valued and protected by, the norms of the dominant culture. The second is belonging as ownership: through monetary and personal processes, the characters bypass cultural norms to take possession

of objects, and cast out rival possessors. The third way is belonging as the center of cultural norms claimed by the characters, which may or may not reflect the norms of dominant culture and are independent of what the characters do or do not possess. This study could be used by practitioners and film scholars alike to better understand how film

characters shape, are shaped by, and dwell within specific cultural contexts engendered by the performance of place.