Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Steven . Shaviro


“Everyday transcendence” names a style of filmmaking exemplified in recent works by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Richard Linklater (the Before series and Boyhood), Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir), and Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno (Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait). In each of these films, time operates on two interrelated levels: time as we experience it and understand it in our daily lives, and time as an overarching big picture. This big-picture temporality varies from film to film and is often ambiguous: for Malick, it appears as divine eternity; for Linklater, as a secular concept of an eternal Now; for Folman and for Gordon and Parreno, as a broad view of human history.

What all of these films have in common is that each is built around a movement from everyday time, in the form of the present, to transcendental time and back again. This movement is accomplished through an evolution of the transcendental style first outlined by Paul Schrader, who describes a specific formal progression from everyday banality to disparity to stasis. This progression, Schrader suggests, creates a structural movement from the everyday material world to the transcendental spiritual world. In showing how everyday transcendence adapts these formal techniques and structures to effect temporal transcendence, I identify two trends that distinguish the films in this study from those that Schrader focuses on. The first is a shift from transcendence as a specifically spiritual phenomenon to a more secular one; the second is the adaptation of transcendental style to the realities of a contemporary world in which our daily experience of time has been profoundly transformed by technologies of mediation and connectivity. This second trend in particular suggests that everyday transcendence has emerged as an aesthetic response to a world in which our sense of time has become diminished and disconnected. In the face of such a contemporary experience, everyday transcendence serves as an urgent call to return to nowness, and to do so with an expanded sense of what “now” is and of how the present connects to the past and the future.