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The Cinema of Terry GilliamIt's a Mad World$
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Jeff Birkenstein, Anna Froula, and Karen Randell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165358

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165358.001.0001

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‘You can’t change anything’

‘You can’t change anything’

Freedom and Control in Twelve Monkeys

(p.92) Chapter Seven ‘You can’t change anything’
The Cinema of Terry Gilliam

Gerry Canavan

Columbia University Press

This chapter studies Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys (1995) in the context of the biopolitical turn in political theory. The plot of Twelve Monkeys centres on the efforts of time traveller James Cole and his psychologist Dr Kathleen Railly to investigate and prevent the release of an artificially created virus that will soon kill billions. The film allegorises the extent to which the contemporary moment still hovers uneasily between sovereignty and biopower, and deconstructs the ideologies by which biopower justifies the continued use of sovereign violence. It renders attempts to distinguish sovereign power from biopower nearly impossible through its interrogation and complication of the relationship between discipline and regulation. At the same time, the film offers a tangible utopian glimpse of a world freed from either system of control.

Keywords:   Twelve Monkeys, biopolitics, sovereignty, biopower, sovereign violence, sovereign power

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