The motherly gaze in Aslaug Holm’s Brothers (Brødre, 2015)

Award-winning Norwegian filmmaker Aslaug Holm’s Brothers (Brødre, 2015) is a documentary that explores the question of how to imbue contingency with significance and extract what is the most real (for both the filmed and filming subject alike) from the recorded footage, an epistemological documentary act complicated by the experience of motherhood. In this article, I discuss this film’s complex act of documentary looking and means of shaping contingency into both a narrative and a filmic memento. My contention is that the film delves into the intricacies of subjective maternal experience and its multifaceted perception of time and space by employing diverse documentary modes as well as refracting them through the lens of empathy and care, a perspective I have conceptualized as the ‘motherly gaze’ – a specific affective modality of care rendered as sight, i.e. an affective perceiving and ordering of the visible reality. This concept is a further theoretical development of Bill Nichols’ famous analytical categories for discussing various documentary conventions by combining Nichols’ framework with Michael Renov’s key notions regarding the fusion of subjectivities within the context of domestic ethnography.