The Bourne multiplicity: quantum Europeanness in the Bourne films (2002-16)

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A cross-section of people crossing Europe might show tourists, commuters, immigrants, refugees, terrorists and victims of trafficking. So locating all these permutations in a single character would require a quantum individual capable of representing multitudinous identities in multifold Europes moving in multiple directions as well as multifarious aspects from within and beyond the European Union of what Europeanness means. Such a quantum character is Jason Bourne, as played by Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity (2002, Doug Liman, USA/Germany/Czech Republic), The Bourne Supremacy (2004, Paul Greengrass, USA/Germany), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Paul Green- grass, USA/Germany) and Jason Bourne (2016, Paul Greengrass, USA/China). Bourne is a CIA assassin suffering from dissociative amnesia, whose survivalism and quest for answers turns him into a pinball between European cities. His ability to negotiate European territories and pass through European borders is due to his collage of fake identities, albeit all of them white, western and male, which makes him both a parody of white privilege and a pastiche of male entitlement. Unremarkable because he lacks obvious racial otherness, Bourne transcends invisible borders of racial (and sexual) discrimination, as well as all the visible ones requiring false passports. Yet, at the same time, even as he exploits the porosity of the European Union, his overspilling identities em- body the fear that its citizens have of losing control of their borders. In sum, Bourne is something of a Derridean conceit, being the sign of an absent presence, a person sous rature or under erasure. His presumed death, existence without memory, and struggle to survive under threat of being killed, means that his quest for a meaningful identity is subject to différance, being different and deferred, pending a resolution that action set-pieces promise but continually postpone. Throughout four films with their own complex production identities, shaky-cam aesthetic, temporal loops, and rapid edit-
ing, Bourne is a nobody whose search for purpose throughout Europe becomes a potent symbol of différance in the matter of a stable and meaningful European identity.

Bibliographic note

Not yet published as of 09/09/2021.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to European Cinema
EditorsSusan Hayward, Gabor Gergely
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • European, Cinema, Bourne, Multiplicity, Quantum