Thinking reality and time through film

7-10 May of 2014

CFUL – Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa

www.centrodefilosofia.com

Hosted by the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon and the GoetheInstitut Lisbon

During the last two decades film has been increasingly recognized as a medium of philosophical reflection, in an ontological and epistemological perspective. But what does it mean to understand film as philosophizing? Can we access specific, reliable knowledge of the world and our relation to it through the aesthetic form of moving images? Considering film’s claim of continuity with the world – what is the essence of film and what is exactly its connection with reality?

Usually time and space are considered the essential constituents of film – yet they are as well our ontic and ontological condition to understand reality. In this context classical film theory and its philosophical development (Kracauer, Benjamin, Bazin, Cavell, and Deleuze) are reassessed with transcendental and speculative questions. Benjamin, for example, has pointed out how through the invention of film reality has lost its status of uniqueness and authenticity. What are the consequences of the implicit assertion to face the world as a contingent possibility out of many? And what about the ‘Myth of total cinema’ evoked by Bazin – the perfect artistic creation of a virtual world that conflates with reality? Space-time is the way, how we structure the world and orient ourselves in it. Different philosophers have been dealing with the aporia of time and approached its apparent negativity in distinct ways. For all of them the question about time implies a question about space and being, or, in other words, requires a reflection on the relation of motion and matter.

Film also evokes the phantasmagorical presence of something, which is absent, an immaterial after-death reality. In this sense, Barthes defined the photographed moment as an anticipation of the instant of the death of the objects and subjects depicted. The film negative is assembled out of 24 static frames per second—applied to Barthes’ theory that would be 24 instances of death. The immediate succession of the next frame creates than an apparent continuity. We can therefore only indirectly assist a stepping-beyond of natural time into death, at each frame. The disclosure of death in film is obscured by moving the images, creating an illusion of life. Bergson understood the illusionary mechanism of film as a paradox metaphor for the usual relation of mind and reality: that which is moving is made graspable through its opposite. For Heidegger the continuity of time is bound by the nexus of life (Lebenszusammenhang) given by Dasein. Connecting life and film, Deleuze raised the question of the world literally to be film, similar to Pasolini who claimed life as cinema in nature. Is being-in-the-world a being-in-film?

Another line of enquiry could be designated as the fascination with the reality effect, opening up a threefold domain: the ‘hypperreal’ vertigo pursued by technical constructions of the filmic realm and of spectatorship, such as 3D movies, digital camera and computer-generated images; the Lacanian distinction between reality and the Real, instrumental in Žižek’s theorizing of film; the paradoxical technical construction of a kind of image corresponding to a seeming natural perception in some ‘realistic’ cinema such as the works of the Portuguese filmmakers João Canijo or Pedro Costa, among others.

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