The philosophy of film is a branch of aesthetics within the discipline of philosophy that seeks to understand the most basic questions regarding film. Philosophy of film has significant overlap with film theory, a branch of film studies.
The earliest person to explore philosophical questions regarding film was Hugo Münsterberg. During the silent film era, he sought to understand what it was about film that made it conceptually distinct from theater. He concluded that the use of close-ups, flash-backs, and edits were unique to film and constituted its nature.
Rudolf Arnheim, with the beginning of the era of sound for film, argued that the silent film era was aesthetically superior to the "talkies". He held that by adding sound to previously silent moving images, the unique status of film had been removed. Instead of being a unique art form that could carefully study bodies in motion, film had become merely a combination of two other art forms.
André Bazin, contrary to Arnheim, held that whether or not a film has sound is largely irrelevant. He believed that film, due mainly to its foundation in and relationship with photography, had a realist aspect to it. He argued that film has the ability to capture the real world. The film Waking Life also features a discussion of the philosophy of film where the theories of Bazin are emphasized. In it, the character waxes philosophic that every moment of film is capturing an aspect of God.
American philosopher Noël Carroll has argued that the earlier characterizations of film made by philosophers too narrowly defined the nature of film and that they incorrectly conflated aspects of genres of films with film in general.
Aspects of Bazin's realist theories have been accepted by philosophers in spite of Carroll's critique. The transparency thesis, which says that film is a medium transparent to true reality, has been accepted by Kendall Walton.
An auteur (; French: [otœʁ], lit. 'author') is an artist, usually a film director, who applies a highly centralized and subjective control to many aspects of a collaborative creative work; in other words, a person equivalent to an author of a novel or a play. The term is commonly referenced to filmmakers or directors with a recognizable style or thematic preoccupation.Auteurism originated in the French film criticism of the late 1940s as a value system that derives from the film criticism approach of André Bazin and Alexandre Astruc—dubbed auteur theory by the American critic Andrew Sarris. The concept was invented to distinguish French New Wave filmmakers from studio-system directors that were part of the Hollywood establishment, and has since been applied to producers of popular music as well as to video game creators.Berys Gaut
Berys Gaut is an author and Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. He writes on aesthetics, creativity, philosophy of film, and ethics. He was president of the British Society of Aesthetics until 2018.Carnegie Hall (film)
Carnegie Hall is a 1947 film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. It stars Marsha Hunt and William Prince.Ulmer made Carnegie Hall with the help of conductor Fritz Reiner, godfather of the Ulmers' daughter, Arianné. The New York City concert venue Carnegie Hall serves as the film's setting for the plot and performances presented. A tribute to classical music and Carnegie Hall, the film features appearances by some of the prominent music figures of 20th century performing within the legendary concert hall. Based on a story by silent movie actress Seena Owen, Carnegie Hall follows the life of Irish immigrant Nora Ryan who arrives in America just as the grand concert hall is christened in 1891, and whose life is intertwined with the performers, conductors, aspiring artists and humble employees who call it home. The plot serves as a thread to connect the music performances.Film noir
Film noir (; French: [film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key, black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.
The term film noir, French for "black film" (literal) or "dark film" (closer meaning), was first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era. Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively. Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic film noir were referred to as "melodramas". Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.
Film noir encompasses a range of plots: the central figure may be a private investigator (The Big Sleep), a plainclothes policeman (The Big Heat), an aging boxer (The Set-Up), a hapless grifter (Night and the City), a law-abiding citizen lured into a life of crime (Gun Crazy), or simply a victim of circumstance (D.O.A.). Although film noir was originally associated with American productions, the term has been used to describe films from around the world. Many films released from the 1960s onward share attributes with film noirs of the classical period, and often treat its conventions self-referentially. Some refer to such latter-day works as neo-noir. The clichés of film noir have inspired parody since the mid-1940s.Film school
A film school is any educational institution dedicated to teaching aspects of filmmaking, including such subjects as film production, film theory, digital media production, and screenwriting. Film history courses and hands-on technical training are usually incorporated into most film school curricula. Technical training may include instruction in the use and operation of cameras, lighting equipment, film or video editing equipment and software, and other relevant equipment. Film schools may also include courses and training in such subjects as television production, broadcasting, audio engineering, and animation.Film studies
Film studies is an academic discipline that deals with various theoretical, historical, and critical approaches to films. It is sometimes subsumed within media studies and is often compared to television studies. Film studies is less concerned with advancing proficiency in film production than it is with exploring the narrative, artistic, cultural, economic, and political implications of the cinema. In searching for these social-ideological values, film studies takes a series of critical approaches for the analysis of production, theoretical framework, context, and creation. In this sense the film studies discipline exists as one in which the teacher does not always assume the primary educator role; the featured film itself serves that function. Also, in studying film, possible careers include critic or production. Film theory often includes the study of conflicts between the aesthetics of visual Hollywood and the textual analysis of screenplay. Overall the study of film continues to grow, as does the industry on which it focuses. Academic journals publishing film studies work include Sight & Sound, Film International, CineAction, Screen, Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly and Journal of Film and Video.Film theory
Film theory is a set of scholarly approaches within the academic discipline of film or cinema studies that questions the essentialism of cinema and provides conceptual frameworks for understanding film's relationship to reality, the other arts, individual viewers, and society at large. Film theory is not to be confused with general film criticism, or film history, though these three disciplines interrelate.
Although film theory originated from linguistics and literary theory, it also overlaps with the philosophy of film.In medias res
A narrative work beginning in medias res (Classical Latin: [ɪn mɛdiaːs reːs], lit. "into the middle of things") opens in the midst of the plot (cf. ab ovo, ab initio). Often, exposition is bypassed and filled in gradually, either through dialogue, flashbacks or description of past events. Hamlet begins after the death of Hamlet's father. Characters make reference to King Hamlet's death without the plot's first establishment of said fact. Since the play is about Hamlet and the revenge more so than the motivation, Shakespeare uses in medias res to bypass superfluous exposition.
Works that employ in medias res often later use flashback and nonlinear narrative for exposition to fill in the backstory. In Homer's Odyssey, we first learn about Odysseus's journey when he is held captive on Calypso's island. We then find out, in Books IX through XII, that the greater part of Odysseus's journey precedes that moment in the narrative. In Homer's Iliad there are fewer flashbacks, although it opens in the thick of the Trojan War.Index of aesthetics articles
This is an alphabetical index of articles about aesthetics.Linguistic film theory
Linguistic film theory is a form of film theory that studies the aesthetics of film by investigating the concepts and practices that comprise the experience and interpretation of movies.List of philosophies
Philosophical schools of thought and philosophical movements.Manhunter (film)
Manhunter is a 1986 American psychological crime horror thriller film based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Written and directed by Michael Mann, it stars William Petersen as FBI profiler Will Graham. Also featured are Tom Noonan as serial killer Francis Dollarhyde, Dennis Farina as Graham's FBI superior Jack Crawford, and Brian Cox as incarcerated killer Hannibal Lecktor. The film focuses on Graham coming out of retirement to lend his talents to an investigation on Dollarhyde, a killer known as the "Tooth Fairy". In doing so, he must confront the demons of his past and meet with Lecktor, who nearly counted Graham amongst his victims.
Manhunter focuses on the forensic work carried out by the FBI to track down killers and shows the long-term effects that cases like this have on profilers such as Graham, highlighting the similarities between him and his quarry. The film features heavily stylized use of color to convey this sense of duality, and the nature of the characters' similarity has been explored in academic readings of the film. It was the first film adaptation of Harris' Hannibal Lecter novels, as well as the first adaptation of Red Dragon, which later became the basis for a film of the same name in 2002.
Opening to mixed reviews, Manhunter fared poorly at the box office at the time of its release, making only $8.6 million in the United States. However, it has been reappraised in more recent reviews and now enjoys a more favorable reception, as both the acting and the stylized visuals have been appreciated better in later years. Its resurgent popularity, which may be due to later adaptations of Harris' books and Petersen's success in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has seen it labelled as a cult film.Nancy Bauer (philosopher)
Nancy Bauer is an American philosopher specializing in feminist philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology, and the work of Simone de Beauvoir. She was recently Chair of the Philosophy Department at Tufts University and is currently Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Philosophy as well as the Dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. Her interests include methodology in philosophy, feminism, metaphysics, social/political/moral philosophy, philosophy of language, phenomenology, and philosophy in film.Noël Carroll
Noël Carroll (born 1947) is an American philosopher considered to be one of the leading figures in contemporary philosophy of art. Although Carroll is best known for his work in the philosophy of film (he is a proponent of cognitive film theory), he has also published journalism, works on philosophy of art generally, theory of media, and also philosophy of history. As of 2012, he is a distinguished professor of philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center.Outline of aesthetics
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to aesthetics:
Aesthetics – branch of philosophy and axiology concerned with the nature of beauty.Philosophy
Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.
Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, who conceived it with Roger Avary. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames, and Uma Thurman, it tells several stories of criminal Los Angeles. The film's title refers to the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue.
Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction in 1992 and 1993, incorporating scenes that Avary originally wrote for True Romance (1993). Its plot occurs out of chronological order. The film is also self-referential from its opening moments, beginning with a title card that gives two dictionary definitions of "pulp". Considerable screen time is devoted to monologues and casual conversations with eclectic dialogue revealing each character's perspectives on several subjects, and the film features an ironic combination of humor and strong violence. TriStar Pictures reportedly turned down the script as "too demented". Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein was enthralled, however, and the film became the first that Miramax fully financed.
Pulp Fiction won the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and was a major critical and commercial success. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and won Best Original Screenplay; it earned Travolta, Jackson, and Thurman Academy Award nominations and revitalized and/or elevated their careers. Its development, marketing, distribution, and profitability had a sweeping effect on independent cinema.
Pulp Fiction has been widely regarded as Tarantino's masterpiece, with particular praise for its screenwriting. The self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive homage and pastiche have led critics to describe it as a touchstone of postmodern film. It is often considered a cultural watershed, influencing movies and other media that adopted elements of its style. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named it the best film since 1983 and it has appeared on many critics' lists of the greatest films ever made. In 2013, Pulp Fiction was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".Robbie Collin
Robbie Collin is a British film critic.
Collin studied aesthetics and the philosophy of film at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He edited the university's student newspaper, The Saint.
Collin has been the chief film critic at The Daily Telegraph since 2011. From 2007 to 2011 he wrote a weekly film column for the News of the World until the newspaper's closure. That year he was shortlisted for Critic of the Year at the British Press Awards, and was shortlisted again in 2017, when he was highly commended by the jury.He appeared on the Channel 4 Vue Film Show, presented by Edith Bowman, and contributed to the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman. In August 2013 he guest presented BBC Radio 4's Film programme. He regularly guest-presents Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, also with Edith Bowman, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Ben Bailey Smith.
In 2018 Collin compiled a list of the 100 greatest films of all time for the Telegraph, with Singin' in the Rain at the top.Robert Sinnerbrink
Robert Sinnerbrink is an Australian philosopher and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University.
He is an ARC Future Fellowship recipient and a former Chair of the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy (2007-2010).
Sinnerbrink is known for his research on aesthetics and philosophy of film.