The haptic turn in film studies, which has been growing in currency
since the late 1990s, is gaining support from recent studies in cognitive neuroscience.
This article draws on this convergence, as a productive route to investigating
experimental cinema. Phil Solomon’s concept of “the physical anxiety
of form itself” is taken up as a point of departure for close analysis of three
films: The Secret Garden (1988), The Snowman (1995), and Walking Distance
(1999). The article investigates the artist’s optical, chemical, and manual working
processes, as well as the specific choice of found footage. Relying primarily
on Embodied Simulation theory, the focal argument pivots on Solomon’s
“physical anxiety” as it is instantiated in somatosensory arousal. Solomon’s
films are analyzed as effective mediators of intersubjective engagement, of
the particular “haptic” type. Experimental cinema is thus approached from
outside the discursive frame of avant-garde poetics, drawing attention to new
perspectives that are currently opening up for moving image studies.