Films and Existential Feelings

in Projections

This article shows in what ways Matthew Ratcliffe’s phenomenological theory of existential feelings is relevant to film and media studies. Existential feelings are “feelings in the body, which are experienced as one‘s relationship with the world as a whole.” They are related to other concepts in film theory; however, their relation to films has never been systematically examined. The article discusses how audiovisual media are able to represent, express, and evoke existential feelings, and even work as “qualia machines” in making viewers partially share feelings of characters. Focusing on the paradigmatic case of depression and on exemplary films like Dominik Graf’s Deine besten Jahre, the article identifies different aesthetic strategies to express existential feelings. Building on that, the article argues that the power of films to evoke related feelings in the viewers is a crucial factor in spreading ideas about how others feel and conveying collective structures of feeling.