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.