The Cine-Fist

Eisenstein’s Attractions, Mirror Neurons, and Contemporary Action Cinema

in Projections
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Abstract

This article investigates the concept of cinematic attractions through an analysis of current research on mirror neurons. It suggests that when developing his conception of attractions, Sergei Eisenstein isolated the effect of visceral spectatorship, which today’s science associates with mirror neurons. The involuntary nature of some of Eisenstein’s attractions helps to dissociate them from Tom Gunning’s later conception of the cinema of attractions. Whereas Gunning’s attractions targeted viewers’ conscious engagement, Eisenstein’s attractions tapped into preconscious and automatic responses. Moreover, while Gunning contrasted the cinema of attractions with the cinema of narrative integration, Eisenstein’s attractions were compatible with narrative. Eisenstein’s attractions were a closer precursor to the contemporary impact aesthetic than Gunning’s cinema of spectacle and display, and the concept of attractions, returned to its original sense and paired with the literature on mirroring, may better explain the functions and effects of contemporary action cinema.

Contributor Notes

Maria Belodubrovskaya is Assistant Professor of Film in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She has published articles on Russian cinema and special effects in Cinema Journal, Film History, Slavic Review, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, and KinoKultura, and is the author of Not According to Plan: Filmmaking under Stalin (Cornell University Press, 2017). E-mail: mbelodubrovs@wisc.edu

Projections

The Journal for Movies and Mind

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