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