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The Cine-Fist

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

Maria Belodubrovskaya

Keywords: affect; cinema of attractions; embodied spectatorship; empathy; impact aesthetic; montage of attractions; simulation theory

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.

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