In an age of ecological disasters and increasing environmental crisis, the experience of any cinematic fiction has an intrinsic ethical potential to reorient the spectator’s awareness of the ecological environment. The main argument is that the spectator’s sensory-affective and emphatically involving experience of cinema is essentially rooted in what I call “elemental imagination.” This is to say, first, that the spectator becomes phenomenologically immersed with the projected filmworld by a cinematic expression of the elemental world, and second, much like there is no filmworld without landscapes, the foundational aspect of elements are revealed as preceding and sustaining the narrative and symbolic layers of film experience. While suggesting the existential-ethical potential of this fundamental process of film experience, the second aim of this article is to show that this form of elemental imagination complements more mainstream “environmentalist” films, such as climate change documentaries and blockbuster apocalyptic genre films.
Climate Change and the Cinematic Ethics of Immersive Filmworlds
Ludo de Roo
JINHEE CHOI AND MATTIAS FREY, EDS., CINE-ETHICS: ETHICAL DIMENSIONS OF FILM THEORY, PRACTICE, AND SPECTATORSHIP
Cognitive dissonance provides a model for understanding how we experience film texts as profound. This article looks at the ways in which filmmakers might motivate or exploit the pleasure of resolving familiar narrative dissonance to inspire emotions associated with profundity, sublimity, or transcendence. David Lynch scholarship provides a primary case study in the conflation of cognitive dissonance and transcendence, however it is contended that moral obligations to rape and trauma victims are sublimated in the process. Alternative moral dissonances across a range of different cinematic modes are subsequently addressed. Comparative analysis of vigilantism in American revenge and “social cleansing” films, Ken Loach’s social realism, Richard Linklater’s Bernie (2011), and John Sayles’s Lone Star (1996) permits an exploration of variability in filmic dissonance and narrative comprehension, as well as alternative approaches to filmmaking ethics and responsibility. The article concludes with suggestions for an applied ethics extended from cognitive film theory.
Phenomenology Encounters Cognitivism
Since the early 1990s, phenomenology and cognitivism have become influential strands of inquiry in film theory. Phenomenological approaches remain focused on descriptive accounts of the embodied subject’s experiential engagement with film, whereas cognitivist approaches attempt to provide explanatory accounts in order to theorize cognitively relevant aspects of our experience of movies. Both approaches, however, are faced with certain challenges. Phenomenology remains a descriptive theory that turns speculative once it ventures to “explain” the phenomena upon which it focuses. Cognitivism deploys naturalistic explanatory theories that can risk reductively distorting the phenomena upon which it focuses by not having an adequate phenomenology of subjective experience. Phenomenology and cognitivism could work together, I suggest, to ground a pluralistic philosophy of film that is both descriptively rich and theoretically productive. From this perspective, we would be better placed to integrate the cultural and historical horizons of meaning that mediate our subjective experience of cinema.
This article examines two German films which, in different ways, engage with ethical questions raised by scientific advances in biotechnology and the specter of eugenics: Blueprint (Rolf Schübel, 2003), an adaptation of Charlotte Kerner's Blaupause, and The Elementary Particles (Elementarteilchen, Oskar Roehler, 2006), a cinematic interpretation of Michel Houellebecq's novel with the same title. Assuming different positions, the films contribute to the divisive public debate surrounding human cloning. Their visions vacillate between dystopian warnings of a commodification of human existence and euphoric promises of the potential to genetically erase human flaws forever. The films' main concern, however, is a critique of ideological positions associated with the generation of 1968, and the directors use the debate on genetics to infuse this discussion with an element of radicalism. This article explores the ways in which the films engage with the memory discourse in Germany through the lens of discourses on ethics and biotechnology.
Brenden Rooney, Hanna Kubicka, Carl Plantinga, James Kendrick and Johannes Riis
Jeffrey M. Zacks, Flicker: Your Brain on Movies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 360 pp., $29.95 (hardback). ISBN: 978-0-19998-287-5.
Margrethe Bruun Vaage, The Antihero in American Television (New York: Routledge, 2016), xx + 206 pp., $148 (hardback). ISBN: 978-1-13888-597-4.
Robert Sinnerbrink, Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience through Film (London: Routledge, 2016), x + 216 pp., $49.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-13882- 616-8, $145 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-13882-615-1.
Henry Bacon, The Fascination of Film Violence (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), vii + 227 pp., $95 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-137-47644-9.
Aaron Taylor, ed., Theorizing Film Acting (London: Routledge, 2012), 316 pp., $145 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-41550-951-0.
Do films that challenge us to turn away from the screen as a result of their depictions of violence raise issues about the ethics not of regarding the pain of others, but of watching films as a whole? Drawing on Stanley Cavell's notion of revulsion, recent investigations into “extreme“ cinema and, Antonin Artaud's concept of a “theater of cruelty,“ this article argues that watching violence on screen is not necessarily a negative and voyeuristic exercise, but that it can be good for viewers to see graphic violence on screen. This is not simply a question of viewing onscreen violence per se. What also is important is that the filmmakers adopt a set of stylistic techniques that are defined here as “cruel.“ Films (typically art house films) that adopt these techniques encourage viewers not to view violence for entertainment, but rather they encourage viewers to understand the potential in all humans to commit such acts. Such an understanding in turn forces us to lead our lives in an ethical fashion, whereby we do not unthinkingly follow a moral code, but rather choose and take responsibility for what we do. Furthermore, it encourages an “ethical“ mode of film spectatorship in general: we watch films to learn not just voyeuristically about others, but also about what we ourselves could become.
Alexander D. King, Living with Koryak Traditions: Playing with Culture in Siberia Kathleen Osgood
Robin Hessman, director, My Perestroika (film) Craig Campbell
Douglas Rogers, The Old Faith and the Russian Land: A Historical Ethnography of Ethics in the Urals Johan Rasanayagam
Perry McDonough Collins, Siberian Journey: Down the Amur to the Pacific, 1856-1857 Anna Bara
E.M. Ineshin and A.V. Teten'kin, Chelovek i prirodnaia sreda severa Baikal'skoi Sibiri v pozdnem pleistotsene: Mestonakhozhdenie Bol'shoi Iakor' I Andrzej Weber
Stephen D. Watrous, ed., John Ledyard's Journey through Russia and Siberia, 1787-1788: The Journal and Selected Letters Ryan Tucker Jones
Clive Tolley, Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic, 2 Vols. Elisabeth I. Ward
Books Available for Review
Bioculturalist approach can be fruitfully employed to explain why fictional violence is such an integral part of both our art and entertainment. In any cultural context aggression related biological traits are controlled and shaped in order to ensure both the internal order and the security of a community. William Flesch has argued that his process is guided by the tendency to admire altruistic punishers, who without self-interest assume the task of punishing evildoers. Spectators of such actions tend to react to it emotionally, both spontaneously and via reflection, thus giving the experience both an emotional and a meta-emotional aspect. This plays an important role in relating to the ways in which resorting to violence is justified in mainstream films. This scenario has a strong emotional appeal, even if the spectator would deplore such means in real life contexts. This discrepancy emerges even more strongly in the revenge scenario, which in a fictional context can appear satisfying and empowering despite the moral qualms the spectator might have concerning the ethics of revenge. Because of the deeply ingrained cult of individuality and doubts about the efficacy of government in maintaining law and order, these narrative patterns have developed especially strongly within American popular culture. However, judging by the worldwide success of such films, their appeal is nonetheless quite universal.
Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger and Eileen Barker
Barker’s challenges more, not less, relevant. What does the social scientist have to offer that the informed blogger, specialist journalist, or documentary maker filming a six-part program about a religious cult for Netflix does not? The answers may be