Film and Philosophy

I am presentig my reasearch on the relevance of Edith Stein’s theory on empathy for film theory at the Second Annual Conference on Film and Philolosphy on the 18th of July at the University of Dundee. Here is the conference program >. The keynote speakers will be Alain Badiou (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris), Edward Branigan (University of California, Santa Barbara), Caroline Bainbridge (Roehampton University), and Martin McQuillan (University of Leeds).


Weightlessness Cinema

I am taking part to the Université d’été de l’Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle on “Cinema & Art Contemporain” (June 28th-July 11th 2009, here is the full program). On the 6th of July I am presenting the paper Weightlessness cinema. Filmic bodies in zero-gravity environment in the framework of the round table “Les Écrans vécus. Expériences médiales à l’âge de la «relocation»”, coordinated by professor Ruggero Eugeni.

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Danza, Neuroscienze, Transmedialità

Il Dipartimento di scienze sociali, cognitive e quantitative dell’Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia ospita una giornata di studi sul tema Danza, neuroscienze, transmedialità, lunedì 25 maggio 2009 (a Reggio Emilia presso l’Ex Caserma Zucchi, viale Allegri 9 – Aula 5b, primo piano). L’ospite principale è Sarah Rubidge (docente di “Choreography and New Media” alla University of Chichester, UK) e interverrà sul tema Practicing Arts using Understanding through the body a partire dalle ore 10.15. Discuterà l’intervento la professoressa Anna Borghi (Università di Bologna e Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione, CNR, Roma). Il  sito web Sense of digital raccoglie i lavori e le riflessioni di Sarah Rubidge. Nel pomeriggio (ore 14.30-16.30) si svolgerà un workshop moderato da Nicola Dusi (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia) con i seguenti interventi previsti:

Anna Borghi (Università di Bologna): Perspectives on embodied and grounded cognition, Cristina Righi (Università di Bologna): Choreographic Sense and Transmedia Practice, Claudia Gianelli (Università di Bologna): Neurotic semisciences? How to keep semiotics and neurosciences together without going schizoid, Adriano D’Aloia (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano): Screen neurons. Cinema, corporeality, empathy.
Discussants: Sarah Rubidge (University of Chichester), Federico Montanari (Università di Bologna), Alessandro Sarti (Università di Bologna)

PDF programma

Falling Girl

Oggi m’imbatto per caso in questo video di Scott Snibbe e Annie Loui:

“Falling Girl is an immersive interactive narrative installation that allows the viewer to participate in the story of a young girl falling from a skyscraper. During her miraculously slow descent, the girl reacts to the people and events in each window. Daylight fades, night falls and passes, and at dawn, when the falling girl finally lands on the sidewalk, she is an aged woman who bears no resemblance to the young girl who started her fall a few minutes before.

Cameras situated in the room and connected to computer incorporate images of viewers themselves that appear in the apartments that the falling girl passes. These are juxtaposed with the ever present central image of the girl in silhouette falling slowly along the skyscraper’s side as she gets older and older. In this way, viewers participate in this tale about the shortness of our lives and the petty concerns that often occupy us.

The project is a collaboration between interactive media artist Scott Snibbe and choreographer/filmmaker Annie Loui.”

Empathic Kiss

— Professor Flostre is the greatest living philosopher, and father of empathicalism.
— Oh? What’s empathicalism?
— The most sensible approach to true understanding and peace of mind.
— Sounds great, but what is it?
— It’s based on empathy. Do you know what the word “empathy” means?
— No, I’ll have to have the beginner’s course on that one. Empathy. Is it something like sympathy?
— Oh, it goes beyond sympathy. Sympathy is to understand what someone feels. Empathy is to project your imagination so that you actually feel what the other person is feeling. You put yourself in the other person’s place. Do I make myself clear?

— Why did you do that?
— Empathy. I put myself in your place and I felt that you wanted to be kissed.
— You put yourself in the wrong place. I have no desire to be kissed by you, or anyone else.
— Don’t be silly. Everybody wants to be kissed, even philosophers.

Funny Face, 1957



I am presenting a draft of the first step of my investigation on drowning bodies and cinematic experience at the Emergent Encounters in Film Theory. Intersections between Psychoanalysis and Philosophy international film studies conference, hosted by the King’s College Film Studies Deparment in London on the 21st of March.

Keynote Speakers: Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University), Vicky Lebeau (University of Sussex)

Interdisciplinary approaches to the theoretical discussion of the cinematic medium have often engaged with philosophical or psychoanalytic perspectives. While philosophy and psychoanalysis are by no means opposed schools of thought, the potential to develop new ways of understanding film remains an opportunity to be explored. In seeking out further lines of enquiry, the study of intersections between cinema/philosophy/psychoanalysis, seems most pertinent to our generation of ‘film thinking’, to invoke Daniel Frampton’s concept of the ‘film mind’, whose future still stands, to some extent, in the shadow of psychoanalysis. Recent philosophical models of thought offered by film theorists such as Frampton and D.N Rodowick embrace a new ontological grasp of the cinema, but what then are the implications of this shift for psychoanalysis? The question, therefore, remains whether philosophy and psychoanalysis are indeed irreconcilable, or if the specific philosophical turn sets up boundaries that unjustly seal off the possibility of dialogue between the two methodologies.

Drowning Bodies

And what about drowning? Cinema has immediately recognized that water could visually represent the substance of human dreams and desires. Water can connect or separate conscious and onyric worlds, arousing the spectators’ actual response (lack of breath, sense of choking, menace…). I’d like to figure out if and how the representation of drowning body in contemporary cinema could be a strategy to engage a corporeal relation with the spectator’s psychic dimension, in terms of 1) depth: from the reflective and narcisist surface to the dark profundity; 2) consistency: from the transparent swimming-pool to the opaque and cloudy lake; 3) expressive forces: from the quite, though threatening, ocean to the impetuous river. Here you have a collection of snapeshots captured from “water-based” movie (What Lies Beneath, The Sphere, Jaws, Minority Report, The Hours…).

Altra “figura esperienziale” interessante: l’annegamento, il corpo sommerso… Il cinema ha da subito riconosciuto come l’acqua posso rappresentare visivamente la sostanza dei sogni e dei desideri umani. Essa connette e separa dimensione del conscio e dell’incoscio, sollecitando risposte fisiologiche nello spettatore (mancanza del respiro, senso di soffocamento minaccia…). Un passo ulteriore potrebbe essere capire se e in che modo la rappresentazione dei corpi in annegamento nel cinema contemporaneo è una strategia di “ingaggio” di una relazione corporea fra la dimensione psichica dello spettatore in termini di 1) profondità: dalla riflettente e narcisistica superficie, alla profonda oscurità; 2) consistenza: dalla trasparenza di una piscina, all’opacità delle acque torbide di un lago; 3) forza espressiva: dalle placide, per quanto minacciose, acque dell’oceano, al moto impetuoso del fiume. Ecco una piccola lista per immagini di film che mostrano corpi immersi o in annegamento (Le verità nascoste, Sfera, Lo squalo, Minority Report, The Hours…).


Genealogy of Fall

My hypothesis is that along the history of images a series of specific and recurrent “experiential figures” have arisen that have proved to be a functional way to set up the psychological relation between images and observers. In order to study the perceptual-emotional-cognitive relationship between the spectator and the images, we can take into account the fall of human body since it is particularly interesting for its philosophical significance and its capability to engage a corporeal relation with the spectator. I wonder if a good way of studying the nature of this double corpor(e)ality – the representational and the spectatorial one – should be investigating its historical origin, that is its genealogy in the history of visual culture. In the history of art, the genealogy of the figure of fall probably starts with the visual representation of the fall of Lucifero (the fallen angel) and Icaro (the fallen God).

La mia idea è che lungo la storia della rappresentazione per immagini si è conformata una serie di precise e ricorrenti “figure esperienziali” e che tali figure abbiano funzionato e funzionino come modalità funzionale di predisposizione della relazione psicologica fra immagini e osservatori. Per studiare la relazione percettiva-cognitiva-emotiva fra spettatore e immagini, possiamo considerare la caduta del corpo umano come una particolare forma esperienziale di ingaggio corporeo dello spettatore, resa peraltro più interessante dalla sua valenza filosofica. Mi chiedo se un buon modo per studiare la natura di questa doppia corporalità – quella rappresentazionale e quella spettatoriale – non debba essere un’indagine sulle sue origini storiche, la sua genealogia nella storia del visuale. Nella storia dell’arte, la genealogia della figura della caduta si origina probabilmente con la rappresentazione della caduta di Lucifero (l’angelo caduto) e Icaro (il dio caduto).

La caduta di Icaro (Jacob Peter Gowy, 1636-7)

La caduta di Lucifero (Gustave Doré, 1886)

La caduta di Icaro (Marc Chagall, 1975)