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The Reality of Film

The Reality of Film: Theories of filmic reality.

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Reality of Film
    Book Description:

    In formulating a notion of filmic reality, The Reality of Film offers a novel way of understanding our relationship to cinema. It argues that cinema need not be understood in terms of its capacities to refer to, reproduce or represent reality, but should be understood in terms of the kinds of realities it has the ability to create. The Reality of Film investigates filmic reality by way of six key film theorists: André Bazin, Christian Metz, Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Rancière. In doing so, it provides comprehensive introductions to each of these thinkers, while also debunking many myths and misconceptions about them. Along the way, a notion of filmic reality is formed that radically reconfigures our understanding of cinema. This book is essential reading for film scholars, students and philosophers of film, while it will also appeal to graduate students and specialists in other fields.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-341-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: On the reality of film
    (pp. 1-19)

    Some years ago Cornelius Castoriadis asked why the imaginative products of human existence – dreams, works of art, cultural objects and so on – are never seriously considered to be of primary importance. He wondered why objects that are imbued with what we call ‘reality’ are invariably things that are physical, material or natural, as distinct from the creations of human imagination. Castoriadis stated his position in the following terms:

    Remember that philosophers almost always start by saying: ‘I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is this table. What does this table show to me as characteristic...

  6. 1 Beyond political modernism
    (pp. 20-41)

    In an important article written in 1972, Peter Wollen set forth the stakes of a counter-cinema that could be opposed to what he referred to as orthodox cinema (Wollen 1985). He proceeded to map the ‘seven deadly sins’ of orthodox cinema in order to oppose them directly to the ‘seven cardinal virtues’ of counter-cinema. The opposition declared here was one that, in time, became known as the discourse of ‘political modernism’ (see Harvey 1978; Rodowick 1994). The defining trait of political modernism was that it operated a critique founded on an opposition between orthodox, Hollywood, commercial cinema and the types...

  7. 2 Realism, reality and authenticity
    (pp. 42-78)

    In terms of the distinction outlined in the previous chapter of this book, one might ordinarily think that André Bazin’s position in the history of film theory is set. He is arealistand that means, quite simply, that his understanding of cinema is predicated on a distinction between illusion and reality. Some films – especially those with excessive editing, or with fanciful stage settings – will deliver illusion, while others – particularly ones which utilize long takes, depth of field and natural settings – will reveal reality. Bazin’s position, the typical commentaries will concur, is one of unabashed realism. This is the kind...

  8. 3 The imaginary as filmic reality
    (pp. 79-105)

    If ‘filmic reality’ for Bazin was a matter of authenticity and the establishment of ‘social’ forms of reality, as I argued in the preceding chapter, in what ways might Christian Metz provide a theory of ‘filmic reality’? At first sight, ‘reality’ would appear to be a concept quite alien to Metz’s conception of cinema. Certainly, he did once write an essay on the ‘impression of reality’ in the cinema (Metz 1974b), butimpressionsare precisely what separate themselves from reality: they are impressions of reality because they are not reality itself. Subsequently, Metz became a master at discerning cinematic codes,...

  9. 4 A reality beyond imagining
    (pp. 106-125)

    Stanely Cavell’s most important consideration of the movies (as he likes to call them) is also the most straightforward: movies involve us. ‘We involve the movies in us’, he writes. ‘They become further fragments of what happens to me, further cards in the shuffle of my memory, with no telling what place in the future’ (Cavell 1979: 154). We go to the movies (or watch them on television); we talk with our friends about the movies; memorable moments from movies arise frequently in conversations (at least they do in my experience). Some of us may even fantasize about being in...

  10. 5 Cinema produces reality
    (pp. 126-147)

    Interpretations of Gilles Deleuze’s books on cinema have tended to concentrate on his distinction between the movement-image and the time-image. In focusing on this distinction, authors have also tended to accentuate the virtues of the time-image while denigrating the shortcomings of the movement-image: the movement-image is the relic of a past mode of cinema that has been surpassed by the superior mode of the time-image (see, for example, Rodowick 1997; Olkowski 1999; Martin-Jones 2006). Commentators have done this even in the face of Deleuze’s explicit statement, in the Preface to the English translation ofCinema 1, that the establishment of...

  11. 6 Filmic reality and ideological fantasy
    (pp. 148-171)

    For film studies, the key insight that can be derived from the writings of Slavoj Žižek is thatreality cannot be separated from fantasy. Films do not occupy a domain of fantasy that can be straightforwardly distinguished from reality; films do not provide audiences with fantasy escapes from reality; films do not provide us with illusions of reality. Rather, if films are fantastic, then they are fantastic in the same way that reality itself is fantastic. One of Žižek’s key arguments concerns this: that it is only by way of fantasy that we can come to experience reality in the...

  12. 7 Filmic reality and the aesthetic regime
    (pp. 172-190)

    What contribution does the philosopher Jacques Rancière make to an understanding of filmic reality? While Rancière’s approach to cinema, and to aesthetics more generally, is strategically ambivalent – he is a philosopher who is not keen to ‘take sides’ in specific debates (see Rancière 2009: 21) – that ambivalence raises questions worth considering for the notion of filmic reality. Rancière is at his most confident when describing what cinema isnot, and his collection of essays,Film Fables, is built around critiques of specific theoretical approaches to cinema, especially those of Jean Epstein, Bazin, Deleuze and Jean-Luc Godard. He is kinder to...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 191-196)

    I began this book by declaring the difficulty I had in defining just what is meant by ‘filmic reality’ and that a cause for that difficulty had been the location of this concept beyond the normal paradigms of thinking about film. ‘Filmic reality’ is simply not a concept film studies would wish to foster, for we all know that films are not real. They are, on the contrary, escapes, illusions or representations. And while I have done my best to counter this tendency of film studies to dismiss films in this way and to defend a claim for the reality...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 197-201)
  15. References
    (pp. 202-212)
  16. Index
    (pp. 213-222)