Cinema and Heidegger: the call to being in Ozu, Antonioni, Tarr
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date22/07/2022
In close dialogue with Martin Heidegger’s early ontology (Being and Time, 1927) and his metaphysics (“What is Metaphysics?”, 1929; Introduction to Metaphysics, 1935), this thesis argues that cinema offers a privileged site for the showing and preservation of human being. I open with a historical survey of theories of filmic presence spanning psychological, animist, spiritual, realist and sensual dimensions. Distinguishing the existential priority of my project from film-phenomenological theories of realism and the senses and the recent category of “Slow Cinema”, I propose the term “cinema of Being” to describe films where the subject’s relation to itself and the world is understood, phenomenally, outside notions of embodiment, subjective/ objective perception or socio-cultural interpretation. I conceive a Heideggerian moving image in two stages: first, by reading Heidegger’s philosophy of art and technology – including his rare comments on film – in light of his description of human autonomy, second, through an examination of his ontologies of the image, focused on the debate between the closure of representation and the opening offered in self-presentation. A discussion of the authorial createdness of an artwork serves to ground my proposition of a cinema of ontological attunement versus ontic distraction. Through close film analysis, I proceed to show how films by Yasujirô Ozu, Michelangelo Antonioni and Béla Tarr distinctly solicit the self-experience and safeguarding of the modern human subject. My claim is that in these works thematic concerns are embedded, exceeding their narrative dimension, in the directors’ experimental (modernist and contemporary) aesthetic strategies. Understanding aesthetics as the authentic means by which intention is transposed to the work of art, I argue that Heidegger’s existential concepts – such as thrownness, mood, horizonal transcendence, presencing in unconcealment, and the nothing – become crucial in identifying philosophical implications of performance, cinematography, assemblage and sound design. Central to my enquiry is the figuring and un-figuring radically employed by the filmmakers to draw out the onscreen presence of their human subjects in visualities that, beyond realism and abstraction, expose the interdependence between the ontological priority (being) and its metaphysical root (nothingness). Drawing a parallel between the “moment of vision”, described by Heidegger as the epiphanic confrontation of the subject with its contingent humanity, and the encounter between disclosive image and attentive beholder, I propose, in lieu of the established notion of psychoanalytic identification, the filmic event of ontological recognition. The study concludes by acknowledging, in the cinematic call to individual dignity, the ethical import of the human relation.