“The goal [of film] is to capture what lies within us.”
“No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
Tuesday 9 December at Filmhouse Edinburgh
In his Cave Allegory (Republic, c.360 BCE), Plato presents a strikingly visual account of the distinction between knowledge and belief and, in doing so, provides us with what may be considered the earliest cinema.
Plato (514a-517a) invites us to imagine humanity as prisoners who have been captive since birth in an underground chamber. There they sit, facing the back wall of the cave, unable even to turn their heads. Behind them, and higher up, a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, along which a wall has been built. Along the road there are men carrying artefacts and the fire projects shadows of these artefacts onto the back wall of the cave. The prisoners, “would believe that the shadows of the objects …were the whole truth” (515c). In what follows, we are asked to consider what would happen were one of the prisoners to be compelled to stand and turn to face the fire, and then again, what if he were “forcibly dragged up the steep and rugged ascent and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight” (516a). Eventually, the released prisoner would come to realise that what he used to take for reality was nothing but shadow and illusion, and he was now seeing things more clearly. Eventually, however, he must return to the cave and attempt to convince his former fellow prisoners of their illusory state despite Plato’s warning that, “if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay hands on him” (517a).
Plato’s Cave may strike us as very familiar to the modern cinema – we sit in the dark watching projected images play out the drama on the screen before us. There is, however, a very important distinction between the prisoners in the cave and modern cinema goers, in that Plato’s prisoners are unaware of the fact that what they see is mere shadow and illusion – they take this to be reality. We, on the other hand, are able to distinguish what we see on the screen from ‘the real world’ outside the cinema. So, unlike Plato’s prisoners, who are deceived into taking the shadows for reality itself, it may be possible for us to use film to gain an insight into the world outside the cinema.
Plato’s allegory of the cave can be found in many films: A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick 1971), Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore 1998), The Matrix (Wachowski Brothers 1999), Pi (Aronofsky 1998). Perhaps the most explicit illustration of Plato’s allegory is in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (Il Conformista 1970). This film-essay combines images from The Conformist, along with an Orson Welles reading of Plato’s text.
The Conformist will be the first screening of the Filmosophy summer school. Through this and other screenings we will learn what film can contribute to philosophy, and how philosophy can contribute to our enjoyment and understanding of film.
The third season of FILMOSOPHY at Filmhouse Edinburgh starts on Tuesday 21 October at 6PM with Timecrimes. This is a rare opportunity to see this mind-bending time-travel film-noir on the big screen. We will be joined by philosopher Dr Alasdair Richmond – who has written widely on time-travel. In addition, the film’s director, Nacho Vigalondo, has made himself available for a twitter Q&A during our post-screening discussion.
For more information and to book, click the following link: http://www.filmhousecinema.com/showing/timecrimes-oct14/
Halfway through Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (Il Conformista 1970) the protagonist, Marcello Clerici, visits the Parisian home of his former teacher, Professor Quadri. After entering his study, Clerici recounts Quadri’s lectures on Plato’s allegory of the Cave. This video-essay examines Bertolucci’s use of Plato’s cave imagery throughout the film.
Filmosophy returns for a third season of original and thought-provoking films, this time focusing on the theme of ‘the double’.
The idea of the double – or doppelganger – has a long tradition in folklore and mythology, where it is often considered a harbinger of bad luck or even an omen of death. In literature too, the double is often employed to portend ill-fortune, or to highlight internal conflict (Dostoyevsky’s The Double or Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). More recently, this phenomenon has found its ideal expression through film – a medium well-suited to creating facsimiles and likenesses. Each screening will allow us to address a range of philosophical questions generated by the possibility that we may one day meet our double, such as: What is the self? Does fate exist? Do I have a soul?
Each screening will be preceded by a short introduction and followed by an opportunity to discuss the philosophical issues raised in an informal and accessible manner.
For more information and to buy tickets click the following link:
Join us for the next instalment of Filmosophy at the Filmhouse on Tuesday 13th May. For further information and to book online follow the link:
Filmosophy is where film meets philosophy. Some films, like philosophy itself, can challenge our preconceived views of ourselves and the world around us. They may provide more questions than answers; yet, in doing so, they will expand our ideas and allow us to view familiar things in an unfamiliar way. They are films that demand to be discussed.
Following on from the success of the inaugural Filmosophy season last year, our second season features four more original and thought-provoking works. Join us as we explore philosophical issues such as: reality and self-deception (Alps), political resistance (The East), memory and identity (Moon), and authenticity (The Consequences of Love).
Each screening will be preceded by a short introduction and followed by an opportunity to discuss the philosophical issues raised in an informal and accessible manner. The screenings will be introduced and discussion sessions hosted by James Mooney (Open Studies lecturer and course organiser at The University of Edinburgh). Post-screening discussions will be held in the Guild Rooms. Please pick up your ticket for the discussion at the time of booking or on the evening.
For more information and to book tickets follow this link: http://www.filmhousecinema.com/seasons/filmosophy-2014/
In Examined Life, Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor explore what it means to ‘take a walk’ in the mission district of San Francisco. One of the most fascinating parts of the discussion involves the rejection of the traditional idea of disability in favour of a social model based on interdependence.
The standard philosophical definition of God is that He is: omnipotent (all powerful); omniscient (all knowing), and; benevolent (perfectly good). However, the ‘problem of evil’ seems to entail that the existence of evil is incompatible with belief in a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God. That is to say: if God is omniscient then he knows about the existence of evil; if omnipotent, then he ought to be able to do something about it; and if benevolent then he should desire to eliminate evil. Given that evil exists, there cannot be an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God. The standard Christian response to such arguments is that God granted humans free will, and this entails that we are free to choose to do evil. The problem with the human free will defence, however, is that it doesn’t account for the existence of natural evils (floods, droughts, famines, plagues, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.). The above clip highlights some films that explore the problem of evil and some of the classical solutions to it.
Over the last 25 years, Michael Haneke has established himself as one of the most important directors in cinema history. From his early work to Amour, he has explored some of the most important moral and philosophical questions. Through interviews with his actors, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche, Emmanuelle Riva and many more, as well as previously unseen footage, Yves Montmayeur’s documentary, Michael H. Profession: Director, provides an insight into the thought of a unique filmmaker, thinker and filmosopher.
Available now at Curzon on Demand: http://www.curzoncinemas.com/library/films/3040/michael-h-profession-director/