Cinema, Philosophy, Bergman: On Film as Philosophy
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The increasingly popular idea that cinematic fictions can "do" philosophy raises some difficult questions. Who is actually doing the philosophizing? Is it the philosophical commentator who reads general arguments or theories into the stories conveyed by a film? Could it be the filmmaker, or a group of collaborating filmmakers, who raise and try to answer philosophical questions with a film? Is there something about the experience of films that is especially suited to the stimulation of worthwhile philosophical reflections? In the first part of this book, Paisley Livingston surveys positions and arguments surrounding the cinema's philosophical value. He raises criticisms of bold theses in this area and defends a moderate view of film's possible contributions to philosophy. In the second part of the book he defends an intentionalist approach that focuses on the filmmakers' philosophical background assumptions, sources, and aims. Livingston outlines intentionalist interpretative principles as well as an account of authorship in cinema. The third part of the book exemplifies this intentionalist approach with reference to the work of Ingmar Bergman. Livingston explores the connection between Bergman's work and the Swedish director's primary philosophical source--a treatise in philosophical psychology authored by the Finnish philosopher, Eino Kaila. Bergman proclaimed that reading this book was a tremendous philosophical experience for him and that he "built on this ground." With reference to materials in the newly created Ingmar Bergman archive, Livingston shows how Bergman took up Kaila's topics in his cinematic explorations of motivated irrationality, inauthenticity, and the problem of self-knowledge.
rationality challenge begins by conceding that the challenge would be insurmountable if the only choice to be made were between the following two options: on the one hand, ﬁnding philosophical knowledge or understanding ‘in the ﬁlm’, and, on the other, employing the more traditional methods and tools of philosophical enquiry, which include linguistically mediated thinking, verbal discussion, and written argumentation. As I have already suggested, this concession is informed by the view that a
question is raised and quickly answered by providing the viewer with direct audio-visual evidence of beings and events strictly incompatible with a naturalist explanation. Any interpreter who responds appropriately to what is explicitly presented in such ﬁlms recognizes that magical or supernatural events are part of the story. Day of Wrath, however, is not that kind of ﬁlm. As the ﬁlm unfolds, the possibility of actual witchcraft is raised, and evidence on both sides of the question emerges.
reinforcement or a catalyst in Kaila’s comments on a pastor’s highly problematic relation to his own faith and that of the others. To mention another possible inﬂuence, Kaila devotes a number of paragraphs to discussions of the various senses of the word ‘persona’. He begins his book by questioning the value of a single-minded focus on the persona, where this is understood as a being having self-awareness. Kaila (p. 373) also takes up Arthur Schopenhauer’s discussion of the rift between the
looking for his wife, who has run away with an actor. Jof protests that he is innocent, but is forced to stand on his head and then to dance like a bear in a brutal imitation of some kind of ancient sacriﬁcial ritual. The crowd jeers and laughs. The terriﬁed actor collapses onto some burning sticks on the ﬂoor near the table, a visual detail that will be echoed later in the ﬁlm in a scene where a young girl accused of witchcraft gets burnt at the stake. The actor is ordered to get up and continue
springs of human motivation, angst with regard to the unknown enemy within is only to be expected. In conclusion, the considerations set forth in this chapter should sufﬁce at the very least to have established the plausibility of the ‘Kaila connection’. Yet my discussion of some Kaila-inspired expressions of irrationality in works by Ingmar Bergman leaves us with a rather incomplete picture, ﬁrst of all because the conception is altogether too bleak and too partial to provide an adequate