Cinema and Death: A Film-Philosophical Analysis

Friday, May 26 – 9

My presentation explores the concept of the “death-image” through a philosophical approach to cinema, time, and the emergence of a new type of Lazarean characters.

When discussing the invention of a cinema of the brain (that is to say, an intellectual type of cinema in which the brain and the world are alike and which shows the functioning of thought), Deleuze highlights Alain Resnais as the post-war filmmaker who best understood the relationship between death, mortality, and memory and their mutual connection to philosophy: “Resnais’ characters do not just return from Auschwitz or Hiroshima—they are philosophers, thinkers, beings of thought [êtres de pensée] in another way too. For philosophers are beings who have passed through a death, who are born from it, and go towards another death, perhaps the same one.” (Cinema 2)

Unlimited by perception-images, films are involved in mental, virtual images similar to “depersonalized dream-images,” that is, depersonalized movements and/or recollections that do not belong to any individual character. If, for example, it is possible to recover past images or events explicitly through a flashback (when one character remembers something that is important for the viewers to know, for the sake of narrative development), the same applies to a dream sequence (again, when explicitly identified through narrative techniques). In both cases, the experience of time is anchored in a present, actual moment. In film, however, it is also possible to do so implicitly, such as when—although it does not belong to a single character or subject—a depersonalized memory appears.

By refocusing the Deleuzian conceptual framework through the lens of the figure of death, my presentation revisits an enduring debate that puts into question the philosophical potential of moving images.

PT 🇵🇹 • Researcher at NOVA UNIVERSITY LISBON FP || Full bio

Susana Viegas received her PhD in Philosophy (Aesthetics) from the Nova University of Lisbon and is a Researcher in Film-Philosophy. In 2023, she was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to lead a new research project, “Film and Death—Film-Philosophy as a Meditation on Death.”

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