Cinema and Belief

FilmhihilismDespite the clichés that govern many of its current forms, the cinema continues to have a vital political and aesthetic significance. This is a direct consequence of its ability to challenge habitual perception, to revitalise thought, and to make visible new possibilities for life. For film directors such as Robert Bresson, Roberto Rossellini, Werner Herzog, David Lynch & Michael Haneke, cinema has a vital role to play in breaking habitual ways of seeing and being. Film can enable us to see through the clichés that structure our homogenous field of reality. These directors understand that the reality offered to us through film is the one of our own perceptual condition, and that film opens the possibility of us once again being present to ourselves.

How can we restore belief in the reality of a world where scepticism and reality have taken hold? Today we have no more faith in images than we do in the world. It is when our commitment to and sincerity towards our ways of being in the world is eroded that nihilism and despair take hold. This type of scepticism cannot be addressed simply through the cultivation of knowledge and certainty but rather through a renewal of faith in our capacity to transform the world. This is the faith that will give us back the reality of a world banalised and eroded by the restrictive capitalist ontology of modernity. It is a faith in there being the possibility of an alternative way of living, being and thinking that can circumvent the homogeneity of the present (“Is this all there is? Is that it?”)

My research will be published in 2012 by Zero Books as Film, Nihilism and the Restoration of Belief. It will propose the idea that the art of cinema can still present the open temporality of hope and belief as a mode of resistance to the present. Cinema has the implicit capacity to mobilize absurd optimism as an alternative to the nihilism which has become so prevalent. My book will discuss the means by which some of the most fascinating filmmakers have grasped the vocation of resisting and transforming the present, ranging from Italian Neo-Realism to recent work by Lynch, Haneke and Herzog. It will present their ways of cultivating new forms of belief in the world when total alienation appears inevitable.

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