326: Philosophy and Film Summer 2013 (Dr. Ezio Vailati)
Where to reach me: PB 2212; phone: x3376; home page: http://www.siue.edu/~evailat (click on "Courses" and then on "Philosophy and Film"); e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Office Hours: MW 10:00 – 11:00, and by appointment if needed.
This course analyzes a group of movies in the light of the philosophical themes they embody. Most of the movies shown in this class have not being selected only because they illustrate a philosophical position or problem: many mediocre films do that. Rather, they have been chosen because they are great works with a significant philosophical component.
Because of the very high quality of
the movies we study, by and large we don’t watch movies to do philosophy but we
do philosophy to understand movies.
We shall focus on movies centered on normative issues and therefore by and large we shall not deal with metaphysics or epistemology, at least not directly.
The philosophical investigation of
a movie requires, of course, some knowledge of philosophical issues.
Consequently, we shall acquire some familiarity with a few traditional
philosophical topics such as: the problem of evil; the nature of faith; the
role of miracles in religious belief; autonomy; the relation between individual
and society; false consciousness; the meaning of life; moral and political
1) Denise-Peterfreund-White, Great Traditions in Ethics. Twelfth Edition (Rental text) [G].
3) Material to be accessed from my home page.
Although not required for the class, you might want to get an introductory texts about film; an especially good one is D. Bordwell and K. Thompson, Film Art. An Introduction. You can get it cheaply (older editions are fine).
Some movies will be shown in class, and some you’ll watch elsewhere using the provided web links.
May 20. Intro to course.
Handout on movies. Film analysis guide.
An almost “modern” movie: E. S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903), with cross cutting and pan/tilt shots.
Standard Three Point Lighting.
Breaking continuity editing: intellectual montage with ideological juxtaposition of shots and breach of 180 rule in Eisenstein's October (1927). For examples of rhythmic or graphic editing, see the prologue to Olympia in the next lecture.
May 22. Finishing material from previous class: Tree great examples of montage: the second diving scene from Riefenstahl’s Olympia (1938); the bridge scene from Eisenstein’s October; the train arrival from Zinnemann’s High Noon (1952).
Propaganda, ideology, and participation: Olympia. Watch movie at home (just focus on the prologue, 0:00-23:10).
Time permitting, begin lecture of May 24.
May 27. Memorial Day. No class, but watch Murnau’s Sunrise (1927). Look for staging, camera movements, and in general for what you studied in the first two classes.
God, evil, and the meaning of life
May 29. Babette's Feast (Denmark, 1987).
Readings: Nagel on the meaning of life; Wielenberg on God and the meaning of life.
A detailed analysis of the church scene.
June 3. Shadowlands (Great Britain, 1993).
Readings: handout from C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed.
At home, watch Winter Light (Sweden, 1963). On youtube, the movie is broken into 8 parts; make sure you start with part1. Reading: handout on Deus absconditus.
At home, watch The Passion of Joan of Arc (Denmark-France, 1928). The soundtrack is contemporary; if you can’t stand it, simply turn it off.
June 10. A Special Day (Italy, 1977).
June 12. Amarcord (Italy, 1973).
Readings: Fellini's interview on the movie.
Uniform and dignity: The Last Laugh (Germany, 1924). Watch movie at home (all 4 parts); by the way, notice the camera movements!
Morality and integrity
June 19. Crimes and Misdemeanors. (US, 1989)
Readings: Sartre, G, 277-287; Plato, G, 7-20.
June 21. High Noon (US, 1952).
Readings: handout on the virtue of integrity.
In addition to watching all the movies (you’ll be tested on this!), doing the readings, and thinking about the material, the course has the following formal requirements:
A detailed analysis of a scene especially relevant to your interpretation is welcome but not required. For an example of a detailed analysis, you may look at the one provided above for The Seventh Seal.
1) Cheating of any kind will be dealt with according to the draconian CAS rules.
2) Students are responsible for knowing what has been said in class, especially announcements concerning reading assignments. If for any reason you miss some classes, make sure to find out what went on.
3) Even when animated, class
discussion is to be conducted with civility.