Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.




Film, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M022-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Philosophical reflection during the first one hundred years of film has been dominated by theories of the medium, and by the supposed implications of these theories for film style, and for the film’s effect on its audience. Three ideas have dominated: (1) that film is realistic because of its use of the photographic method (realism of the medium); (2) that it is realistic because it allows for the use of a style of narration which approximates the normal conditions of perception (realism of style); (3) that it is realistic because it has the capacity to engender in the viewer an illusion of the reality and presentness of fictional characters and events (realism of effect). Some theorists have argued that realism of the medium requires us to avoid realist style, others that it requires us to adopt it. Most have agreed that realist style makes for realism of effect; they disagree about whether this is a desirable goal. It is argued here that these realisms are independent of one another, and that realism of effect is no part of normal film viewing. Realism of style suggests a way of making precise the claim that cinema is an art of time and of space, because this kind of realism exploits the representation of time by time and of space by space. Psychological theorizing about the cinema has been strongly connected with realism of effect, and with the idea that an illusion of the film’s reality is created by the identification of the viewer’s position with that of the camera. Another version of illusionism has it that the experience of film-watching is significantly similar to that of dreaming.

Philosophical interest in film has shifted recently from the nature of the medium to finer grained topics. Philosophers have investigated the nature of documentary cinema, the emotional dimension of film viewing, and the interpretation of particular films; they have also asked whether film might have a distinctive role in the development of philosophical ideas.

Citing this article:
Currie, Gregory. Film, aesthetics of, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M022-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles