The Worldhood of the Cinematic Image

  • José Manuel Martins Universidade de Évora


A close analysis of the specifically cinematographic procedure in Akira Kurosawa's "Dream" Crows reveals it as an articulated and insightful philosophical statement, endowed with general relevance concerning "natural" perception, phenomenological Erlebnis, mechanical image and aesthetic rapture. The antagonism between the Benjaminian lineage of a mechanical irreducibility of the cinematic image to anthropocentric categories, and the Cartesian tradition of a film-philosophy still relying on the equally irreducible structure of the intentional act, be it the one of a deeply embodied and enworlded counsciousness, in accounting for the essential structure of film and spectator (and their relation), i.e., the antagonism between the decentering primacy of the image and the self-centered primacy of perception, cannot be settled through a simple phenomenological shift from occularcentric, intentional counsciousness to its embodyment "in-the-world" as yet another carrier of intentionality. Still it remains to be explained what is it in the mechanical image that is able to so deeply affect the human flesh, and conversely, to what features in the human bodily experience is its mechanical other, the fascinating image, so successfuly adressing? It should be expected from the anti-Cartesianism of both the early and the late Merleau-Ponty the textual support for an approach to the essential condition of passivity in movie watching, that would be convergent with Benjamin. The chapter "Le sentir" in Phénoménologie de la perception will offer us the proper guide to elucidate what we are already perceiving and conceiving in Kurosawa's film, where the ex-static phenomenological body of the aesthetical contemplator "enters the frame" like the Benjaminian surgeon enters the body and like the painter — and always already like our deepest level of "sensing", previously to any act of cousciousness — "just looses himself in the scene before him". The Polichinello secret of cinema watching is nonetheless too evident to be seen, and that is where phenomenological description and reduction are still required.

How to Cite
MARTINS, José Manuel. The Worldhood of the Cinematic Image. Phainomenon, [S.l.], n. 25, p. 185-202, oct. 2012. ISSN 2183-0142. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 may 2018.
Monographic Section: Phenomenology and Cinema