The meeting of film and philosophy: a 'deep-structure' perspective
Rossouw, Martin Paul
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Over the past two decades the field of ‘philosophy of film’ has become increasingly concerned with the self-reflective question of what constitutes the relationship between film and philosophy itself. This study proposes and explores a unique ‘deep-structure’ perspective on their relationship. It engages particularly with the question of ‘philosophy in film’ – that is, the ability of film to embody philosophical thought – from within the theoretical framework of Discourse Archaeology (DA), a theoretical system researched and taught at the Department of Philosophy, UFS. Certain assumptions that are at work within DA are explored in order to present an original and illuminating ground-perspective on how film and philosophy meet. Detailed analyses will illustrate how grounding concepts, identified by different sub-theories of DA, represent constitutive deep-structure ‘spaces’ within which film and philosophy interact in a variety of ways. While current approaches to this question tend to lack the meta-philosophical leverage which this question requires, DA’s systematic theories of philosophical discourse (and by implication philosophical ‘moments’ in any other discourse, like film) are illuminating ‘tools’ which allow the film-philosopher to deal with these two kinds of discourse in the same unifying terms. The study is conducted through five extensive case studies of how different DA sub-theories could be applied in probing the deep-structures that allow philosophy to be ‘in’ a film. The main analyses are of The Man who shot Liberty Valance (John Ford 1962), Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee 2005), Modern Times (Charles Chaplin 1936), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry 2004) and The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski 1999). The DA sub-theories that are employed in analysis are Macro-motive theory, a theory of logosemantics (‘Key theory’), a figurative semiotics (or ‘Metaphor theory’), a theory of ethical ‘postures’ and a theory of ideology. In an attempt to investigate different theoretical avenues and possibilities, each chapter of analysis examines a particular sub-theory and has its own unique exploratory aims and procedures. Yet, to anchor this study in an active and ongoing debate, each of the analyses (apart from that of Brokeback Mountain) also seeks to establish some form of dialogue with Thomas Wartenberg’s analyses in Thinking on screen: Film as philosophy (2007). Apart from offering new perspectives on ‘philosophy in film’, four of the case-studies could therefore also be seen as ‘DA-replies’ to aspects of Wartenberg’s work on exactly the same films.