Film in Depth

The pupil is made of water.
Aristotle, De Anima, III

The true eye of the earth is water.
Gaston Bachelard, L’Eau et les rêves , 1942

Fig 1
Ménilmontant (Dimitri Kirsanov, 1924), L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934), Le Tempestaire (Jean Epstein, 1947)

My essay Film in Depth. Water and Immersivity in the Contemporary Film Experience has just been published in Acta Universitatis Sapientiae – Film and Media Studies, the international scientific journal of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania. In this essay I argue that since its beginnings, cinema has recognised that water can visually give matter and meaning to human desires, dreams and secrets, eliciting suspense and fear. Using different aesthetical and technical strategies, contemporary cinema shows immersed and drowning bodies to represent and express intimacy and protection, suspense and fear, obsession and depression, state of shock, past or infancy trauma, hallucinations and nightmares, etc. The case of enwaterment (i.e. “waterembodiment”) is significant because of its relevance to the point where psychoanalysis and philosophy meet. I attempt to investigate what is actually meant today by making a bodily and sensible experience of film by analysing the substance of water and the figures of the drowning and immersed body. Cinema embodies aquatic modalities of perception and expression, pulling the viewer into a liquid environment that is the confluence between the film-body and the filmgoer-body.

Fig 7
Ray (Taylor Hackford, 2004)