Upside-down Cinema

What makes the spider’s kiss different?

I will attend the Fourth Annual Conference of Film and Philosophy, organized by Film-Philosophy journal at the Liverpool John Moores University on July 6th-8th. In my presentation Upside-Down Cinema: Strategies of Dissimulation of the Film-Body I will argue that the upside-down representation of the human body (especially the face) in cinema produces a crisis in the system of the viewer’s bodily orientation, which is instead constructed on the natural, gravitational axis. When the balance based on gravity is compromised, the perceptual and the cognitive frames to which the viewer unconsciously recurs collide with each other and generate a bias. Cinema usually provides itself a “normalization” of the perceptual axis by means of a violation of the physical laws, e.g. showing in the canonic orientation the upside-down body of the character (e.g. Chaplin on the airplane in his The Great Dictator, 1940) or providing a diegetic (e.g. the flight assistant walk on the wall in 2001: A Space Odissey by S. Kubrick 1968) or a psychological (e.g. Fred Astaire’s dance on the ceiling in Royal Wedding by S. Donen 1951) justification. In other cases, cinema activates a comic (e.g. lawyer Archie in A Fish called Wanda, C. Crichton 1988) or a dramatic (e.g. Max Cady in Cape Fear, M. Scorsese 1991) “perturbation” of the usual axis of perception. After having presented these cases, I will concentrate on the final duel between Batman and Joker in The Dark Knight (C. Nolan 2008). Thanks to precise stylistic solutions, i.e. speed of camera movement, shot size and angle, acting, figure-ground relation, the overturning movement appears to be performed by Joker, whereas it is not actually  referable to any character. Rather, it is a film-body gesture that dissimulates its filmographic nature.