Philosophy, Myth and Epic Cinema looks at the power of cinema in creating ideas that inspire our culture. Sylvie Magerstädt discusses the relationship between art, illusion and reality, a theme that has been part of philosophical debate for centuries. She argues that with the increase in use of digital technologies in modern cinema, this debate has entered a new phase. She discusses the notion of illusions as a system of stories and values that inspire a culture similar to other grand narratives, such as mythology or religion. Cinema thus becomes the postmodern “mythmaking machine” par excellence in a world that finds it increasingly difficult to create unifying concepts and positive illusions that can inspire and give hope.
The author draws on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Siegfried Kracauer, and Gilles Deleuze to demonstrate the relevance of continental philosophy to a reading of mainstream Hollywood cinema. The book argues that our longing for illusion is particularly strong in times of crisis, illustrated through an exploration of the recent revival of historic and epic myths in Hollywood cinema, including films such as Troy, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Clash of the Titans.
Acknowledgments / Abbreviations / Introduction: Philosophy, Myth, Spectacle / Part I: How Real is Reality? - A Review on the Relation of Reality, Art and Illusions / 1. From Dream Factory to Cathedrals of Pop Culture: Mythological, Religious and Ideological Approaches to Cinema / 2. The Realm of the Real: Reality, Images and Cinematic Realism / 3. Back to the Future? Contemporary Cinema and the Challenges for Theorists / Part II: May We Really Believe in Hollywood? - The Creation of Modern Myths / 4. Redemption Through Illusion: Cinematic Myths / 5. Healthy illusions: Hollywood’s Realism and the Return of the Epics / 6. Possible Worlds, Impossible Narratives?: The Potentials and Limits of Digital Storytelling / Epilogue: Further Reflections and Further Directions / Bibliography / Filmography / Index
An important contribution to the study of contemporary Hollywood cinema and an original gift for lovers of cinema and philosophy.
This work breaks new ground in its analysis of mythological epic as a (re)emergent film genre that addresses perennial human problems, often with the aid of fantasy-worlds that can be depicted more convincingly with new visual technology. Magerstädt reconsiders aesthetic theorists such as Kracauer, Deleuze, Nietzsche in light of these developments in epic film and Tolkien's arguments about the functions of fantasy -- with results that will be rewarding for students of philosophy as much as film theorists. Her innovative argument ultimately links the creative use of illusion to the redemptive power of mythic narratives. The resulting analysis of recent films in the broad mythic genre helps show, pace the dominant elitist view in film aesthetics, that popular blockbuster films can sometimes be serious art.
Sylvie Magerstädt is a senior lecturer in media cultures at the University of Hertfordshire.