For Vivian Sobchack, film is not only moving pictures

Vivian Sobchack, a speaker at a collegium lecture, studies film by means of philosophy.

Alt-tekstin paikka

The silver screen is filled with cobalt blue. The arctic wind wails, a tired male voice recounts his hospital experiences. This visually restricted experience of film researcher Vivian Sobchack – Blue (1993) by Derek Jarman – has inspired Sobchack to consider the essence of film. Sobchack shared her thoughts at the annual collegium lecture of a researcher collegium.

In her multidisciplinary work, Sobchack has focused on the relationship between film research and philosophy. The almost 80-minute film by the fatally ill and blind Jarman has guided Sobchack to considering basic questions in philosophy.

- When instructing students, I avoid asking them whether Blue is a film or not. The more essential question is what you heard and saw, what kind of direct observations you made.

Sobchack finds that film research has emphasised the significance of visual aspects at the expense of sounds and hearing.

- Being visually restricted, Blue shows that we can use other senses to experience things that have traditionally been based on visual observations. We can feel the yellow colour described by Jarman even if we do not see it.

According to Sobchack, Blue makes watching and seeing more conscious. For some viewers, just seeing the blue screen is a surprisingly intense experience that may even cause anxiety.

- The film makes the viewer conscious of their body, as only the almost static, blue screen is shown. At the same time, Jarman has a strong physical presence through his voice, even though he is not shown.

Vivian Sobchack presented for the 8th collegium lecture of the researcher collegium. She has had a long career at UCLA, among other institutions, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute.

Text: Tiina Palomäki
Photo: Ari Aalto

Translation: AAC Global Oy

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