Skepticism Films: Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema (Thinking Media)

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9781501310973: Skepticism Films: Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema (Thinking Media)
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Cinema has always displayed an affinity to characters with distorted or even hallucinatory relations to reality. With films such as The Truman Show, the Matrix films or Inception, contemporary filmmakers add another layer to this canon of film characters: unwitting ordinary victims of deception for whom the skepticist fear that the world is not real but a simulation, fake environment or a dream has become true. These are 'skepticism films': dramatized, fictional configurations of the thought experiments which are part and parcel of philosophical reflection on knowledge and doubt.

Skepticism Films: Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema introduces skepticism films as updated configurations of skepticist thought experiments which exemplify the pervasiveness of philosophical ideas in popular culture. Philipp Schmerheim defends a pluralistic film-philosophical position according to which films can be, but need not be, expressions of philosophical thought in their own right. It critically investigates the influence of ideas of skepticism on film-philosophical theories and develops a typology of skepticism films by analyzing The Truman Show, Inception, The Matrix, Vanilla Sky, The Thirteenth Floor, Moon and other contemporary skepticism films. With its focus on skepticism as one of the most significant philosophical problems, Skepticism Films provides a better understanding of the dynamic interplay between film, theories of film and philosophy.

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About the Author:

Philipp Schmerheim is Lecturer in Children's Media Research at the University of Bremen, Germany, and Adjunct Lecturer for Film-Philosophy at the Philosophy Department of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His research focuses on film-philosophy, philosophical film analysis, the history and analysis of children's film, and theories of intermediality.

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“Here is an intriguing volume about a small group of mainstream contemporary films that question the very notion of ‘reality,’ films such as The Truman Show, The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, Vanilla Sky, and Inception. A scholar of the philosophy of film, Schmerheim uses a finely focused theoretical lens to unpack the films and the ways in which they leave viewers without solid ground to stand on, upending traditional notions of narrative and conventional cinematic structure. What is perhaps most refreshing about this volume is the author's scrutiny of films ordinarily dismissed as entertainment, as lacking depth. Schmerheim demonstrates that that is manifestly not the case. Through an intensive application of the work of Stanley Cavell, David Bordwell, Gilles Deleuze, Thomas Elsaesser, and others, the author peels back the layers of these well-known films to reveal alternative thought systems that would not at first occur to even the most sophisticated viewer. A plethora of well-chosen frame grabs illuminates the text. Thoughtful and intriguing, this entry in Bloomsbury’s new “Thinking Media” series will amply repay close attention. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals.” -CHOICE

“Drawing from both analytically-inspired film philosophy as well as the work of Deleuze, Philipp Schmerheim identifies a distinct trend in contemporary mainstream filmmaking, which he calls 'skepticism films' – narrative films that dramatize suspicion and doubt about what we know about the world. This book is a bold and ambitious contribution to current debates within film philosophy.” ―Warren Buckland, Reader in Film Studies, Oxford Brookes University, UK

“Philipp Schmerheim's book is an important intervention in the growing field of film philosophy. It makes a persuasive case for introducing the tradition of philosophical skepticism into current debates about how the cinema shapes our view of the world and offers cogently executed critical engagements with leading figures such as Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze or D.N. Rodowick. In highly original readings of a number of recent international Blockbusters, Schmerheim's ambitious study draws our attention to a forceful skepticist undercurrent running at the heart of contemporary popular cinema. Without a doubt, Skepticism Films is a brilliant accomplishment, opening up a whole new way of thinking about film.” ―Michael Wedel, Professor of Media History, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, Germany

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