Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

Film as Phantasm: Nietzsche’s Stoicism and the Belief in Cinema in Dogville

Rebecca Longtin


            In The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006), Slajov Žižek describes Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003) as a film about the very possibility or impossibility of creating a film. Žižek’s statement is apt given the ways in which Dogville seems to defy the very idea of cinematic magic. The film constantly draws our attention to the fact that it is a created illusion and that the events unfolding before our eyes are not real. The events unfold on a minimalist set, which requires actors to mimic the actions of moving through spaces where there are no real boundaries and of handling objects that are not really there. As a result, Von Trier never lets his audience forget that we are viewing a film. The audience does not have the opportunity accept the images as real. For this reason, as Žižek explains, Dogville is about “the question of believing in cinema itself: How to make today’s people still believe in the magic of cinema?"[1]

            In response to this question, my paper addresses how Dogville frames the possibility or impossibility of belief itself. First, I will discuss how the film deconstructs and undermines sources of belief, especially religion and philosophy, in its plot and visual devices. Secondly, I will explore philosophical ideas that the film references implicitly in its plot and visuals (Nietzsche) and explicitly in its dialogue (the Stoics). In articulating these ideas and their relations beyond the film, I will describe the possibility of believing in what we know to be an illusion.

[1] The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Dir. Sophie Fiennes. Starring Slavoj Žižek. Mischief Films and Amoeba Film. 2009.

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About the Presenter

Rebecca Longtin
Department of Philosophy, Emory University, Atlanta GA
United States