Discussion group: The Other and the Face-to-Face Encounter in Film – Wednesday 11 February

Bridge Studio (3rd Floor of Dyson Building, Battersea) 16.30-18.30

Preceding the research biennial, this discussion group seeks to interrogate some of the key questions in the complex and exciting area of ethics and aesthetics and how they impact upon our practice as researchers. The group is aimed at RCA researchers and seeks to open up the discussion as to how ethical considerations might feed into or impact upon our research practice.

This session considers Emmanuel Levinas’s writings on the face-to-face encounter with the Other through his key book Totality and Infinity (1969). It interrogates the different encounters in cinema, both in documentary as well as fiction, between the self and the other – between the filmmaker and his/her subject, the subject and the rest of the world, and the film and the audience. These encounters have been addressed through political, phenomenological, psychoanalytical, cognitive, and analytical approaches. Seeing the other has been understood as ‘different from me’ or ‘irreducibly different’. For Levinas, ethics is an ‘optics’, a ‘calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the Other’ and ‘a non-allergic relation with alterity’. Ethics immediately arises through encountering the other; it is a provocation to respond to an encounter with exteriority rather than return to self-assuredness. This session will look also at Sarah Cooper’s essay ‘Mortal Ethics: Reading Levinas with the Dardenne Brothers’ (2007), an examination of the legacy of Levinas’s ethical concept of the face-to-face encounter through four recent fiction films by the Belgian filmmakers.

Complementary film screenings take place in the Gorvy Lecture Theatre (Dyson Building, Battersea) at the following times and dates:

Not Everybody Can Do Everything (2011) by Peter Wareing Wednesday 4 February 15.30-17.15

Two Days One Night (2014) by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne Wednesday 11 February 14.00-15.40


Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity (1969) (Introduction, Preface and Section III)

Sarah Cooper, ‘Mortal Ethics: Reading Levinas with the Dardenne Brothers,’ Film-Philosophy, 11.2, August 2007

For interest

David MacDougal, ‘The Fate of the Cinema Subject’, in Transcultural Cinema (1998), pp. 22-61

Convened by Mercedes Vicente