Historical Moods in Film

Presented by Dr Robert Sinnerbrink (Macquarie University)

Date: 10 November, 2017
Time: 3pm-4pm
Location: Room 601, Michie Building (#9)


Although discussions of spectatorship within film theory focus on emotion and affect, the topic of mood has recently attracted interest from theorists concerned with understanding emotional engagement with narrative film. Drawing on phenomenological and cognitivist approaches, most theorists approach mood either as a subjective phenomenon, expressing the spectator’s affective response to a film, or as an aesthetic element, expressive of a film’s artistic features. Mood need not confined, however, to subjective or aesthetic forms of expression; rather, it can also disclose historical and cultural dimensions of memory, sensibility, and time. This point was acknowledged within German Romanticism and romantic hermeneutics, which elaborated the relationship between aesthetic experience and historical understanding in ways that can enrich our understanding of cinema today.

My presentation explores the concept of historical mood in narrative film, and considers its value for the philosophy of film. I examine how it becomes manifest in different kinds of films: those with historical settings expressing explicit forms of historical sensibility as part of their fictional world; genre films which evoke historically particular kinds of mood in creating generically distinctive kinds of cinematic world; and films that implicitly express moods that can be recognised retrospectively as expressions of their particular historical milieus. Exploring the concept of historical moods, I argue, can enrich our understanding of the relationship between emotional engagement, aesthetic expression, and trans-historical experience as communicated through narrative film.



Robert Sinnerbrink is Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is the author of Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience through Film (Routledge, 2016), New Philosophies of Film: Thinking Images (Continuum, 2011), Understanding Hegelianism (Acumen, 2007), and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Film-Philosophy. He has published numerous articles on the relationship between film and philosophy in journals such as Angelaki, Film-Philosophy, Necsus: European Journal of Media Studies, Screen, and Screening the Past. He is completing a co-authored book (with Lisa Trahair and Gregory Flaxman), entitled Understanding Cinematic Thinking: Bresson, von Trier, and Haneke (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) and working on another, entitled Terrence Malick: Filmmaker and Philosopher (Bloomsbury).

Dr Robert Sinnerbrink


About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

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Friday, 3 June

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