Why is film becoming increasingly important to philosophers? Is it because it can be a helpful tool in teaching philosophy, in illustrating it? Or is it because film can also think for itself, because it can create its own philosophy? In fact, a popular claim amongst film philosophers is that film is no mere handmaiden to philosophy, that it does more than simply illustrate philosophical texts: rather, film itself can philosophise in direct audio-visual terms. Approaches that purport to grant to film the possibility of being more than illustrative can be found in the subtractive ontology of Alain Badiou, the Wittgensteinian analyses of Stanley Cavell, and the materialist semiotics of Gilles Deleuze. In each case there is a claim that film can think in its own way. Too often, however, when philosophers claim to find indigenous philosophical value in film, it is only on account of refracting it through their own thought: film philosophizes because it accords with a favored kind of extant philosophy.
Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image is the first book to examine all the central issues surrounding the vexed relationship between the film image and philosophy. In it, John Mullarkey tackles the work of particular philosophers and theorists (Zizek, Deleuze, Cavell, Bordwell, Badiou, Branigan, Rancière, Frampton, and many others) as well as general philosophical positions (Analytical and Continental, Cognitivist and Culturalist, Psychoanalytic and Phenomenological). Moreover, he also offers an incisive analysis and explanation of several prominent forms of film theorizing, providing a metalogical account of their mutual advantages and deficiencies that will prove immensely useful to anyone interested in the details of particular theories of film presently circulating, as well as correcting, revising, and revisioning the field of film theory as a whole.
Throughout, Mullarkey asks whether the reduction of film to text is unavoidable. In particular: must philosophy (and theory) always transform film into pretexts for illustration? What would it take to imagine how film might itself theorize without reducing it to standard forms of thought and philosophy? Finally, and fundamentally, must we change our definition of philosophy and even of thought itself in order to accommodate the specificities that come with the claim that film can produce philosophical theory? If a ‘non-philosophy’ like film can think philosophically, what does that imply for orthodox theory and philosophy?