Dead Metaphors: Killing Animals in Art House Cinema

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


A paper deliver at the Screen Conference 2015. Dead metaphors: killing animals in art house cinema A number of art house films employ the killing of animals as a metaphor. Usually this metaphor works as a comment on the exploitation of humans by economic or political powers. From Eisenstein’s Strike! to Burnett’s Killer of Sheep to many of Michael Haneke’s films, the death of the animal stands in for human suffering and is in itself often merely a vehicle for this other message. The death of the animal is largely anthropocentric. Seldom is the death of the animal anything more than a parable and I will explore the way in which metaphors more generally may, or may not, work in film and the extent to which the ‘reality’ of film death may interfere with metaphoric function. I will concentrate on films in which an actual living animal’s death is recorded on screen and expand on Richard Rushton’s discussion of the supposed difference between the killing of cows in analogue and digital cinema. Using the work of J. M. Coetzee and Jacques Derrida on the erasure of the animal, I will map a certain metaphoric tendency in art house cinema and I will also develop Dylan Trigg’s recent work on the ‘unhuman’ in film and phenomenology.
Period27 Jun 2015
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map


  • Animals
  • Cinema
  • Death
  • Ethics
  • Metaphor