“You Talkin’ to Me?”: Dialogue and Communication in Film

Sorfa, D. (Keynote/plenary speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Title: Hearing Oneself Speak: Speech and Thought in First-Person Camera Cinema Speaker: Dr David Sorfa, Film Studies, University of Edinburgh Abstract: “Mysteriously starring Robert Montgomery and… YOU!” Cinema struggles with the representation of inner-speech and thought more generally in a way that is less of a problem for literature. Film also destabilises the notion of the narrator, be they omniscient, unreliable or first-person. In this talk I wish to address the peculiar and highly unsuccessful cinematic innovation which we can call the “first-person camera” film. These are films in which the camera represents not just the point-of-view of a character, but is meant to be understood as that character. Very few such films have been made and I will concentrate on the way in which speech, dialogue and thought are represented in The Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947) and Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller, 2015). I will engage with the so-called “homunculus” theory of consciousness and also invoke Jacques Derrida’s discussion of the problem of “hearing oneself speak” in phenomenology and the issue of subjectivity in philosophy more generally. I will read these films through the lens of Derrida’s rather obscure claim that “The history of metaphysics therefore can be expressed as the unfolding of the structure or schema of an absolute will-to-hear-oneself-speak” (“The Supplement of the Origin”). How does cinema present inner subjectivity and thought through dialogue with others and with oneself? What do these specific films tell us about the way in which fictional worlds deal with dialogue and thought? Do these experiments in cinematic form have something to offer for an understanding both of film and of human consciousness?
Period5 Jun 20176 Jun 2017
Event typeConference
LocationCardiff, United Kingdom


  • Film
  • Cinema
  • Philosophy
  • Narratology
  • Subjectivity
  • Consciousness
  • Dialogue