Belief in film: A defence of false emotion and Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this article I explore a tantalising definition of cinematic belief as a belief without belief by briefly considering the way in which film theory and film-philosophy have engaged with the question of belief in cinema. I also take into account Simon Critchley’s discussion of religious belief in The Faith of the Faithless (2012) within the context of anthropological studies of religion such as that by Émile Durkheim. In addition, I discuss Sigmund Freud’s 1927 reflection on religion in “The Future of an Illusion”. I then show that this line of thought can be linked to the philosophical discussion around the so-called paradox of fiction and introduce the idea that belief can be understood itself as an emotion or mood. I argue in favour of the solution to the paradox that claims that emotions experienced in response to fictional entities are quasi-emotions but radicalise this claim by showing that this must imply that all emotions are in fact structured like quasi-emotions and that we do not require an essentialist understanding of emotion in the first place. Throughout I use the example of the various cinematic representations of the life of St Francis to flesh out the argument, including Roberto Rossellini’s Francesco, giullare di Dio / Francesco, God’s Jester / The Flowers of St Francis (1950) but particularly Franco Zeffirelli’s much maligned Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-57
Number of pages21
JournalFilm and Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • faith
  • belief
  • emotion
  • Franco Zeffirelli
  • Roberto Rossellini
  • St Francis of Assisi
  • cinema


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