Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

This video essay examines the philosophical response to moderism and the effects of urbanisation on the human being. In particular, it compares Georg Simmel’s The Metropolis and Mental Life and Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductions.


One of the major philosophical concerns for modernists was the effects of urbanisation and industrialisation on the mind of the individual. Georg Simmel observed that it was difficult to maintain our sense of self in the wake of a rapidly changing social and sensory landscape. He identifies the city’s primary element as being a “plurality of stimuli”, which the citydweller would gradually come to suppress (176). Similarly, Walter Benjamin wrote that technological advances have fundamentally changed the way we create and interpret art. As the artists techniques change, so too do their ideas and habits; and moreover, with the ability to reproduce on a mass scale, the relationship between everyday people and art has also been irreversibly altered from what it was in pre-modern times (222). Both men equate the modern individual with a sense of dislocation and detachment, as though some vital part of our selfhood and creative potential has been severed by modernisation. They reveal in their work a tendency to romanticise pre-modern society, referencing the greater cohesion of rural communities and the “aura” present in singular artworks, now dissolved by big city anonymity and mechanical reproduction. However, it could be argued that the sense of loss exemplified by Simmel and Benjamin is more emblematic of how the people in those societies felt, rather than what they were genuinely experiencing. Admittedly, this is a small distinction, but perhaps important, and one that can be explored more objectively from the privileged gaze of the early twenty-first century.



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The Vassals convene in the Tower of the Hand to set the realm to rights. Join Duncan (Valkyrist), Silvana (silvaubrey), Michael (Khal Wadege), Sara (DrBlood), and Patrick (Ser Patrick the Tall) for a review of A Hymn to Spring, a collection of essays on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Essays covered in this podcast include:

04:57 – Machiavellianism for a Purpose (by Steven Attewell)
37:48 – Iron Bends (by Jeff Hartline)
57:05 – How to Win Thrones and Rule People (by Jim McGeehin)
1:28:48 – The Patriarchs of Westeros (by Stefan Sasse)

Edited by Valkyrist

Cinema and the City

Posted: January 28, 2017 in Movies, Philosophy
Tags: , ,

This is a video essay examining the relationship between cinema and the city. In particular, it draws on David B. Clarke’s 1997 book The Cinematic City, and the presence of the city-stroller and the stranger in urban films.


In The Cinematic City (1997), geographer David B. Clarke considers the relationship between urban spaces, urban representations and the cinematic form. He argues that the modern individual has come to conceptualise the cityscape as a screenscape—as an engulfing combination of movement and visual stimulation—and that one’s understanding of particular cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Paris, or London, as well as the very idea of the city, has been fundamentally shaped by motion pictures (3). While the compendium contains essays from a variety of cultural critics, this evaluation will focus primarily on Clarke’s introductory essay, in which he outlines his theories, and makes a case for the intersection of urban and film studies which frames the cinematic city paradigm.


This is a video essay looking at postmodernism within George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. In particular, how Jean-François Lyotard’s concept of the “metanarrative” is explored and challenged throughout the series.

This video essay looks at the themes of grief and addiction in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and the way characters are tormented by “poisoned memories”. It was originally published on Tower of the Hand in 2015.

This video essay looks at how the 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project manages to frighten its audience; in particular, how its pseudo-documentary technique generates an unsettlingly familiar aesthetic and evokes themes of technological paranoia.


It might not have been the first “found footage” horror movie (even in the early 90s, there were titles like UFO Abduction, Ghostwatch and Man Bites Dog), but The Blair Witch Project undoubtedly established and popularised the genre for mainstream audiences. Throughout the late 80s and 90s, horror cinema had slipped into stagnation and cliché, to the point where it was widely parodied by the Scream movies. The Blair Witch Project offered something completely different and genuinely unnerving to audiences of the time, trading blood and guts of slasher films, for frenetic realism, psychological disintegration, and an invisible, inescapable dread. While the filmmakers deny ever having seen Cannibal Holocaust, it is interesting how much the two movies have in common. They are both about a group of young documentarians venturing into an isolated woods (or jungle); they proceed to vanish from existence, and the mystery behind their fates must be pieced together from the footage they shot. Both films are also concerned with travelling back in time, uncovering (and exploiting) past traumas, and confronting the ghosts of a nations eerie past (be it colonialism or religious hysteria). The act of venturing from the safe, ordered civilisation (suggested by scenes in family homes, classrooms, supermarkets, and motel rooms) and into the murky, unknown woods evokes this passage towards the primordial, a passage that is reflected in the characters psychological conditions, as they become increasingly unhinged and animalistic. (more…)

This is a video essay about how themes of selfhood and slavery are explored in the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
It was originally published on Tower of the Hand in 2014.

This is a video essay looking at how Kevin Smith’s 1995 comedy Mallrats depicts the American shopping mall as a simulated world. In particular, it draws on Anne Friedberg’s theory of the mall as a distinctly cinematic and performative space.


In Mallrats (1995), Kevin Smith interprets the American shopping mall as a distinctly cinematic and performative space. Like movies, malls are all about creating a fantasy, a simulacra of the real world, in which the shopper is privileged with the spectarial gaze, and feasts upon the visual and auditory pleasures laid out before them. The character Brodie signifies something of a postmodern (or anti-modern) flâneur, using consumerist and popular culture as way of mediating his place within society. Like the nineteenth-century “city stroller”, Brodie is compelled to capture the “convergence of new urban space[s], technologies and [the] symbolic functions of images and products”. He enjoys simply wandering that space without any particular destination in mind, enthralled by the “pleasures and potentialites of a world removed from the presence, stricture and restraint of tradition” (Clarke 5). The postmodern irony lies, of course, in the fact that the mall is not the cityscape, but a microcosm of the cityscape, complete with all of the consumerist luxuries the modern mind has become accustomed too, but with none of the complexities of life. (more…)

This is a video essay looking at how Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 thriller The Conversation explores the psychology of sound. In particular: Kaja Silverman’s theory of the “maternal voice”.


The maternal voice is a fantasy of origins: a representation of an individual’s pre-lingual, pre-cultural form, and their inauguration into subjectivity. Kaja Silverman writes that it is “a moment prior to the creation of the world”, when the infant is wrapped in the “sonourous envelope” of the mother’s voice, and unaware of its own selfhood (72). However, this state of “uterine night” is soon severed once the child becomes aware that it is a separate entity from the mother, thus establishing the subject-and-object (73). This realisation creates in the individual a feeling of incompleteness, and a desire return to the “bath of sound” the mother has nourished them with, which now serves as the “prototype for all subsequent auditory pleasure” (84). The fantasy contrasts the maternal “voice” (which is identified with sound and sense) with the paternal “word” (which is identified with meaning). From a psychoanalytic viewpoint, the subject enters language and symbolic order, but yearns to return to the pre-lingual “wholeness” of the maternal voice (Zizek 47). (more…)

Happy Halloween! This is a video essay looking at why people are so attracted to horror movies, and the artistic and psychological insights that the horror genre can provide.


Why do people watch horror films? It’s a fair question, I think. Why would any sane person seek out something that they know is going to frighten or disturb them? Is it the sign of an unhealthy mind, an unhealthy society? Few would dispute that the horror genre has played an essential role in the evolution of cinema—as a narrative medium, as well as an exercise in formal and technical craft—from the German Expressionism of Nostferatu (1922), to the Academy Award winning The Exorcist (1973) and Silence of the Lambs (1991). There are countless elements of horror that a film critic can appreciate – the delicate symphony of visuals and sound necessary to draw in the viewer, capture their nerves, and elicit a physical response, is truly a dazzling example of filmmaking potential. (more…)