Sobchack & Carnal Knowledge

Reading Sobchack made me realize that film theory has been focusing more and more on two things. First, there is the individual experience in relation to what psychoanalytic film theorists have done which were focused more on the collective and cultural representations in film. This is why Sobchack can sometimes be considered vague in that it is a theory based on individual experience. Secondly it focuses on in-the-moment experiences as opposed to the consciously processed film. Now, writing about individualistic and in-the-moment experiences is difficult in that it can seem non-empirical and inarticulate. In Sobchack’s case it is individualistic in that it is about carnal knowledge, which can be, both subjective and objective. Epistemology is much easier to talk about whereas ontology has a specific language to it. Putting our feelings into words, as a result, makes us numb and kills the initial effect of the film. The film just becomes a reference to how we feel about it when we have had time to process it as a whole.


I think it starts a whole new and necessary discussion about carnal knowledge, something that I did not know how to put into words. Movies like Clockwork Orange and Videodrome (the 80s Clockwork Orange as Andy Warhol called it) made it seem like their messages could not be relayed anyway else other than to be explicit and almost vulgar in order to cause some discomfort for the viewers. There are also films that provide some sort of ambiance. A film like Nine and a Half Weeks, with the colour tones of black and white, the soft music, the soft touches and extra care every character gives to an object or person, and just the whole minimalistic atmosphere of the film, when leaving the film you cannot help but walk and handle things with extra care and ease. Experiences like that have never been looked at and researched and I agree with Sobchack that it is usually ignored by theorists but it is essential in understanding the film viewer’s experience and their engulfment by the film.


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