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Film & Media Studies Joni Gutierrez Films Phenomenology

Part IV, Phenomenological Analysis of Life-world Series (2017, 118 min): Eidetic Formations

Aside from being an examination of the flow of life KCR trope as discussed in the previous section, Study Eight is also a phenomenological investigation on the essence of city life. The film draws on the power of the film medium to photographically capture surface detail of an array of pro-filmic objects from physical reality. This core aspect of the medium can be said to be a cinematic counterpart of the phenomenological method which involves ‘careful, elaborate description of our experience’ (Käufer & Chemero, 2015, p. 26) that reveals their essential features; indeed, Husserl consistently avowed that ‘essences are evident in the experiences themselves once we know how to look for them’ (p. 26).

Note: This is an excerpt from my PhD dissertation, ‘Investigating Kracauerian Cinematic Realism through Film Practice and Criticism: Life-world Series (2017) and Selected Films of Lino Brocka’ (2018), which is available for download from the institutional repository. In 2020, my book chapter — Cinematic Contemplation Online: The Art and Philosophy of Life-world Series (2017) — based on this dissertation was published in: Kung K.WS. (ed.) Reconceptualizing the Digital Humanities in Asia. Digital Culture and Humanities (Challenges and Developments in a Globalized Asia), vol 2: 31-52. Singapore: Springer.

This phenomenological activity of ‘eidetic seeing’ (Husserl, 1982, p. 8) finds congruence with the cinematic experience of physical reality which involves moving one’s conscious intentionality from concrete images towards their essences. This shared affinity for seeing can be attributed to film being a visual medium; on the side of phenomenology, it is because sight is a major sense that contributes to one’s perception of reality. The ‘“primacy of the optical” in Kracauer’s thought’ (Sieg, 2010, p. 104) is in accord with this consonance between film and phenomenology. Given the indeterminacy of the concrete and the complexity of the spectators’ engagement with the film, their phenomenological reflections should not be regimented as to what essences they are ought to draw from the film as they engage what Kant –explicated in Chapter 1 – called ‘free liking’ and ‘pleasurable liking’ (Aitken, 2016, p. 22).

Figure 23. Study Eight: Intercity (2017)
Study Eight: Intercity (2017)

The example below exhibits how Study Eight: Intercity (Fig. 23) served as a jumping-off point – or as Kracauer would call it, ‘ignition spark’ (1960, p. 165) – for the spectator to contemplate one’s own phenomenological experience of the urban life-world (Manila), not Seattle or Shenzhen, which served as the alternating physical settings of the film:

Makikita din ang bawat kagandahan ng kanilang mga bansa kagaya na lamang sa kanilang paraan ng pagko-commute. Marahil ay isa itong malaking sampal sa mukha ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas dahil ito rin ay pinapangarap ng Pinas. Ngunit hindi natin ito makamit dahil sa kabi-kabilang korapsyon at iba-iba pang mga suliranin na nagpapahirap sa bansa.

[It shows beautiful aspects of each county, such as their daily commute. Perhaps this is a critique of the Philippine government since this is also what our country dreams of; however, we are unable to achieve this because of rampant corruption, among other problems that plague our nation.] – Respondent 8495

(M. Andrada, personal communication, June 1, 2018)

For Dilthey, Simmel, and Bergson, the world is ‘given to the ego only in the flow of life’ (Harrington, 2006, p. 342) and for Husserl, the life-world is apprehended by consciousness in relation with ‘the tissue of intersubjective background understandings’ (p. 341) constituted by a ‘plurality of subjectivities making up a community sharing a common world’ (Spiegelberg, 1984, p. 747).

Figure 24. Study Five: Rain (2016)
Study Five: Rain (2016)

Study Five: Rain (Fig. 24, also see 33) experiments with the cinematic experience of the shared experience of the phenomenon of rain. Consistent with the previous examples of reflections on Life-world Series, the following responses exhibit the ability of the realist film to lead the spectators to experience eidetic seeing involving city life, nature, and the very activity of contemplation amidst the modern condition:

The beauty of city and nature was my main take away from this video. Rain was an element added to the beauty of the nature and city . . . It just captured that transformation of how the modern world is becoming. – Respondent 1635

It may also mean being stuck inside your home looking through your windows stained with raindrops as you watch the clouds shed its tears . . . rain is just a part of how our nature works and there will always be a calm after. – Respondent 7092

(M. Andrada, personal communication, June 1, 2018)
Joris Ivens’s Regen (1929) and Joni Gutierrez’s Study Five: Rain (2016)
Figure 33. Joris Ivens’s Regen (1929) and Joni Gutierrez’s Study Five: Rain (2016)

References

  • Aitken, I. (2016). Introduction. In I. Aitken, The major realist film theorists: A critical anthology (pp. 1-40). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Andrada, M. (2018, June 1). Personal communication. Note: Prof. Mykel Andrada of the College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines-Diliman, on 14 May 2018, assigned Life-world Series as one of the online works to be critiqued for the final examination of one of his classes. The students were free to choose any of the ten short films from the collection. Prof. Andrada volunteered to send their responses to the researcher. In this manuscript, their names are anonymised by assigning them random four-digit numbers.
  • Harrington, A. (2006). Lifeworld. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 341-3.
  • Husserl, E. (1982). General introduction to a pure phenomenology, first book. (F. Kersten, Trans.) The Hague: M. Nijhoff Publishers.
  • Käufer, S. & Chemero, A. (2015). Phenomenology: An introduction. Cambridge; New York: Polity.
  • Kracauer, S. (1960). Theory of film: The redemption of physical reality. London, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Sieg, C. (2010). Beyond realism: Siegfried Kracauer and the ornaments of the ordinary. New German critique, 99-118.
  • Spiegelberg, H. (1984). The phenomenological movement: A historical introduction. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.