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Film & Media Studies Joni Gutierrez Films Phenomenology

Part II, Phenomenological Analysis of Life-world Series (2017, 118 min): Internal Currents

Eidetic intuition makes essences come into view for us through ‘three levels of intentional development’ (Sokolowski, 2000, p. 177). On the first level, we find similarities among a number of things that we experience (p. 177). Let us take ‘the street’, which is the pro-filmic subject matter of Study Seven: The Street (Fig. 19), as an example for phenomenological analysis. First, we try to establish a ‘typicality’ (p. 178) of the street, in line with, say, ‘wood floats’ or ‘dogs bite’ (p. 177): ‘streets take us from one point to another’. On the second level of the phenomenological investigation, we look at individual pieces and see if they have the same predicate; for example, Wood A floats and so does Wood B and Wood C. At this second level, that ‘Wood floats’ is a kind of ‘identity synthesis’ (p. 178) in which we recognise the individual pieces of wood as ‘not just similar, but the very same, a “one in many”’ (p. 178). Going back to the main object under investigation, that is, the street, we can say that its predicate of being a conduit wherein human beings move from one point to another is an ‘empirical universal’ because all the instances in which we have found the predicate are things we have actually experienced’ (p. 178).

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.

In the third and final stage, we endeavour to come up with a feature without which the street is inconceivable; here, we ‘try to move beyond empirical to eidetic universals, to necessities and not just regularities’ (Sokolowski, 2000, p. 178). Given our initial definition of the street, we have three features: it is a (1) conduit; (2) through which we move; (3) to go from one point to another. Let us examine each of these features to see if they are essential to the street. Firstly, note that the use of the term, conduit, instead of road. This considers virtual streets that are ubiquitous in our immediate experience of a networked and mediatised society powered by information superhighways; thus, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Weibo can be considered as streets because they take us from one point (our subjective experience) to another (intersubjective experience). These ‘conduit’ and ‘to go from one point to another’ features of the street seem to be necessities and not merely regularities; however, we can challenge it by imagining possibilities. What if a person lives in an enclosed land with two structures (main house and, say, a barn) with an alley in between? Can we consider this alley a street? It does satisfy the definition as a conduit that we can use to go from one point to another, but our intuition tells us that an essential feature is lacking: a street is ‘public’. Kracauer considered this essential feature of the street when he asserted, in Theory of Film, that the street covers ‘not only the street, particularly the city street, in the literal sense, but also its various extensions, such as railway stations, dance and assembly halls, bars, hotel lobbies, airports, etc.’ (p. 62).

Figure 19. Study Seven: The Street (2016)
Study Seven: The Street (2016)

Study Seven includes some of the above extensions, particularly in the form of the mall, MTR platform, and KTV bars (Fig. 19). We can now add this new feature in the definition: a street is a (1) public (2) conduit (3) through which (4) we move (5) to go from one point to another. The foregoing illustrated a rudimentary investigation through the ‘three levels of intentional development’ (Sokolowski, 2000, p. 177) of the phenomenological method. We conduct deeper and more nuanced analyses in our daily lives; however, unless we focus our consciousness on this process, we usually do not notice them since they are dissolved in the internal currents of our phenomenological experience. One thing for certain is that an invariant feature of the human experience, in our constant search for meaning, is to strive to achieve ‘eidetic intuition’ (p. 179) from the constant flow of objects within the life-world. Insights on the eidetic necessities that result from phenomenological reflection – like the intersubjective feature of the street experience – are ‘deeper and stronger than empirical truths’ (p. 181). The following spectator’s contemplation of Study Seven (Fig. 19),which is a cinematic reflection on everyday life on the street, elucidates an eidetic intuition on his or her existential experience within the modern condition:

The video, in reality, shows you the complete opposite of death. It showed life, progress, it showed movement. It shows you all that you will miss once you die. But those videos also showed me the reality of life – that no matter how important you think you may be . . . if you die, the world continues to live. If your life ends, the world goes on . . . We all know that we’re all going to die – but at least we got to live. And not just breathing live, but actually seeing and experiencing what life has to offer. – Respondent 9298

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

References

  • 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.
  • Kracauer, S. (1960). Theory of film: The redemption of physical reality. London, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Sokolowski, R. (2000). Introduction to phenomenology. New York: Cambridge University Press.