Filmosophy - About Framptons Radically New Way of Understanding Cinema

Term Paper, 2009

22 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Discussion of the terms of Filmosophy
2.1 Film-being
2.2 Filmind
2.3 Film-thinking

3. Final comment

4. Image Sequences
4.1 Sequence one
4.2 Sequence two
4.3 Sequence three
4.4 Sequence four

5. Bibliography
5.1 Literature
5.2 Internet Sources
5.3 Film Sources

1. Introduction

“Die Verwendung des Ausdrucks ‚Medium Film’ weist darauf hin, daß der Film gleichfalls ein Mittler ist, dessen man sich bedienen kann, um anderen, den Zuschauern, etwas mitzuteilen. […] Ob wir ein Gesicht in einer Großaufnahme zu sehen bekommen oder als Teil einer Totalaufnahme der betreffenden Person, bedeutet einen großen Unterschied“[1]

These basic declarations of the film theorist Jan Marie Peters from 1962 were almost the general consensus in film science in the last decades. Daniel Frampton, the author of the book ‘Filmosophy’, that he calls ‘a manifesto for a radically new way of understanding cinema’, refuses a consideration like this. In his perception, cinematographic elements, like camera angle, sound or editing don’t mean (bedeuten) something but rather they are. Being itself does not mean in this case the very existence of elements as representative signs but the autonomic living of film as something that does not refer to something else behind it.

The aim that Frampton is trying to reach with the introduction of Filmosophy in media discourse is primarily the renovation of cinematic reception, scientifically as well as educationally:

“The first [aim] is really just to change your experience of cinema, to relight your engagement with the cinema. That is, to create an immersive and poetic experience of cinema for film-goers. The other aim […] has to do with visual literacy within Media Studies, with assisting in the development of visual literacy education for anybody, for adults and kids.“[2]

Because the times in film production change, a change in reception is also necessary. In Frampton’s theory, film is no longer a photographic reproduction of a past performance. This is not simply because nowadays there are countless assumed realistic film images which were never shot as they are presented later. Frampton concedes that film uses material of the real world but finally – and hence his theory is one of reception – this material becomes its own world with its own processes and even its own thoughts.[3] To draw a consistent picture of his theory he developed a kind of unique language to speak about film.

In this paper, I will try to operate with this language and to use his neologisms for the film example ‘eXistenZ’ of David Cronenberg. In the next chapter, I will attempt to explain his most important terms of Filmosophy and to make them transparent and usable.

2. Discussion of the terms of Filmosophy

2.1 Film-being

“How is the film-world is created and reconfigured?”[4]. This question is a major component of Filmosophy, and is what Frampton discusses in the second chapter, basing the discussion on several writers from the twentieth century and what he calls the film-being. It is one of his most general terms because it comprises the being of film with all the aspects the filmgoer[5] perceives while he is experiencing the film. It is firstly the union of the sound and the images presented to the filmgoer, and secondly the content and style of presentation. For example: “why do we see this character, at this moment, from this angle?”[6].

The most important step in understanding Frampton’s thoughts about Filmosophy is to think of all these named aspects as one. The major critique against common reception theories, like narrative, aesthetic or technical reflections, is that they do not conceive film as one medium that consists of all these. Appreciating the technical language or the narrative structure might help to understand the way a film is constructed, but does not help to explain the filmgoer’s experience where form and content are experienced as one.[7] This unity implicates also that the well-defined positions between author, film and filmgoer are more permeable. Questions for the intention of the director are absolutely irrelevant because the film itself is the final being that the filmgoer experiences in its entirety. That this is also true for the filmic content itself, Daniel Frampton gives several examples. In his opinion, there is no difference for the film-being if there is an impersonal or personality-full narration.[8] A personal narrator as an acting figure might give the filmgoer the impression that he stands closer to what is being shown, but in any case this is nothing more then the filmic world, so the film-being is that which is talking. So in this regard, there is no conceptual difference if the filmgoer does feel duped by the film, or if he sympathises with a role, or if the filmic world might scare him. The whole film-being is always being developed and affecting the filmgoer. Furthermore, this world is the only existing one in Frampton’s understanding. Within our own real lives, there are self-evident sumless events, in which we do not take part. In filmic reality, however, especially the presence of an impersonal super-narrator makes us feel that there are many occurrences next to the selected portions of world the filmgoer gets served. In Frampton’s understanding, it is nonsensical to say that “there is a world which we are given portions of, because we do not see any other world than the film-world presented. The filmgoer has no choice – there is only one film-world, one sequence of images.”[9] Even if the film constructs happenings or events in an off-screen-world its part of the given film-world, what is not constructed utterly does not exist. Thus, what is presented to us in film is not parts of the world; rather the parts presented to us are the filmic world.

Beyond this it seems as if it has become absolutely normal and necessary for the filmgoer to personalise every human-like appearance in film. In the Filmosophic conception, however, it does not matter who the narrator is or which role is telling what to another, even if they are dialectic. The film is speaking as a film-being and the narrator-concept does lose its importance. In this way, Filmosophy does personalise as well but not impersonate elements of the film. Frampton’s theory personalises the film itself and understands the film as anthropomorphic. Referring to this Filmosophy credits film with numerous different qualities, which were found before, mainly on the spectator’s side. Based on Vivian Sobchack's concept from her work ‘The Active Eye: A Phenomenology of Cinematic Vision’, Frampton says that film is not only a creating matter, it is also a spectating one.[10] That would signify that viewing and exploring of the film-world does not only take place in the real world in front of the screen; moreover it takes place for the film itself. Film is a temporal construction, and in his chronological process, it develops the atmosphere, the story and the places seen, not only for the spectator also for itself. Sobchack establishes the idea of the ‘viewing view’ as the way that makes the visual become visible and seeing become seen.[11] Thus, her approach is one from the side of the visual movement, for which she cites four basic forms:

“The first, most primary, and least obvious form of visible movement in the cinema is that movement expressed as the very process and progress of the ‘viewing view’ and its production of ‘moving images’ upon the screen. […] this is the movement which commutes the visual perception of the camera into visible expression through the agency of the projector. Second, and usually explored in a specific manifestation such as the ‘zoom,’ is the optical movement of the camera lens from a fixed situation; what is visibly inscribed in this form is the movement of the film’s attention, not its material ‘body’. Third […] is the visible movement of animate beings and inanimate objects in the ‘moving image that the ‘viewing view’ (whether ours or the film’s) is always in the act of constituting […] [also called] ‘subject movement’. Fourth is what constitutes the film’s visible vision as actual ‘subject movements’ – that is, movement of the camera. It is the camera that functions as the bodily agency through which the film’s intentionality can be seen and its active projects accomplished.”[12]


[1] Peters, Jan Marie, „Die Struktur der Filmsprache“ (1962), in: Albersmeier, Franz-Josef, „Texte zur Theorie des Films“, p. 371 et sqq. [Translation: The use of the expression ‚medium film’ indicates that film also is a mediator what can be used to tell something to others, like the spectators. If we see a face in close up or as a part of the whole person in a long shot does mean a significant difference.]

[2] Frampton, Daniel, „What is Filmosophy?“, .

[3] Cf. Frampton, Daniel, „Filmosophy“, p. 4 et sqq.

[4] Frampton, p.27.

[5] Frampton tries to avoid the word spectator because in his perception the one who is watching the film is doing more then just spectating. He is experiencing trough sight and hearing while his thoughts still filter through context, personality and language. (cf. p. 148 et sqq.)

[6] Frampton, p.27.

[7] Cf. Huygens, Ils.

[8] Cf. Frampton, p. 35.

[9] Ibid. p. 35 et seq.

[10] Cf. Frampton, p. 45 et sqq.

[11] Cf. Sobchack, p. 22.

[12] Ibid.

Excerpt out of 22 pages


Filmosophy - About Framptons Radically New Way of Understanding Cinema
University of Potsdam
Film + Philosophy = Filmosophy
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Film, Philosophy, Filmosophy, Frampton, Deleuze, Eisenstein, film science, watching, Cronenberg, eXiszenZ, education, Filmanalyse, Sobchack, filmind, Being, Pikul, Geller, Merleau-Ponty, Albersmeier, montage, film, movie, cinema, kino
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Martin Thiele (Author), 2009, Filmosophy - About Framptons Radically New Way of Understanding Cinema, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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