In front of the screen (almost) as in front of the psychoanalyst-

by time news
from Danilo di Diodoro

Watching a film, above all an auteur film, forces an introspection operation that has several similarities with the therapist’s sessions. The viewer is forced to find answers to their emotions that are hard to emerge in everyday life

The arthouse film is a product with characteristics well known among cinema experts. The classic definition of arthouse films can be traced back to Cinema notebooks and emphasizes the figure of the director / artist. So the films are a reflection of his authorial vision with a strong visual and thematic identity, says Savina Neirotti of the Holden School of Storytelling. Widening the gaze, and based on the experience of over fifteen years in the field of development of film projects both with the TorinoFilmLab, promoted by the National Cinema Museum, and with the Biennale College Cinema, promoted by the Venice Biennale, often auteur films represent one emotional response to the world of the director / screenwriter.


So in the arthouse film, the artist starts from a set of requests that he has within himself, and questions reality. Often the best results are seen when the film opens questions and leaves clues for people in the audience to each arrive at their own, individual, answer, says Neirotti. a dialogue between points of view, which generates the possibility of infinite answers. Especially if we look at the first and second works, which often start from autobiographical cues, from situations of suffering, joy, amazement, or shock. Experiences that the author / author has lived intensely, but has not been able to analyze in its nuances, and of which he feels the repercussions on his own life. The film becomes a act of awareness, embraces the complexities of the situations experienced, allowing a highlighting of aspects that have hitherto remained in the shadows. It is clear that this work can be done both at the level of the script, and therefore of the text, and, and above all, at the level of staging, provoking in the spectators emotions and questions that in turn find it difficult to emerge in everyday life.

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The spectator of the arthouse film forced to set the imagination in motion. driven to seek different solutions to problems that at that moment probably do not involve him in real life, but that could become part of his life in the future. The work thus offers the possibility of carrying out a “dress rehearsal” which does not involve consequences on real life. an important opportunity, considering that life does not normally offer it. Today, arthouse films are mainly broadcast by cinemas that are committed to this, but which probably do not receive the necessary support. Digital platforms help arthouse films and intercept audiences in search of the cinematic experience that successful arthouse films offer. Some were born in times of pandemic and offer content previously accessible only to those used to attending festivals. So an audience for auteur films exists, but it must be “trained” to “read” these films: an experience that is not pure entertainment, which involves fatigue, a fielding of one’s own emotions, a broadening of the gaze that it makes its long-term effects felt. On the contrary, it is possible that in the here and now it can be disorienting, cause anxiety and disorientation. This training has to start at school, and many teachers include movie watching in their programs, often with excellent results. There is still the risk that thesis films will be privileged, which offer answers rather than questions. This is not bad in itself, it is not a question of arguing against thesis films or films of pure entertainment, but only to emphasize that they offer different experiences, I would say complementary.


A passion that comes from afar. According to anthropologist Polly Wiessner, humans have developed their empathic and social collaboration skills also thanks to the discovery that they could control fire, which occurred about 300,000 years ago. Since then, around the fire they lit to warm up and cook, at the end of the day they began to tell each other stories, which allowed those who listened to them to identify with the characters, in a way not too different from what viewers of films and TV series do today. .

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Different experiences

The spectator of a film is emotionally poised between his experiences and those of the characters on the screen, usually more intense, as well as crammed into the short duration of the film. As any viewer knows, the characters are often in great difficulty and fight for a better future for them or their children, challenge obstacles and injustices, risk their lives says Pia Tikka of the Center of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture at Tallinn University, a Health Courier. The way the viewer feels empathy for the characters it depends on his attitudes, beliefs and personalities. Neuroscientists have identified two different modes of empathy, connected to the viewing of a film, one affective, one cognitive. The first is activated when, for example, the death of a character in the future is indicated and in this case the empathic process has to do with the spectator’s mental capacity in predicting future destiny. Instead, the emotional empathy for the character emerges when he is in that precise moment in an emotional situation, for example of pain. According to Finnish neuroscientist Lauri Nummenmaa, affective empathy facilitates the somatic, sensory and motor representation of the mental states of other people, in a sort of mirror of mental and physical states, much more powerful than that generated by cognitive empathy. Neuroscientists are reluctant to study human experiences that are too complex, a necessary step for an understanding of the film / brain interface. As a filmmaker myself, as well as a neuroscientist, I have developed a method for this kind of research, says Tikka. It is called the neurocinematic model of triadic epistemology and refers to data collection on three different levels: the emotional experiences reported by the viewer, the annotations on the content of the film made by experts in the field, the neuroimaging data detected during the viewing. Putting the three different levels together, the researchers try to understand the experience of watching a film also from a neurobiological point of view.

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September 29, 2021 (change September 30, 2021 | 10:01 am)

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