“We cannot open our eyes to things without distancing ourselves from what we seek. Separation is the price of vision” (de Certeau in Enclitic 7: 24–31, 1983). Yet, what happens when what we see at a distance grabs us, touches us, drawing us closer (Blanchot 1981)? Is this not the experience of film? In this article I argue that modulating distance lies at the heart of perception and filmmaking, palpable tensions in moving closer-to (proximal) and distancing-from (distal) bodies and things, entangling senses across the sensorium in what is called haptic perception and, by extension, haptic cinema. I explore modulation in distancing in revisiting Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neorealist film, Umberto D., a film customarily discussed in optical-ocular terms. En route we experience De Sica’s artistry in conveying ‘instants in life’ and ‘spectral distancing’ and we have a visitation with Agamben’s (2000) gestural cinema which exposes the mediality of film, opening up haptic-ethical thought and expression. In the final section I push toward a phenomenology of film inspired by Merleau-Ponty’s (1968) reversibility in perception and Morris’s (2002) associated ideas of tactile resonance and reverberation. I articulate a phenomenology of filmic-body couplings as lived moments in touch that resonate, reverberate and linger as affective intensities, taking cinema beyond the theater, screen, spectator, image, and representational logics.
- Haptic cinema
- Italian neorealism
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development