Date(s) - 12/09/2012
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Dr Jane Stadler
This paper analyses the affectively and ethically charged interface between the spectator and the screen in Michael Winterbottom’s potent film The Killer Inside Me (2010), a crime thriller adapted from Jim Thompson’s brutal 1952 pulp fiction novel.
Empathy plays an important role in position taking and moral judgment, yet the ways in which it relates to aspects of film spectatorship such as cognition, imagination, emotion and character engagement are not well understood.
This paper tests the boundaries and significance of the concept of cinematic empathy by examining whether it may be possible to empathise with an emotionless person or a screen character like the mild-mannered murderer, Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) in The Killer Inside Me.
Drawing on scholarship by phenomenologists and cognitive film theorists such as Jennifer Barker and Carl Plantinga, I analyse the film’s aesthetic style to question how affectless empathy might complicate ethical responses to cinema by splitting asunder the cognitive and affective components of emotional experience and inviting epistemological alignment with a dispassionate sociopath.
Dr Jane Stadler is Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at The University of Queensland. She is author of Pulling Focus: Intersubjective Experience, Narrative Film and Ethics (Continuum, 2008), co-author of Screen Media (Allen & Unwin, 2009) and Media and Society (Oxford University Press, 2012), and co-editor of Pockets of Change: Adaptation and Cultural Transition (Lexington Books, 2011).