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Edited by T. Botz-Bornstein and Giannis Stammatellos.

Brill 2017.

Plotinus and the Moving Image:

Neoplatonism and Film Theory

Edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein and Giannis Stamatellos.

Published in the Brill “Philosophy of Film” Series 2017.

Preface by Nathan Andersen

"A truly Plotinian attempt to philosophize about cinema." The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition. Read review

"Most of the papers analyse cinema in general and several films in particular as an aínigma, a Plotinian expression which involves the distinction of  different levels of significance in a narrative." Gabriel Martino

Can the philosophy of Plotinus’ (204/5–270 CE) be used for film studies? Twelve philosophers discuss Neoplatonic models of thinking in film. Film is a unique medium for a rapprochement of our modern consciousness with the thought of Plotinus. Plotinus’ search for the “intelligible” that can be grasped neither by sense perception nor by merely logical abstractions leads to a fluent way of seeing. 

The Neoplatonic vestige is particularly worth exploring in the context of the newly emerging “Cinema of Contemplation.” Bergson’s and Deleuze’s time-image is compatible with Plotinus’ theory of time as a transitory intelligible movement of the soul. Parallels that had so far never been discussed are made plausible. This book is a milestone in the philosophy of film.

Scene From Tarkovsky's Mirror.

Above: The book cover shows a still from Tarkovsky's Mirror (1975). The children have just been told by their mother that the neighbor’s house is on fire. While they are looking at the light, the camera films their reflection in a mirror. Plotinus uses the metaphor of matter (hyle) as a mirror upon which corporeal beings are reflected (Enneads III 6, 7-13; IV, 3, 12; V 1, 9). The perceptibles are “images drawn on the shadow” (Ennead VI 3, 8, 35-36); they are projected images of the soul on matter, reflections of the Forms that slip away on the mirror of matter like an “echo from smooth flat surfaces” (Ennead III 6, 14, 25).

The above scene of Tarkovsky’s Mirror can also be interpreted as a metaphor of the hypostases or as Plotinus’ theory of contemplation at different ontological levels. The children are looking at the burning fire; they are minds contemplating the phantasmagoric presence of the One. The camera is a soul that contemplates both the children’s contemplation and the dreamlike radiances of the One reflected on the mirror of matter. The perspective of the camera is the cinematographic vision of the director and by extension of the audience, following an autobiographical reminiscence of the soul and an inner sight of the soul’s return (epistrophe) in recollection of innocence. The camera filming this moment is a soul returning to its own self. The audience contemplates a hypostatic enlightenment of being from the supreme ineffability of the One’s light to the illuminating realm of intelligible reflections at the edges of matter. 

                                                                                                                 Giannis Stamatellos

The above scene also concurs with what Nathan Andersen writes in the preface to the book: "A single source of light illuminates and opens up a visible space, upon which a world projects forth. Figures emerge, taking shape, becoming recognizable, distinct. They interrupt the quiet reveries of spectators, awakening them first to notice the light and then to attend to their differentiated shapes. Caught up in and drawn towards the spectacle, the spectators only occasionally notice that it cannot fully satisfy. Struggles are resolved, only to awaken new struggles."

This, as far as I know, is the first volume dedicated to a single philosopher, that relates the ideas of that philosopher to a range of different films and draws out of the film theoretical implications of a body of work that was conceived many centuries before film was invented and yet manages to shed light on a range of film topics. It is a wide ranging and rewarding volume that offers insight both into cinema and into the challenging ideas of this influential and challenging thinker. There is, I believe, room for many more volumes such as this one.

​Nathan Andersen, author of  Shadow Philosophy: Plato’s Cave and Cinema

This volume offers the first philosophical discussion on Plotinus' philosophy and film theory. It discusses Plotinian concepts like “the One” and “the intelligible” in a cinematic context, relates Plotinus’ theory of time to the modern time-image, and finds Neoplatonic contemplation in Contemplative Cinema.





Preface by Nathan Andersen



1. Thorsten Botz-Bornstein: “Cut Away Excess and Straighten the Crooked:” The Simplicity of Contemplative Cinema


2. Steve Choe: The One in Plotinus and Jean Epstein


3. Tony Partridge: Is the Universe a Work of Art that We Can Perceive in a Film?


4. Stephen Clark: Heracles, Hylas, and the Uses of Reflection


5. Giannis Stamatellos: Beyond the Moving Images: A Plotinian Reading of The Truman Show


6. Sebastian F. Moro Tornese: Being as Illumination of the One and its Manifestation through Cinematic Images


7. Vincenzo Lomuscio: Moving Image and Conversion: a Neo-Platonic Film Theory


8. Enrico Terrone: Character, Spectator, Film: On Cinema as a Plotinian Hierarchy


9. Daniel Regnier: Plotinus and Tarkovsky on Experience and the Transparency of Reality


10. Panayiota Vassilopoulou: Images of a Moving Self: Plotinus and Bruce Nauman


11. Michelle Phillips Buchberger: Avoiding the “Dead Thing Decorated.” Neoplatonism and : Towards a Poetics of Film?


12. Cameron Barrows: The Mystical and the Beautiful: The Construction of a Plotinian Aesthetics of Film





Link to the Brill “Philosophy of Film” Series


Archived Call for Papers of this book (2015)


Link to older Plotinus article by T. Botz-Bornstein

Parasite and Philosophy Another book by Botz-Bornstein and Stamatellos published in the Brill Philosophy of Film series

This is the text accompanying the Official Poster of the Cannes Festival 2022: "Peter Weir and Andrew Niccol's The Truman Show (1998) is a modern reflection of Plato's cave and the decisive scene urges viewers to not only experience the border between reality and its representation but to ponder the power of fiction, between manipulation and catharsis." ►


The Official Poster of the Cannes Festival 2022

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