What insights do films with end-of-the-world scenarios, dystopian futures, and post-apocalyptic themes offer into the cultural moment that produces them? From alien invasions and planetary collisions to cataclysmic war and totalitarian dystopias, from the zombie apocalypse and the rise of machines, to human extinction and the end of civilization, what do these films tell us about contemporary realities? How do they speak to our anxieties and fears about the future as well as our hopes and aspirations? In what ways do these films pose and explore questions of the "human"? End-of-the-world films often intersect with other genres (thriller, action film, neo-noir, comedy, art-house, romance, drama, experimental, etc.) In this course we will study the cinema of eschatology, of ultimate endings, and analyze a range of filmic approaches to the philosophical, psychological, and aesthetic questions raised in end-of-the-world narratives.
This course provides an in-depth overview of the key theoretical approaches to the study of cinema by examining historically significant ways of analyzing film form and its social and cultural functions and effects. The course seeks to equip students with a command of the diverse history of theoretical frameworks for understanding the medium and experience of cinema, from early concerns over film?s relation to other arts to the way the movie as a cultural form has been reconceptualized within the contemporary explosion of new media. The pressing relevance of film theory becomes clear once we stop to consider?taking just one small example?the many implications of a society-wide movement away from the collective experience of movies in a public theater to private viewing with earbuds on the tiny screen of a cell phone or tablet. We will explore a wide range of questions (concerning the nature of the cinematic medium and its apparatus, aspects of the spectator?s experience of film, and the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of film genre, to name just a few) as a way of putting ourselves in dialogue with various film theoreticians. And we will ground our examination by looking at cinematic practice in relation to theory. This will be done through regular film screenings throughout the semester. Feature length films drawn from various points in the history of cinema, as well as a selection of film clips will be used to illustrate and discuss the various theories. This course fulfills the Undergraduate Film Studies Certificate category IIA.