Media and the Inner World


The Emotional Work of Cinema

Starts: May 09 @ 10:00am

Address: The Everyman Cinema, Hampstead, London

Time for a dose of Daniel Craig therapy? Researchers gathered to explore the therapeutic role emotion plays in film

Run by Roehampton University and the University of East London and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the event attracted media experts including Margaret Matheson, founder of Bard Entertainments and producer of many films, including Vampire Diary, voted Best Film at the Milan International Film Festival, 2008; Nicola Diamond, UEL academic and psychotherapist working at The Women’s Therapy Centre; and Claire Pajaczkowska, academic and film-maker from the  Royal College of Arts.

The event was the second activity in a two year research project, which aims to explore the contemporary focus on emotionality and therapy in popular culture and the media.

While the first symposium looked at what we can learn from the popularity of emotionally charged media, including the decline of Jade Goody, the second event combined psychoanalysis and psychotherapeutic ways of thinking to examine the emotional and therapeutic quality of film by analysing the communication and reception of emotion in some of the world’s most popular films.

The sight of Daniel Craig emerging from the water in Casino Royale attracted extensive media coverage overwritten with the language of lust and desire; in Mamma Mia the comical sight of Colin Firth and others in their 1970s garb and singing ABBA songs elicited mirth and joy; the now infamous ‘bunny-boiler’ scene with Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction has become an iconic image of fear and madness. This event will focus on the emotional impact of such moments on the individual viewer and society as a whole.

As Directors of the network, Dr Candida Yates, Reader in Psychosocial Studies at the University of East London and Dr Caroline Bainbridge, Reader in the School of Arts at Roehampton University, explain,

“In today’s society, popular culture and media constantly bombard us with emotional triggers, creating a therapeutic culture where notions of emotional correctness dominate.

Films can often provide us with images of emotion that are more usually experienced internally. This makes cinema very powerful. We are interested in the therapeutic possibilities of movies – how do films open up spaces for us to think about our own emotional lives and why do they do this?”

Discussion Points:

1. What is this the emotional work of cinema? How can it be defined? Where/how does the work get done?
2. Do you make films with certain emotions in mind to be conveyed to audiences?
3. What is it about a film that makes us cry/laugh and can you think of an example?
4. Are some films therapeutic? How so?
5. Do the different social conditions/settings of watching a film alter our emotional response to that film?
6. How can psychoanalysis and psychotherapeutic ways of thinking contribute to our understanding of the meanings, features, effects and affects of film and cinema in an emotive culture?
7. Does the development of high quality screens and sound for the home privatise the formerly public emotional experience of cinema?
8. Do major films work as containers that interpret our culture in more or less manageable ways?
9. How does successful marketing of some films generate expectations and investments in certain movies?
10. How do films become ‘must-see’ and what’s the role of emotion in shaping this response?

Speakers included:

Dr Claire Pajaczkowska (film director, academic, Royal College of Arts)
Margaret Matheson (film producer, founder of Bard Entertainments)
Nicola Diamond (psychotherapist, The Women’s Therapy Centre)

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