Philosophical Underpinning of Movies

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In summary: Tyler was always in the back of the narrators mind. But the narrator never recognised Tyler as himself, because he was the one who created him. So in the car scene, it was actually the narrator driving, and Tyler was just a figment of his imagination. And in the convenience store scene, it was the narrator holding the gun, not Tyler. In summary, movies nowadays seem to either have a deep metaphysical, epistemological, or social philosophy behind them or cater to the teenage demographic with sex, alcohol, and catchphrases. Examples of movies with metaphysical themes include The Matrix, 13th Floor, and eXistenz, while Fight Club stands out for its commentary on personal philosophies and materialism
  • #1
Another God
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It seems like any decent movie these days really needs to have a particular metaphysical, epistemological, or at least social philosophy behind it. (either that or a bunch of 'teenagers' having sex, drinking beer, and going 'Dude' a lot...)

The Matrix, 13th floor, eXistenz are my first 3 examples of metaphysical philosophies in movies. All question how we know what is reality and what is a deception on our senses (see Matrix is not christian film thread)

My favourite movie though, as far as philosophy goes, is Fight Club. "It's not until you lose everything, that you are free to do anything" The conepts behind fight club are remarkable. I read the book as well, but it added nothing particularly new to the movie.

The Fight Club philosophies weren't metaphysical, or epistemological, they were all pertaiing to personal philosophies, and how we each approach our new age life. It comments on our fake dedication to material possesions, and we lose sight of the true picture. We get so caught up in doing what we are supposed to do, and so caught up in being/doing/having what we are supposed to be/do/have, that we forget to do what we want to do. We forget to chase what we want. We forget to enjoy ourselves.

Our life becomes meaningless as we all blindly follow the leader.

The scene where Tyler takes the convenience store clerk out the back of the store, pointing a gun at his head, and threatens to kill him. He gets the guys wallet and finds out that he was enrolled at uni and wanted to be a vet, but he had to drop out for some reason. Tyler tells him that he has to go back to uni, re-enroll and start doing everything he can to achieve his dream, or else tyle will come back and shoot him.


Live every moment as if it is your last. Plan for the future, but don't forget the present. Live for the moment, but don't lose track of your goals.

It's not until you lose everything, that you are free to do anything.
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  • #2
My favorite movie of all time is Barfly with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. Rourke plays the beat poet Charles Bukowski and it's a slow, lazy, funny rant about poetry, life, booze and the desire not to participate in the American dream unless you can do it on terms of your own choosing.

Bukowski, whose poems aren't really very good, is still after his death the biggest selling poet in the English language. His prose books, Post Office, Factotum and Women are a great read. I especially like Factotum.
  • #3
What you are describing are the trends in the movies towards comic books, detective novels, and existentialism. These are arguably the "blues" of cinimatography and it is audience demand for them that is driving the market. Philip K. Dick is probably the most famous author of many of the more popular movies in recent years such as Blade Runner, Total Recall, etc. He combined all three elements and founded the roots of what is called cyberpunk.

Just as jazz grew organically from the blues, a new cinematic art form is emerging from these three after fifty years of accumulated literature. However, for better or worse it is largely driven by market forces. On the other hand, these same market forces have driven technological developments in the field to the point where the cost of decent special effects, film editing, etc. have dropped dramatically. The next ten or twenty years should therefore show an emergence of less commercial homegrown art work with wide audience appeal.

The critical similarities between these three modalities of super heros, private eyes, and existentialism is attitude. Just as the blues revolves around attitudes, these do as well. However they do so in distinctive ways. In particular, violent ways. Violence is simply an easy sell for movies. It gets people's attention instantly and the minute the audience becomes used to a certain level of violence, the producers just add more.

Usually private eyes are depicted as altogether human and mortal with their own personal flaws such as drinking too much and falling for the wrong lovers. Likewise, comic book heros are just no fun if they there isn't a significant amount of drama in their lives including personal foibles. By mixing these with strange existentialist plots they are guaranteed instant and complete attention from a large sensation seeking segment of the population.
  • #4
Fight club is a very good movie. Although some of its messages can be a little contratictory.

"Live every moment as if it is your last".


"Live for the moment, but don't lose track of your goals"

They give a similar message, but if the statement live every moment if it is your last were a reasonable life strategy then I would not bother turning up to lectures, doing any work, exercise, learning anything or anything constructive at all. I would be better placed under this strategy taking up heroin.

Also the pursuit of pleasure can become a little repetative, so you feel as if you are going round in circles as opposed to up a ladder. Thus working hard gives some pleasure in the climbing.
  • #5
Asians and others often find western fascination with sex baffling. Yeah...It's what? Different stokes for different folks I guess. Living in the moment does not mean forgetting the future. Its just a validation of another aspect of who we are.
  • #6
the matrix

my favrioute movie is the matrix.
it has a lot of phillosophical values and means alot.
there are also hidden meanings which i really love!
i haven't seen fight club yet.
  • #7
OK, let's talk Fight Club!

First of all, I think the most important thing that I get out of Fight Club is that "Losing all hope was freedom"

I love the car scene. "Look at you, you're pathetic... Just let go..."

Oh, and the scene out the back of the quickemart place..."Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of *whatever his names was*'s life"

But in my most recent watching of the movie, I only really noticed that line "After the fight nothing was solved...but then, nothing matttered either". I really like that now. It about sums it all up. Sure, we could all get caught up on 'solving things' and making our life better, and stressing, and...crap like that. Or we could just get over it all, and carry on doing what we want.

Thats what this movie talks about to me... Do we worry ourselves into depression, or do we get over ourselves, and just enjoy what we have?
  • #8
my favorite scence would have to be the lye scene.

you are not your burning hand...

our fathers were the representatives (or whatever) of god, if our fathers gave up, what does that tell you about god?...
  • #9

I'm sure its somewhere in that site that it says something along the lines of "These beauty products were not tested on animals, so you know that burning sensation is for the good of all of us..."

or something vaguely representing those sentiments.
  • #10
Excellant philosophical post AnotherGod.
Ultimately one should be true to their own nature, the rest is silliness.
2 of my own favorite movie quotes are from Dune, "Fear is the mind killer, it is the little deaths that bring total obliteration", and "It is by my will alone that I set my mind in motion". To me the first one defines the result of not recognizing fear to the intellect and is a good reminder, the other to me is more direct in that nothing comes without effort, thought doesn't just come to people one really has to use it or they get no results, although for the majority thinking may seem like some kind of figers on chalkboard torture, I don't know for sure, but I like the sound.
I had a friend once dying of cancer, she lived for the moment, she understood the silliness of wasting time finding a matching set of clothes, I admired her.
I'm not sure I understand this losing all hope is freedom thing, but the letting go of control I do and agree with it, often times it better to accept things as they are rather than get bent about them- that tends to make things worse.
  • #11
Dune is a favourite movie of mine.

The losing all hope being freedom thing, I like because of how I understand hope. To me, hope may be one of the 'great' things that humans have...but it is also the most devastating. When you have 'hope' on something, over time that hope can build up expectations, only for those expectations to destroy you when your hopes aren't realized.

When we lose hope, we don't have expectations, and anything that happens to us is more than we hoped for.

If you lose hope, it doesn't matter what you do, or what happens to you, because you didn't hope for anything else. So you are never dissapointed.

That is freedom.
  • #12
Originally posted by Another God
Dune is a favourite movie of mine.

it's an even better book. :wink:
  • #13
Haven't read it. I have read Fight Club though. The movie is probably better than the book though :frown: But its still cool to get two slightly different takes on the same story.

I like it how at the end Of Fight CLub the Book, the narrator ends up talking to God. He gets frustrated because he can't convince God that we aren't beautiful unique snowflakes. Stupid God. You can't teach it anything...
  • #14
I see... still I don't think it is unsound to hope or expect things to come if in moderation, I would point out a striking difference that one type of hope is a type of fantasy and serves to mainly self-gratify the emotions and this may be where devastation comes into play, the other type is a kind of visualization or planning ahead mechanism perhaps, but moderation and realistic modest objectives are key to this and they overlap somewhat without notice.
  • #15
Maybe to help put it into context, most of this movie really does have a go at how the media and our world convinces us as children that we are all going to grow up rich, and famous, and good looking etc...but of course we don't. So even our safe "reasonable hopes about our future" are still basically flawed because our world tricks us into fantasy like expectations.

Your point is entirely valid, but yeah, that's what this movie is largely having a go at.
  • #16
I agree.
  • #17
Concerning Fight Club and hope... Remember what the Architect said about hope in Matrix Reloaded?
  • #18
Greetings !

My favourite movies are ussualy action, sci-fi, action + sci-fi, adventure + action, comedy and... well, that's none of your business...:wink:

I wonder what that says about my philosophy...:wink:

"In town you're the law, out here - it's me."
John J. Rambo

Live long and prosper.
  • #19

It's interesting that the Matrix and Dune are mentioned. Both of these works contain elements common to beliefs in The Church of Scientology. The founder of Scientology wrote a few hollywood scripts in his day and had a 'Star Wars' type movie in the works before 'Star Wars' and THE FORCE.
I would also point out that the author of 'PHILOSOPHY: Who needs it?' , Ayn Rand, wrote many old movie scripts which incorporated her personal philosophy.
It's interesting to note what the trends in the movies suggests about the philosophical currents in North American society. It is almost a homeostatic societal control system but certainly a reflection of society.
  • #20
so as far as philosophy in the movies goes...
how about waking life?
one of the more interesting points in the movie, I think, is the discussion of how people in experiments actually perform better on crossword puzzles after they have been published in newspapers and solved by hundreds/thousands of readers, even though the people in the experiment themselves have not been exposed to the crossword puzzle beforehand. It is analagous to experiments which repeatedly establish a statistically significantly higher-than-probability performance by test subjects on tasks that by all rights should be performed no better than the level of chance.
Kind of makes you think... there is more to the mind than we realize. Information fields perhaps? Synchronicity?
Maybe that's a little wild... but wild explanations for wild phenomena.
OK, so maybe this is getting a little off topic.. sue me. :smile:
  • #21

Originally posted by laserblue
It's interesting that the Matrix and Dune are mentioned. Both of these works contain elements common to beliefs in The Church of Scientology. The founder of Scientology wrote a few hollywood scripts in his day and had a 'Star Wars' type movie in the works before 'Star Wars' and THE FORCE.
I would also point out that the author of 'PHILOSOPHY: Who needs it?' , Ayn Rand, wrote many old movie scripts which incorporated her personal philosophy.
It's interesting to note what the trends in the movies suggests about the philosophical currents in North American society. It is almost a homeostatic societal control system but certainly a reflection of society.

Interesting - All CULT classics too.. I think just about any "big" movie has undertones that can be drawn to just about every religion. Neo as Jesus quickly comes to mind.. L.R. Hubbard (the founder of the COS) truly beleived that Xenu the Alien overloard blew up aliens about 75 million years ago and that thousands of their spirits inhabit our bodies to this very day. I can certainly see that turning into a Star Wars like fictional movie. Trovolta accomplished it for him in the Battle Feild Earth flop.
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Related to Philosophical Underpinning of Movies

1. What is the purpose of examining the philosophical underpinnings of movies?

The purpose of examining the philosophical underpinnings of movies is to understand the deeper themes and messages conveyed by the film. By analyzing the underlying philosophical concepts, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the film and its impact on society.

2. How do filmmakers incorporate philosophical ideas into their movies?

Filmmakers incorporate philosophical ideas into their movies through the use of symbolism, dialogue, and character development. They may also draw inspiration from philosophical theories or incorporate philosophical questions into the plot of the film.

3. Can philosophical underpinnings in movies influence society?

Yes, philosophical underpinnings in movies can have a significant influence on society. Through the power of storytelling, movies can challenge societal norms and beliefs, provoke thought and discussion, and ultimately shape the way we view the world around us.

4. How can analyzing the philosophical underpinnings of a movie enhance our viewing experience?

By analyzing the philosophical underpinnings of a movie, we can gain a deeper understanding of the themes and messages being conveyed. This can enhance our viewing experience by allowing us to appreciate the complexity and depth of the film, and potentially uncovering new layers of meaning.

5. Are there any drawbacks to examining the philosophical underpinnings of movies?

One potential drawback is that analyzing the philosophical underpinnings of a movie can be subjective. Different viewers may interpret the same film in different ways, leading to varying conclusions about its philosophical themes. Additionally, focusing too much on the philosophical elements of a movie may take away from the enjoyment of simply watching it as a form of entertainment.

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