Cinematic Nihilism

127641027259477234nihilism-mdI have been approved for my very first sabbatical leave next semester. During that time I will work on the completion of a book manuscript, tentatively titled Cinematic Nihilism: Encounters, Confrontations and Overcomings. The book will be a collection of essays – some of which have been previously published – dealing with nihilistic themes in film.

In its final form, the manuscript will be composed of nine interlocking essays dealing with a wide, international range of contemporary motion pictures, all of which illustrate a different aspect of the phenomenon of nihilism. The finished book will chart a trajectory starting, in Part One, with films that depict preliminary encounters with nihilism. In this part of the book, I will address films such as Videodrome (1983), The Human Centipede (2009), Matrix (1999), Anti-Christ (2009), Perfect Sense (2011), Red Road (2006), and Ratcatcher (1999), each of which, in its own way, illustrates a troubling encounter with absurdity and the world’s lack of objective meaning. In Part Two, I will then move on to films depicting ways that this lack of objective meaning is confronted by characters who project their own ideals and aspirations upon the world while they struggle to make sense of who they are and why they exist. In this section, I will examine films such as The Wicker Man (1973), Breaking the Waves (1996), NEDs (2010), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Rollerball (1975, 2002). In Part Three, I conclude with films that depict the potential results of overcoming nihilism. It is here that we see how the triumph of one particular vision of Truth over the void of nothingness can lead to undesirable, totalitarian consequences.  In this section, I will address films such as Romper Stomper (1992), American History X (1998), The Believer (2001), Avatar (2009), and Mishima (1985).

Here is a tentative table of contents:

Cinematic Nihilism: Encounters, Confrontations, and Overcomings

Introduction: Plato’s Nightmare

Part One: Encounters


Chapter One: The Human Body as Raw Material: Videodrome, The Human Centipede, and Matrix

Chapter Two: The Fate of the Penis in The Anti-Christ and other Horror Films

Chapter Three: Nowhere in Particular: The Manifestations of Nihilism in Glaswegian Cinema

Part Two: Confrontations


Chapter Four: Scotland as a Site of Sacrifice

Chapter Five: Nihilism and the Walking Dead

Chapter Six: Cultural Change and Nihilism in the Rollerball Films

Part Three: Overcomings


Chapter Seven: The Lure of the Mob

Chapter Eight: Rooting for the Fascists in Avatar

Chapter Nine: Yukio Mishima and the Return to the Body

Conclusion: Nietzsche’s Nightmare