Cinematic Nihilism

Exposing and illustrating how an ongoing engagement with nihilistic alienation may contribute to, rather than detract from, the value of life, Cinematic Nihilism both challenges and builds upon past scholarship that has scrutinised nihilism in the media, but which has generally over-emphasised its negative and destructive aspects. Through case studies of popular films, including Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, Dawn of the Dead and The Human Centipede, and with chapters on Scotland’s cinematic portrayal as both a site of ‘nihilistic sacrifice’ and as ‘nowhere in particular’, this book presents a necessary corrective, re-emphasising the constructive potential of cinematic nihilism and casting it as a phenomenon that need not be overcome.



Going back to Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger, Marmysz traces a philosophical genealogy of nihilism, and discusses the way film is always essentially nihilistic, and frequently thematically nihilistic.  The range of case studies is interesting, as Marmysz considers works that have received a great deal of attention alongside works and trends that have gotten short shrift.  So there are chapters on Yukio Mishima , skinhead films, and Scottish cinema, as well as interesting re-reads of Romero’s zombie trilogy, Videodrome, Fight Club, The Human Centipede and so on.  Thought provoking and rich, Cinematic Nihilism reintroduces philosophy into film criticism in a language that is at once accessible and comprehensive.

– Joan Hawkins, Indiana University

Edinburgh University Press

Oxford University Press


The Existential Files

The Page 99 Test

American Philosophical Association Blog

Presentation on Cinematic Nihilism at College of Marin

Film-Philosophy review of Cinematic Nihilism by Daniel O’Brien