Cinema through Senses – CINEMA, PSYCHE AND SCIENCE

This workpiece is inspired by the lecture “Cinema as Mirror” (Moving Images Unit – Cultural and Theoretical Studies) by Chris de Selincourt on the 7th February 2017 at London College of Communication.


Illustration by VECTEEZE

The development of optical apparatus allowed the man to see the invisible molecular world and calculate the infinity of space. But, what was the contraption that entitled humankind to investigate the mazes of its unconsciousness? Precisely.

Close-ups, surreal images, the melody of a song in a film all indulge the unbearable content enclosed within the human’s unconsciousness. The spectator is invited to explore the director’s, his characters’ or his/her own mind. The actor’s ability per se is strictly related with the unconscious. Indeed, acting is to recall and destroy one’s mental societal restrictions while opening different layers of the mind to deliver the pure essence of a character. Everything that comes in from the outside shapes our mind and impacts our outputs from a neurological level.

“The whole of mankind is now busy relearning the long forgotten language of gestures and facial expressions. This language is not the substitute for words characteristic of sign language for the deaf-and-dumb, but the visual corollary of human souls immediately made flesh” (Balázs’ Visible Man cited in Steimatsky, N. 2017 pp. 32): Cinema. The dark room becomes limbo for anyone to explore original thoughts, experience empathy and shake off the common blasé attitude. Anyone can experience deep intimacy between screen and self.

We find scientific proves of the last statements in the work of Vittorio Gallesi – neuroscientist – and Michele Guerra – researcher in the cinema department – on mirror neurones and neurocinematics. The screen scene activates the “insula and frontal operculum that involve other faculties, such as emotion, which could in turn influence motor response” (Badt, K. 2013). Therefore, we yawn as the response to someone’s yawn, or we feel the need to smoke a cigarette while watching James Benning’s “Twenty Cigarettes” (2011). Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson also proved that “our brain response is not as individual as we might like to think” (Badt, K. 2013)

We enjoy and feel emotions while watching a film “because we see traces of the human hand” as in the screen as “in brush-strokes or in blobs of colour, […] [when we] react to a painting” (Badt, K. 2013).

Nicole 🙂


Badt, K. (2013). Mirror Neurons and Why We Love Cinema: A Conversation with Vittorio Gallese and Michele Guerra in Parma. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: [Accessed 24 Feb. 2017].

Steimatsky, N. (2017). The face on film. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press. pp.32


Baudry, J. and Williams, A. (1974). Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus. Film Quarterly, 28(2), pp.39-47.


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