Libby Saxton – On Energy and Moving Images: Simone Weil and French Political Cinema



Event Date 12 – 14 September 2012
Queen Mary University of London and King’s College London

The London Graduate School presents:

Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

Film-philosophy continues to grow as an important discipline within the fields of both Film Studies and Philosophy. The Film-Philosophy Conference brings together scholars from all over the world to present their research on a broad range of topics within the subject area.

The 2012 conference took place September 12-14, and was jointly hosted by King’s College London, Queen Mary, University of London and Kingston University.

Introduction by Dr Michele Pierson (KCL).

Dr Libby Saxton (Queen Mary, University of London) – On Energy and Moving Images: Simone Weil and French Political Cinema

There is an intimate connection between work that reduces the human being to a machine or series of physical movements and film, which involves mechanical processes and has been characterised by Giorgio Agamben as innately gestural in nature. Images of constrained manual labour recur throughout French cinema, often highlighting the worker’s exploitation and suffering under the prevailing form of capitalism. Sometimes, these images also comment meta-discursively on their medium.

The philosophy of Simone Weil can help to elucidate this affinity. Weil condemned factory assembly lines in the 1930s for turning labourers into mere matter and energy and proposed a corrective concept of work as a potentially creative, spiritual process. Her reconceptualisation of political and ethical questions in terms of the movements of body and soul, the forces that act on them and the energy they expend offers an under-explored resource for film philosophy. Drawing on Weil’s writings, this paper will consider a film she is known to have seen, René Clair’s À nous la liberté (1931), and a film which takes inspiration from her ideas, Jean-Luc Godard’s Passion (1982), in order to contribute to debates about the meanings of workers’ gestures in French cinema and, more broadly, about the category of energy in film.






Excerpt from René Clair’s ‘A Nous La Liberté


Excerpt from Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Passion


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