Celluloid Deaths: Cinema, Pleasure, and Death

Course Description

This course’s intention is to create a community of critically engaged film spectators. The core question of this course is: what can cinema show us about life through its representations of and metaphoric resonances with death? To elaborate, how does film move us, intellectually, politically, and emotionally? What consequences of watching films dealing with “taboo” subjects might arise? How can we read film texts as performing critique and to what end? Does it matter how we watch movies? What would happen if, far from being deadened by media, we build community around watching movies and talking about them? How does cinema move us out of the theatre or screening room and into the world? Students will gain critical skills of reflection, interpretation, and questioning of time-based, moving image media and develop an understanding of major debates in film theories of spectatorship.

This course will introduce major concepts and questions in film theory (realism, filmic index and apparatus theory, film production under capitalism, art cinema, and radical cinema) through close readings of key texts paired with movie screenings. Reading theoretical texts alongside films opens up space for further questioning and interpretation of both text and film. In the first half of the course, we will read classic film theory texts along with multidisciplinary works that will help us make connections between cinema and the social and political. Moving from theories of cinematic time, space, montage, sound, and spectatorship, the second half of the course treats films as important sources of critique—of dominant archives, racialized abuses of power, the role of cinema in life, and the boundaries between life and death. This course is a space to slow down and watch movies, with intention and connection to the social and political world.

Learning outcomes:

• Gaining familiarity with key topics and methods in film studies and critical analysis
• Unpacking the connections between cinema and social and political issues
• Understanding multiple concepts of time, space, and cinematic representation and their historical context and political impacts
• Practicing clear written and verbal communication
• Formulating questions that encourage complexity and critical engagement

This course will prepare you for further study in film and media studies and strengthen audio-visual critical skills.


No prior specific knowledge is required. Just a willingness to learn and interest in the subject area are expected.
You should be aware that the course material, particularly some of the films, can have difficult and triggering content.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: June 27, 2022 - July 08, 2022
Duration: 2 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 8:30A-11:20A
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Elizabeth Garcia
Course Number: 10149