Hanna Karolina Kubicka

Research title

Seeing Yourself in Film and Television Characters: Identification as Fiction?s Connection to Real Life

Research summary

Research title

Feeling through Film: The Viewer’s Emotional and Affective Engagements with Film and their Relationship with Everyday Life

Summary of research

People react emotionally to films, learn about real life situations through fictional allegories and, at the same time, develop an aesthetic appreciation for the medium. As natural as these types of responses might seem to viewers, some theoretical accounts describe emotional engagement with fiction as irrational or determined purely by the unconscious reactions of the spectator’s body or mind. For example, phenomenological film theorists often talk about film as if it was real for the viewer, or focus on the ‘primitive’, automatic bodily responses. The lack of attention to narrative in their theories obstructs the discussion of emotional engagement which (1) grows out of the understanding of the story, (2) informs interpretation, and (3) offers fresh perspectives on real life decisions and states of affairs. The difficulty could be solved by focusing on the benefits of the filmic events and characters that cause a genuine emotional, affective and intellectual engagement while, at the same time, remaining fictional, distant, and a part of a constructed narrative. My thesis aims to demystify the relationship between the viewer and film by combining empirical and theoretical methodologies, focusing on narrative theory, cognitive psychology and recent developments in neurology.

I have written on related topics since I began the research for my undergraduate dissertation. I started by questioning the paradox of fiction: the claim that it is irrational to be emotionally engaged with the nonexistent characters and situations in fiction. This led me to examine the difficulties defining the distance between reality and fiction in film. I used cognitive theory and art theory to argue against the psychoanalytical understanding of film as an illusion of reality. Film Matters published the second chapter of my dissertation this year. During my study at the University of Oxford I became interested in embodiment and wrote a dissertation comparing cognitive and phenomenological approaches to explain emotional engagement with film. This allowed me to investigate the current and topical study of affect in film as well as engage in research about the perceptual experience of the viewer. My review of Davide Caputo’s Polanski and Perception: The Psychology of Seeing and the Cinema of Roman Polanski was published in Film International. Now I am expanding my understanding of emotional and affective responses to film at the University of Glasgow. I am especially interested in the relationship between emotions and fictional narratives as a source of experience and knowledge applicable to the real world. As Jill Bennett argues in Practical Aesthetics, looking at art as a way of thinking and doing builds upon the art theory’s interest in the senses and perception, allowing for interdisciplinary alignment with psychology and social science. This debate is currently flourishing in the exchange between film studies and neurology, to which I would like to contribute through my research.

Publications

‘Review of Polanski and Perception: The Psychology of Seeing and the Cinema of Roman Polanski by Davide Caputo’, Film International, Volume 11, Issue 1 (2013), pp. 82 - 83
‘Emotional Engagement in Representations and the Issue of Perceptual Realism’, Film Matters, Volume 4, Issue 1 (2014), pp. 15 – 19


Film Reviews for the Oxford Student
A Streetcar Named Materialism’, The Oxford Student (October 7, 2013) (Also in Print)
Don't Pay for The Call’, The Oxford Student (September 22, 2013)
Maisie knows how it's done’, The Oxford Student (August 31, 2013)
The Lone Ranger: Step Right Up to Another Time’, The Oxford Student (August 20, 2013)
Foxfire: Teenage Girls Who'd Kill to Be Respected’, The Oxford Student (August 13, 2013)
Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’s Cure for Quarter-Life-Crisis’, The Oxford Student (August 4, 2013)
Blancanieves: a Silent, Bullfighting Snow White’, The Oxford Student (July 16, 2013)
Dexter: The Family-Friendly Serial Killer, Brought to You by Dr. Evelyn Vogel’, The Oxford Student (July 13, 2013)
The Bling Ring: The Glittery Spawns of Modern Evolution’, The Oxford Student (July 8, 2013)


Supervisors

Additional information

  • Student Representative for Postgraduate Students in Film and Television Studies
  • Edinburgh Napier University Class Medal, BA (Hons) English and Film, 2012