Personal Identity – Face – Substitution

“The skin of the face is that which stays most naked, most destitute. It is the most naked, though with a decent nudity. It is the most destitute also: there is an essential poverty in the face; the proof of this is that one tries to mask this poverty by putting on poses, by taking on a countenance. The face is exposed, menaced, as if inviting us to an act of violence. At the same time, the face is what forbids us to kill.” (Emmanuel Levinas: Ethics and Infinity, 85-86)

The next three screenings of the Philm Club will revolve around the question of how our face figures in our personal identity and in our relations with others. Beyond traditional oppositions of body and mind, the experience of a human face has become a major theme both in existential philosophy and phenomenology, as it seemed to elude all strict conceptual confines and become the most important “moment of encounter” as Emmanuel Levinas put it. Art in general, and films in particular have been very receptive to the problematic role that the human face plays in inter-personal relations, ethical norms, and emotional intelligence.

Tanin no kao (The Face of Another, Japan, 1966)
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Writer: Kôbô Abe (book, screenplay)
Japanese with English subtitles, 122 min.
Screening: Friday, October 18, 6 P.M.


The Face of Another (1966) completes a trilogy of collaborations between novelist Kôbô Abe and director Hiroshi Teshigahara which included Pitfall (1962) and Woman in the Dunes (1964). It marks a change of scenery from the other films, to an urban environment that allows for a more overwhelmingly paranoid depiction of existential questions, as well as for meditations on the possibility of nuclear war. A man is badly injured in a work accident, his face destroyed and his sense of self shaking. A psychiatrist makes him a mask, copying the face of a random man (incidentally, the actor who played the miner in Pitfall, and who, even in that first film, had his face duplicated) and they start experimenting with the idea of being someone else, free of oneself and of moral standards that come from individuality. A subplot is inserted about a young woman, the right side of whose face is disfigured. She has been hurt by others’ inquisitive eyes and insults, and has been shunned by men. She asks her older brother, the only man who understands her pain and solitude, to make love to her, hiding from him the intent of killing herself after then. The urban context makes the story less allegorical and easier for contemporary viewers to relate to, while the sheer beauty and complexity of story and image touches upon philosophical depth rarely encountered on film.

Shi gan (Time, South Korea, 2006)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
Korean with English subtitles, 97 min.
Screening: Friday, October 25, 6 P.M.


Seh-hee and Ji-woo have dated for two years; jealousy consumes her. She worries he will tire of her face. Then, she disappears. Telling no one, she goes to a plastic surgeon for a new face. Ji-woo has no idea where she is, although when he does respond to other women, someone unseen intervenes. Then, he meets See-hee, and although he tells her he misses Seh-hee, this new relationship blossoms into love. They talk at the same coffee house, visit the same sculpture park, and pose for the same photographs he did with Seh-hee. We know they are the same woman. Has this new face and renewed love made her happy? And what will Ji-woo do when he learns the truth? Is losing face losing self?

Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes, Spain, 1997)
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Spanish with English subtitles, 117 min.
Screening: Friday, November 15, 6 P.M. ATTENTION, CHANGE OF DATE!


“Abre los Ojos” is an intriguing and fascinating thriller with a journey to paranoia. The twenty-five year-old genius Alejandro Amenábar wrote and directed this masterpiece that is certainly the source of inspiration of “The Matrix”, with the concept of virtual reality. The handsome and wealthy César (Eduardo Noriega) is very successful with women and is having difficulties to get rid off Nuria (Najwa Nimri) that is his last affair. His best friend is Pelayo (Fele Martínez), who is unlucky with women and jealous of his friend. On his birthday party, César meets the gorgeous and sexy Sofia (Penélope Cruz) that is dating Pelayo and they have a crush on each other and spend the night together in her apartment. On the next morning, César finds Nuria stalking him in front of Sofia’s building and he accepts her ride home. However, she commits suicide crashing her car against a wall and César survives the crash, but with his face completely destroyed. The doctors do not have technology to restore his face and César is absolutely depressed and missing Sofia. One night, César meets Sofia and Pelayo in a bar and he drinks too much, falling on the street. However, on the next morning, Sofia finds César on the street and kisses him telling that she loves him. Then the doctors tell him that they are able to fix his face. Out of the blue, César’s happiness changes and he finds that he is trapped in a nightmare.

All screenings will be in Zrinyi 14, room 412. Looking forward to encountering your face there!


Eyes without a Face, October 4

This week’s movie marks the end of the horror series an the beginning of a new series about personal identity, face, and embodiment.

Les yeux sans visage (Eyes without a Face)


88 minutes

Director: Georges Franju

in French with English subtitles


A brilliant surgeon, Dr. Génessier, helped by his assistant Louise, kidnaps nice young women. He removes their faces and tries to graft them onto the head on his beloved daughter Christiane, whose face has been entirely spoiled in a car crash. All the experiments fail, and the victims die, but Génessier keeps trying. (imdb)

Friday, October 4th, 18:00

Zrinyi 14, room 412

Paranormal Activity , September 20

The new semester kicks off with a series of horror films. For this Friday we chose…

Paranormal Activity (2007)


86 minutes

director: Oren Peli

After a young, middle class couple moves into a suburban ‘starter’ tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be somehow demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night. Especially when they sleep. Or try to. (imdb)


Friday, September 20th, 18:00

Zrinyi 14, room 412

We are looking forward to see you there! Information about the next screenings will soon be made available.

Environments and Cultures Series

The Philm Club launches a new series entitled Environments and Cultures, focusing on the complex, often tense relationship and interaction that different people have with their natural or built environments. The common thread of the selected films is that in all of them the environment plays a leading role, refuses to function as a mere background for human dramas, and becomes an obtrusive presence on its own right, a force not to be messed with. How do specific environments influence the cultures emerging within? How do established cultural habits change environments? Where can we draw the line between us and nature, or should we draw it at all? What is wilderness and how should we relate to it? These questions and many others will be tackled in the course of the next three weeks.

TEN CANOES (Australia, 2006)

Screening: Friday, May 17, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.


Directed by Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr
Aboriginal with English subtitles, 90 min.

For the Australian Aborigines who are said to date back 65,000 years, the ancestor spirits are still alive. They are a part of an Aborigine’s “dreaming” and come to life in the stories indigenous Australians have told through the ages. Playfully narrated by Australian icon David Gulpilil, Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, tells a dreaming story that acts as a lesson for a young man in the tribe who feels that the youngest wife of his older brother should be his. The story has elements of kidnapping, sorcery, and revenge but is mostly about values: how a community living in a natural environment before the coming of the White man developed laws and systems to guide its people. The cast consists of indigenous residents of the Arafura region and many of the visuals recreate the photographs of Donald Thompson, a Melbourne anthropology professor who spent time in the 1930s with the Yolngu people of the Arafura Swamp.

Set a thousand years ago in central Arnhem Land near the Arafura Swamp in northern Australia, east of Darwin, a group of Ganalbingu tribesmen embark on a hunt for magpie geese, a wild bird used to sustain the tribe. To navigate the crocodile-infested swamp, elder Minygululu (Peter Minygululu) leads the tribe in building canoes made out of bark. When he discovers that Dayindi (played by Gulpilil’s son, Jamie) has a crush on his third wife, he tells him a story set in a mythical time after the great flood that explains how his people developed laws to govern their behavior, the same laws used by the tribes today. To distinguish between the past and the “present”, De Heer uses muted color to show the ancient landscape and black and white for the more modern story. (

KHADAK (Mongolia, 2006)

Screening: Friday, May 24, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

khadak (1)

Directed by:Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth
Mongolian with English subtitles, 104 min.

A true work of art. An emotional journey that captures the soul of Mongolian culture and tradition while posing important questions on the dilemma facing traditional Mongolian values by the destruction of Mongolians most precious treasures, their land and the animals.

Nomadic herders are being forced to abandon their homes due to a “plague” outbreak among animals. Despite their own herds being healthy, the family who is the focus of the beginning of the film are forcibly moved to a mining town, where their son Bagi, who has shamanic visions of his ancestors is forced to work for a pittance. The only food available seems to be potatoes, but there appears to be meat available on the black market, and this feeds speculation that the clearances were not motivated by animal sickness after all. Bagi is arrested and while in the detention center meets a group of young activists who want to rebel against their unlawful imprisonment, and to free the animals they know are still alive. The song they perform is a high point of the film, and adds to an already excellent score and soundtrack.

The film portrays people against the bleak background of the steppes where they’ve lived for centuries and the shoddy, differently bleak living complex and mining facility to where they’ve been relocated. The tension created is quite striking. (


Screening: Friday, May 31, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.


Directed by Werner Herzog
English, 103 min.

For thirteen years “grizzly man” Timothy Treadwell went to an Alaskan wildlife refuge on Kodiak Island and pitched his tent alone — and the last couple of times with a girlfriend (Amy Huguenard) — spending the summers among huge grizzly bears. The rest of the year he went to schools and “free of charge” showed his films of the bears and his exploits. When the last of his summers drew to a close he and his girlfriend died among the grizzlies as he’d always known — and even David Letterman had pointed out — that he might. Filmmaker Werner Herzog, longtime student of crazy eccentric loners on heroic doomed quests, has taken on Treadwell’s life and personality as the subject of a rare and powerful documentary.

At the heart of “Grizzly Man” are Herzog’s selective cuts from film Treadwell left behind chronicling both the bears and his own demons. Herzog has added interviews with women in Treadwell’s life, with his parents, with the pilot who took him to and from his campgrounds and later found his and his girlfriend’s remains, and with Franc Fallico, the unusually sympathetic and sensitive — and perhaps a bit loony — coroner who examined these. The director has bound it all together with his own frank and idiosyncratic narration. The result is a rare sober look at the more delusional aspects of man’s relations to wild animals. (

Social experiments series

April will be the month of social experiments at the Philm Club; we will screen a selection of movies tackling questions of social behavior and norms. More specifically, we selected allegories and experiments that question the behavioral norms of “normality” and present humans in limit situations to examine their responses. The topics range from Kafkaesque existential mazes to the “classic” prison experiment and unorthodox school experiments on ideology.

Cube (1997)

Directed by Vincenzo Natali
English, 90 minutes.


A handful of people find themselves lost in a maze of metallic cubelike rooms. Doors in the center of each surface, six in all in each room, lead to rooms that are nearly identical, though colors vary slightly and some rooms are horrendously booby-trapped. The purpose of the structure is entirely a mystery. The group of prisoners gathers as, one by one, each stumbles across others in their exploratory travels through the Cube. All agree they don’t know how they got into the Cube, and they team up to search for a way out.
Who put them in there? The government? Is it a prison? A test? A “rich psycho’s entertainment”? (

Screening: Friday, April 5, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Das experiment (The Experiment, 2001)

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
German with English subtitles, 120 min.


Human behavior is determined to some degree by the uniforms we wear. An army might march more easily in sweat pants, but it wouldn’t have the same sense of purpose. School uniforms enlist kids in the “student body.” Catholic nuns saw recruitment fall off when they modernized their habits. If you want to figure out what someone thinks of himself, examine the uniform he is wearing. Gene Siskel amused himself by looking at people on the street and thinking: When they left home this morning, they thought they looked good in that.

“Das Experiment” suggests that uniforms and the roles they assign amplify underlying psychological tendencies. In the experiment, 20 men are recruited to spend two weeks in a prison environment. Eight are made into guards and given quasi-military uniforms. Twelve become prisoners and wear nightshirts with numbers sewn on them. All 20 know they are merely volunteers working for a $1,700 paycheck.

The movie is based on a novel, Black Box, by Mario Giordano. The novel was inspired by the famous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971, a classic of role-playing. On that experiment’s Web site, its director, Philip G. Zimbardo, writes: “How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.” (

Screening: Friday, April 12, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Die welle (The Wave, 2008)

Directed by Dennis Gansel
German with English subtitles, 107 min.


Did you ever reflect on the circumstances that generate fascism? Are you aware of the fact that even you, yourself, might be a bit of a fascist and not know it? Such is the hypothesis and the test put forward by The Wave. Teacher Ron Jones follows very specific steps in order to prove to students, in a highly unorthodox way, the fact that everyone has it in them to become a fascist. (

Screening: Friday, April 19, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Bodies and Technologies

How is the human body transformed by technology? Are we still the “tool using animals” we once thought we were, or have we become technological resources ourselves? Are we – or are we becoming – machines after all? Where are we heading as a species given the escalating integration of machinery into our very flesh? And what do these technological add-ons do to individual lives? Endless enhancement of, and liberation from, the body, or bottomless disfiguration and restraint thereof? How is technology embodied and how does it impact our perceptual and appetitive world?
These and similar questions will be tackled at the Philm Club’s next three screenings Bodies and Technologies.

CRASH (1996)
Directed by David Cronenberg
English, 100 min.

A surreal meditation on sex, death and the eroticism of destruction, “Crash” focuses on an underground cult of car-crash fetishists. Transformed by scrapes with death, they sexualize each other’s scars and limb injuries, re-enact famous celebrity collisions and then have it off inside or next to the smashed-up mechanical corpses. Not surprisingly, “Crash” raised a huge stink the Cannes Film Festival, where it repulsed a big chunk of its audience but won a special jury prize for “originality, daring and audacity.”
EDWARD GUTHMANN, San Francisco Chronicle

Screening: February 8, 6 P.M.

Crash poster

LA PIEL QUE HABITO (2011, The Skin I Live In)
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Spanish with English subtitles, 120 min.

Bizarre, shocking, sexy and dark, this is Almodóvar at his brilliant melodramatic best as he toys with themes of obsession, revenge and playing God. Based on a novel by French writer Thierry Jonquet, the story includes many elements that are familiar to lovers of Almodóvar’s works, in his construct about a plastic surgeon intent on recreating a resilient artificial skin. In his address to a seminar as a surgeon responsible for successful face transplants, Dr Robert Ledgard (Banderas) tells his audience how it is our face that identifies us. The face that he sees on giant video screens throughout his home is that of Vera (Anaya), a beautiful young woman wearing a flesh-coloured bodysuit, who lives behind a locked door. Why is Vera his prisoner? What is the nature of their relationship? Why does her face resemble that of his dead wife? And what secrets does his housekeeper Marilia (Paredes), who claims to have insanity in her entrails, keep hidden?
Urban Cinefile

Screening: February 15, 6 P.M.


ROPÁCI (1988, Jan Sverák, 20 min.)
SPIKLENCI SLASTI (1996, Conspirators of Pleasure)
Directed by Jan Svankmajer
Czech with English subtitles, 85 min.

Conspirators of Pleasure has no dialogue, but each of its characters has his or her own unique form of private sexual self-expression, usually involving homemade autoerotic gizmos. A shopkeeper enjoys being caressed by robot arms while watching his favorite TV news anchorwoman. She likes having her toes sucked by fish. Her husband mortifies his flesh with devices that rotate feathers, bristles, and nails. A woman tortures an effigy of her neighbor; he does the same to her effigy while he’s dressed as a chicken. All are served by a postal delivery woman who rolls chunks of bread into dense pills and stuffs them into her nose and ears. These six cross paths without realizing that each is a member of this furtive fraternity of fetishists.
Czech director Jan Svankmajer, best known for his stop-motion animated shorts, takes his view of the human body as an arbitrary and malleable social construct (Kafka by way of David Cronenberg) into Buñuel territory. His cheerful, inventive satire on bourgeois sexual morality (if everyone is a deviant, then no one is, and no one need be ashamed) looks at all the creativity and hard work that goes into self-gratification and dares to call it art.
Screening: February 22, 6 P.M.

conspirators of pleasure

All screenings will be in Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Academic lives

For the next three weeks we have chosen three movies that capture, in a broad sense, different aspects of the academic life.  The distinct perspective found in each of the films could provide one with a glance on how generally human concerns fit the coordinates of a life dedicated to knowledge and research. The topics will go from a story about rivalry and academic success, to a humorous perspective on writing and literature, and, finally, to the intertwining of personal drama with the teaching activity.

Here are the films. All screenings will take place in Zrinyi 14, room 412, at 18:00.

November 16th: Hearat Shulayim (Footnote), 2011, Israel

Directed by Joseph Cedar. 103 min.


The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The son has an addictive dependency on the embrace and accolades that the establishment provides, while his father is a stubborn purist with a fear and profound revulsion for what the establishment stands for, yet beneath his contempt lies a desperate thirst for some kind of recognition. The Israel Prize, Israel’s most prestigious national award, is the jewel that brings these two to a final, bitter confrontation. (imdb)

November 23: Wonder Boys (2000)

Directed by Curtis Hanson. 107 min


In this comedy, a middle-aged man juggles his problems with women, literature, and a career, while a younger man chases the artifact of his dreams. Pittsburgh college professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) is currently single following his divorce from his third wife; after publishing an acclaimed first novel, Grady has been working on a follow-up, but he’s been sidelined by a severe case of writer’s block. Grady has more than his writing career to think about; his affair with one of the (married) chancellors at the University of Pittsburgh (Frances McDormand), has resulted in her pregnancy, while Hannah (Katie Holmes), a student boarding at Grady’s house, has developed a crush on him. While Grady is obsessed with his book, one of his students (Tobey Maguire) has an obsession of his own: finding a jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe. (

November 30th: A single man (2009)

Directed by Tom Ford. 99 min.


George Falconer (Colin Firth) feels lost. Not only is he still grieving the death of his longtime companion, Jim (Matthew Goode), but he’s also a Brit teaching English at a California college. He’s so distraught with heartbreak that he’s decided to kill himself, and proceeds to get all his affairs in order while carrying on with what otherwise would be a normal day. (