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RESEARCH ARTICLE Dis/liking disgust: the revulsion experience at the movies

By Julian Hanich


Disgust is a frequent and often powerful part of the cinematic experience – from horror movies and teenage comedies to fantasy films and art-house pictures. This paper aims in three directions: (a) it sheds light on the structure of the cinematic disgust experience; (b) it points out aesthetic strategies that provoke disgust effectively; (c) it tries to identify what aesthetic functions disgust might have. In the first part I argue that the revulsion experience implies the obtrusive closeness of a disgusting filmic object (or act) and a peculiar constriction of the viewer’s lived body. Both characteristics can lead to aversive reactions like looking away or moaning, which in turn have a relieving quality since they enable a more appropriate aesthetic distance and an expansion of the lived body. Looking at Pasolini’s Salo ̀ and the teenage comedy National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, I subsequently show how disgust can be produced and intensified aesthetically: through the choice of potent disgusting objects, the use of close-ups as well as the involvement with characters via somatic empathy and sympathy. The paper ends with a discussion of the main functions of disgust: pleasure and provocation

Topics: aesthetics of disgust, cinéma vomitif, phenomenology, synaesthesia, Pasolini’s Salò, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder No doubt
Year: 2016
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