Learning Existentialism Through Film

You can learn about existentialism, which is a theory of philosophy, through film. Movies can help you understand philosophical views of the world.

The other day I watched two films. The first was a 1992 movie called, “The Crying Game”. Putting the plot of the film next to Sartre’s existential philosophy helps to explain some basic points of the theory.

Both films are highly interesting on their own without thinking about philosophical themes. But the two together give you an insight into the philosophy of the films.

The first is a story about an IRA “soldier” and his cell who capture a British soldier. Fergus, the IRA man, guards Jody, the soldier, and eventually is supposed to kill him. But he can’t and the soldier runs away only to be run down by a British armored car. Before this happens, The Brit tries to convince Fergus he can change his cold-hearted killer nature.

Jody asked Fergus if, after he is killed, will he look after his girlfriend in England. Fergus promises he would. In the end his nature is changed.

The film shows the existential view of freedom to choose and take responsibility for the choice. Fergus gave up his foundational beliefs and becomes a caring human being.

The film shows that our lives are the product of our choices and there are possibilities for transformation of our characters, they are not fixed!

The second film was “Lost in Translation”. The story of a man and a woman who meet and are at loose ends in their lives. They communicate about their situations to try to figure them out.

They both are attempting to escape their troubled situations. The man wants to escape his unhappy marriage and the woman wants to escape the uncertainty of her future.

The conclusion is: Escape isn’t an option, in fact, it’s not possible! You have to accept the fact that change will come from your actions. They both must make a choice in response to their present situations and then they must take full responsibility for their choices.

Films, like fiction, can make the transition to philosophical thinking easier and fun.


Originally published at Writer Dave.