ABSTRACT

In The World Viewed, Stanley Cavell’s fi rst book about the movies, he addressed the perplexing question, what becomes of reality when it is transformed or transfi gured by the medium of fi lm? Forty years later, we are still coming to terms with his seminal refl ections about the ontology of motion pictures, including his brilliant and provocative observations about screen acting. In thinking about the relationship between fi lm actors and the camera-a relationship in which a screen performer “is the subject of a study, and a study not his own”—I have long pondered an equally perplexing question that Cavell left unspoken: namely, what becomes of the camera in the world on fi lm?1 As I will argue in what follows, the answer to this question is that, however paradoxical it may seem, the camera that is absent from the character’s world is no less real within her or his world-and, to be sure, no less unreal-than it is within the actor’s world, a world in which the camera is present. This answer returns us to Cavell’s question about the nature of the world on fi lm, and those “human somethings” within it, and allows us to consider it afresh.2