Guest Lecture by Julian Hanich | Affects and Emotions in Film: Part 2

19.05.2023 17:00 - 18:30


Guest lecture: “Film and the Beauty of Nature: An Ecological Perspective” by Julian Hanich

In this talk Julian Hanich will raise the question if the affectively charged experience of natural beauty in film, under certain circumstances, can contribute positively to the debate about ecocinema, ecocriticism and an environmentally progressive aesthetics.

Perceiving beauty is a key appeal of film, and the cinema, from its beginnings, often sought and found the sources of this pleasure in nature. This is no different today: natural beauty entices anywhere from mainstream movies to art cinema, from experimental films to wildlife documentaries. Yet against the catastrophic upheavals reshaping our natural world for some viewers the experience of natural beauty has become increasingly fraught with doubt, even melancholy. While longing for cinema’s beauty of nature, they find it hard to avoid mourning it at the same time. Others have gone further and rejected looking at nature’s beauty as frivolous, even ideologically dubious.

Starting from analyses of beautiful ecocritical films such as RR (2007, James Benning) or Gunda (2021, Victor Kossakovsky), Julian Hanich shows that rejecting representations of natural beauty—and the affective experiences that come with it—would be a grave mistake: it would not only rob us of a fundamental aesthetic experience but also a weapon against environmental ignorance.

Philosophically, his position comes close to what in environmental aesthetics is called aesthetic preservationism. According to scholars embracing this position, natural beauty is an important justification for environmental protection, and it comes with a powerful aesthetic imperative: Just as there’s a duty to preserve beautiful art, there’s an obligation to preserve beautiful nature. Aesthetic preservationism therefore concludes that environmental ethics should take environmental aesthetics more seriously. And for this the medium of film seems invaluable because it can combine moving images of beautiful nature with subtle ethical argumentations. The two films mentioned above will serve as strong cases in point.

Julian Hanich is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Groningen. He is the author of three monographs: The Audience Effect: On the Collective Cinema Experience (Edinburgh UP), Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear (Routledge) and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau: City Girl (Edition Text + Kritik). With Daniel Fairfax, he co-edited The Structures of the Film Experience by Jean-Pierre Munier: Historical Assessments and Phenomenological Expansions (Amsterdam UP); and with Christian Ferencz-Flatz he was responsible for an issue of Studia Phaenomenologica on ‘Film and Phenomenology.’ Currently, he is co-editing, with Martin Rossouw, a volume entitled What Film Is Good For: On the Values of Spectatorship (University of California Press). His research focuses on film aesthetics, cinematic emotions, film and imagination, film phenomenology, and the collective cinema experience. His work can be found at, and

The lecture will be in English. Attendance is free.

This event is a part of a series of guest lectures “Affects and Emotions in Film” hosted by the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies (tfm) and supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Dr. Joanna Lapinska, M.A.
Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies (tfm), Seminar room 2H510 (5th floor), UZA II, Rotunde, Josef-Holaubek-Platz 2, 1090 Vienna