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Reading: Seeing Oneself Speak: Speech and Thought in First-Person Cinema


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Seeing Oneself Speak: Speech and Thought in First-Person Cinema


David Sorfa

The University of Edinburgh, GB
About David

David Sorfa is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh and and is editor-in-chief of the journal Film-Philosophy. He has written on Michael Haneke, Jan Švankmajer and Czech cinema as well as the philosophy of emotion. He has particular interests in film-philosophy, phenomenology, the work of Jacques Derrida and film adaptation.

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Cinema struggles with the representation of inner-speech and thought in a way that is less of a problem for literature. Film also destabilises the notion of the narrator, be they omniscient, unreliable or first-person. In this article I address the peculiar and highly unsuccessful cinematic innovation which we can call the ‘first-person camera’ or ‘first-person’ film. These are films in which the camera represents not just the point-of-view of a character but is meant to be understood as that character. Very few such films have been made, and I will concentrate on the way in which speech and thought are presented in Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947) and Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947). I use Jacques Derrida’s critique of the idea of ‘hearing oneself speak’ and phenomenology’s dream of direct experience to explore the generally understood failure of such films and conclude by considering the implications of such a technique for a homunculus theory of mind.

How to Cite: Sorfa, D., 2019. Seeing Oneself Speak: Speech and Thought in First-Person Cinema. JOMEC Journal, (13), pp.104–121. DOI:
Published on 04 Feb 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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