Running as a cinematic subject

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Ever since Eadweard Muybridge first photographed a man sprinting in 1887 running has worn its own path across the cinematic landscape. Running couples a natural cinematic impulse because, like cinema, it is a temporal and spatial experience. However, what truly makes running a profound cinematic subject is its expressive and perceptive nature. That is, when we are running we are not only engaged physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Running forces us to go beyond our physical ourselves, to reach an enlightened state, which is in many ways similar to the embodied experience of watching a film. Cinema is widely viewed as a transformative medium that gives life to the invisible, subjective world of imagination, thoughts, and ideas. Running and cinema are ultimately visceral experiences with the power to reorient our subjectivity and thus transform our perceptions of the world and ourselves. In sum, the spatial, temporal, and reflexive similarities between running and cinema make the two a seamless pair. In order to argue running's inherent cinematic impulse and demonstrate these parallels between running and cinema this paper analyzes three running films: 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner' (1962), 'Spirit of the Marathon' (2007), and 'Finding Traction' (2014). It also looks at my film, 'There's a Light Beyond These Woods' (2016), and the stylistic and technical choices I made in order to capture an authentic running experience. In a world where increasingly more emphasis is being placed on personal narratives and self-reflexivity, perhaps running films are the ideal representation of how cinematic storytelling can inspire self-reflexivity and alter our embodied consciousness.


There's a Light Beyond These Woods is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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