Malevolence (and its causes) has been central to film since its inception; the birth of film coinciding with a fascination with crime, death, murder, horror, etc. Films which address the problem of evil, however, are less frequent and fewer in quantity; especially films which respond to a body of thought – philosophical or theological – which has deliberated on the topic of evil over the centuries. Cinema and Evil: Moral Responsibility and the “Dangerous” Film addresses these films. It explores the legacy of evil from Manicheanism to Arendt, assessing the alternative definitions offered by philosophers, theologians and writers per se, on its problematic status. It then considers how the films of filmmakers such as Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Michael Haneke, Gus Van Sant, and Lynne Ramsay have responded to the problem of evil in their films. In case by case studies, filmmakers’ response to “evil” events, whether those such as the Holocaust or Columbine, in which evil is used as a descriptor for human behaviour, is explored. The book refers to these as “dangerous” films, tasking us with the need to consider evil as a problem which is also our responsibility. It argues that these filmmakers have been at the forefront of ethical deliberation on evil.
Dara Waldron is Lecturer in Critical and Contextual Studies in the School of Art and Design, Limerick Institute of Technology.