Film and Sublime Experience

Hi, I’m Sara Suarez, and for my summer research project, “Communicating Sublime Experiences Through Film,” I’ll be researching how artists portray encounters with the sublime — and I’ll be making a short experimental film based on these findings.

“The sublime” is a concept in art, literature, and aesthetics that is hard to pin down, but most readily described as something so great as to be terrible, or absolutely beyond human understanding. Artists and theorists have approached and refined this concept in myriad ways, and one goal of this project is to track some of the changes over time to this concept.

I will begin by researching different approaches to understanding the sublime, figuring out some of the different aspects of this complicated concept that artists have focused on over the years — especially in film (which has a much shorter history than other modes of expression). I’ll also be tracking which artistic methods and techniques in various media have been most successful in expressing sublime experience, and what makes those techniques effective.

The ultimate goal is to create an experimental film which will attempt to express the emotional/psychological sensations of sublime experience, in as direct and visceral a way as possible. The object is not to depict some sublime thing, but to express something of what it is like to encounter something so vast and unnameable it defies human understanding. This will require a more metaphorical and expressionistic use of the elements of film than most films do — one goal is that viewers engage with the film on an intuitive, rather than strictly intellectual, level. I expect I’ll be using a lot of weird sounds and visual effects. This will be tough but I’m excited to get started!