Representing Pain in Film : A Phenomenological Approach to Gibson, Tarantino and Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


What does pain look like? Pain is felt, as every human being knows. But what about its visibility? Is it possible to depict pain? We can represent its visible expressions. We can also, to a certain extent, capture that which causes pain. But what about pain itself? This paper addresses the question of how to represent pain from a phenomenological perspective. Adopting the phenomenological analysis of Jean-Luc Marion, its purpose is to explore a very specific form of phenomenality, what I shall term a phenomenality of compassion. In spite of the difficulties or even impossibility of representing pain as such, there are nonetheless representations that evoke a specific kind of pain in the viewing subject. What is at stake here, I argue, is a phenomenality which not only evokes the subject’s compassion (compassio) for the pain and suffering (passio) of the other, but which also calls the subject to responsibility for the other, urging it never to remain indifferent to the pain of the other.


External organisations
  • Stockholm school of theology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy
  • Studies on Film


  • visual pain, phenomenology, film, The Passion of the Christ, Jean-Luc Marion, compassion
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-74
JournalCulture and Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes