On Icarus' Wings. Cinematic experience of falling bodies

Adriano D'Aloia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay describes the ways in which the film spectator experiences physically and psychically the cinematic representation of falling human bodies, with particular regard to the culmination of this movement: the impact. The latter is usually not shown on screen because of its psycho-physiological ‘violence’. Cinema employs a series of stylistic strategies – ‘replacement’, ‘obscuration’, ‘diversion’, ‘interposition’ intended to represent the ‘unrepresentable’. To explain how these strategies operate, I will draw upon both recent neurocognitive experiments and classic experimental psychology demonstrations on visual occlusion and evaluate their implications for film aesthetics. In particular, I argue that the cinematic fall is experienced empathetically. The essay concludes with a brief analysis of a short film on 9/11 by A. G. Inarritu in order to illuminate the bond forged between the aforementioned strategies and the symbolic dimensions of the film viewing experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-97
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Effetto Tunnel
  • Esperienza filmica
  • Film experience
  • Mirror neurons
  • Neuroni specchio
  • Occlusione visiva
  • Tunnell effect
  • Visual occlusion


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