Keira’s Kiss. The Affordance of “Kissability” in the Film Experience

Adriano D'Aloia

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroChapter


This essay draws on cognitive psychology and neuroscience to explain how the cinematic kiss turns the film experience into a sensuous and intimate experience. By analyzing a series of cinematic kissing scenes selected from dramas with British actress Keira Knightley as the main female character, I argue that the spectator’s desire and sense of intimacy are influenced by prereflexive perceptual dynamics and their neural correlates, in particular on the perception of affordance, as psychologist James J. Gibson posited it at the core of his ecological approach to visual perception. With regards to cinematic kissing as an act perceived by the spectator, it can be argued that lips are “kiss-on-able,” i.e., “kissable,” that is: lips afford kissing. In the chapter I make the bold claim that Keira Knightley’s lips are particularly “kissable.” This probably depends also on the individual physiognomic formation of her face and her way of talking (protruding lower jaw, slender cheeks, naturally full lips and large teeth are physical elements that directly express a tendency both to “explore” the surrounding environment and engage in intersubjective relationships principally via her lips). However, it is not a mere matter of physiognomy. Rather, a series of factors contributes to enhance “kissability.” First, aesthetic and stylistic factors such as mise en scène (makeup, acting style, photography etc.) and shot size (especially the use of closeups of her face and extreme closeups of her lips). Second, cognitive factors, including the narrative construction of the film: the kissing scene is often a climax in melodramas or dramatic scenes in other genres, and its emotional potential is narratively prepared. The analysis of kissing scenes selected from film starring Keira Knightley support this hypothesis—the”dancing kiss” Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007), the “quasi-kiss” Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Gore Verbinski, 2006), the “singing kiss” in The Edge of Love (John Maybury, 2008), and the “biting kiss” in A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2001).
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteIntimacy in Cinema: Critical Essays on English Language Films
EditorDavid Roche, Isabelle Schmitt
Numero di pagine13
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014
Pubblicato esternamente


  • Affirdance
  • Film experience
  • Intimacy
  • Kiss
  • Philematology


Entra nei temi di ricerca di 'Keira’s Kiss. The Affordance of “Kissability” in the Film Experience'. Insieme formano una fingerprint unica.

Cita questo