The Ernest Becker Foundation
|Personal and Cultural Armor against Death: A Cinematic Exploration with Ernest Becker as Guide|
|Tuesday, 01 December 1998 03:00|
Ernest Becker's writings provide a cogent analysis of how individuals and cultures cope with the prospect of their own demise and how these modes of coping contribute to individual and social problems. Interestingly, a variety of filmmakers have also explored these topics, typically in ways that converge very nicely with Becker's analysis. In this talk, I will explore the armor people use to deal with their fears of death by utilizing Becker's framework in conjunction with excerpts from two films, Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, and Bruce Beresford's Black Robe.
Bergman's film, which established the prototypic film personification of death, is arguably cinema's most direct and powerful portrayal of the ways in which people address the problem of death. Beresford's film takes us back to early Jesuit missionary activity in eastern Canada to examine the clash of two very similar yet very different forms of cultural armor. The backdrop of each film is death; however, in the foreground, each film reveals in its own way the fragility and nobility of the human pursuit of meaning.
Jeff is an experimental social psychologist colleague and collaborator with Tom Pyszczynski and Sheldon Solomon in producing the empirical data substantiating Becker's theses.
Laughing at Death
Becker “too dark?” He said laughter reflects a very advanced stage of faith and grace. See Neil’s "Laughing at Death: The evolution of humor to disarm fundamentalism.”
Download a .pdf version of Neil's essay here.