Awe as an Emotional Core of Science Fiction Film

Sarı M.

Senses of Science Fiction: Visions, Sounds, Spaces, Warszawa, Poland, 5 - 07 December 2019

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: Warszawa
  • Country: Poland
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Sublime in cinema is often associated with art films, which are aesthetically powerful and emotionally intense. However, the emotions these films elicit in the audience have not been studied in depth. The expression of the sublime in films first and foremost elicits awe in the viewers. Awe is a complex emotion and has recently started to find space in the taxonomies of emotion theories but it hasn’t been discussed from cognitive and phenomenological film theories’ perspectives. Subsuming pleasure and fear, awe is important for affective and emotional engagement with science fiction films. In this study I discuss awe as a cinematic emotion in the science fiction genre from a phenomenological approach. My focus will be particularly on three examples of blockbuster science fiction films: Prometheus (2012), Interstellar (2014) and Arrival (2016). These films have distinctive depictions of sublime and they suggest two distinguishing features of awe (i.e. vastness and accommodation) by treating various aspects of the sci-fi themes and by their affective qualities. Experience of something vast make characters (and viewers) feel small and powerless, there arises a need for accommodation. Satisfaction of this need depends on the ways of embracing sublime.