Cinema and Despair

HPI Character and Action Seminar
Led by Prof. Dan Morgan (bio)



Robert Bresson is best known for his “transcendental film style” from the 1950s through the mid-1960s, films which employ a sparse aesthetic and radically reconfigured actions in order to depict characters in the spiritual crises of grace and desolation. With these later films, however, Bresson responds to and articulates a sense of political despair—not least over the failure of the events of May 1968—as a crisis of action: what does one do when there is no hope? how can one live in a world of structural catastrophe? how do impersonal systems of exchange ensnare individuals without their awareness? Bresson takes these questions as problems that are simultaneously ethical and aesthetic, about how we should act and about how cinema can articulate them. This course looks at the formal structure of Bresson’s late films to see the intersections of ethics and aesthetics within them.

Seminar Details

  • Coursework: Seminar sessions will either be film screenings or discussions of the films in light of assigned readings. All readings and the reading schedule will be provided upon RSVPing for the seminar.
  • Meeting Times: Sundays and Mondays, 6pm-8pm (11/4-11/5; 11/11-11/12; 11/18-11/19). All meetings will be in Cobb 302.
  • Eligibility: All University of Chicago students are eligible to participate, but space is limited.
  • Participation: To RSVP, please contact Zack Loveless:
  • Deadline: Please RSVP by November 1st, 2018.