Have you ever noticed that we use spatial metaphors to describe empathy? "Walk a mile in the shoes of another and you’ll know a bit about what it’s like to be her." Empathy is an aspect of emotional intelligence that depends on our ability to occupy the emotional space of another in order to bring some of that space back into our own. Most films invite us to identify with their characters by playing on our empathic abilities. And many use their depictions of space to help with this process. Neuroscience has recently taken an interest in the idea that the same parts of the brain might be responsible for both the experience of empathy and certain modes of visual spatialization. Could it be that films have been intuitively playing off of this connection for decades? And while we’re used to thinking about space in visual terms, have you ever noticed the role that sound plays in our spatial experiences, both in films and the world outside the screening room? In this talk, sound-studies scholar Dr. Randolph Jordan explores these questions using Gus Van Sant’s film Last Days as a case study for a method of hearing empathic space in film. To facilitate the discussion, Dr. Jordan will draw on his current research at the intersection of film sound and the field of acoustic ecology as a way of thinking about cinematic space through ecological modes of thought. Through attention to the sound of the environments in which we live, acoustic ecology invites us to engage more deeply with these spaces, and Dr. Jordan argues that this ecological engagement can be understood as a form of empathy. Join us for this unique opportunity to explore how thinking about film sound on ecological terms reveals the spatial dimension of empathy.
Please try to watch the film before.