Last night we were iced in, and our dinner guest was iced out, so we watched the netflix we had here, Brand upon the Brain!, an indie silent film from 2006, complete with intertitles. (Trailer is here.) The movie poster is pretty good, and it nicely depicts how well the film relates to an article I'm working on about Aristotle's notion of phantasia, the term he (and other ancients too) used for visual capacity in a variety of indirect contexts--e.g., dreams, memories, hallucinations, delusions, reflections in mirrors. Aristotle also uses the term to talk about the images that remain when we look at the sun and close our eyes, or to discuss what happens when we strain to see whether something at a distance is in fact a man.
Phantasia, in other words, is sight or vision (visions?) that gets called upon in fuzzy contexts, in contexts of uncertainty.
In any case, Brand upon the Brain! turns on phantasizing--most of the plot action is a man's childhood memories on the island where he grew up, and those memories often feature dreams, blurry images, a delusional mother straining to find her children using the lighthouse spotlight, and there is also considerable intrigue involving uncertain identity. Sound, too, enters the phantasia picture with a large instrument called an "aerophone," a portable device that looks like a small phonograph but works more like a walkie talkie, created by the main character's kookoo inventor father so that his mother can keep track of her children on the island. The detail I love and that works so well in the film is that words weren't exactly discernible on this aerophone, unless, that is, the person speaking/shouting them is emotionally exercised (which their mother often was).
Since this is a silent film, and the characters do not speak per se, the aerophone stands in for speech by hurtling impossibly scratchy, screechy noises over long distances. In De Anima, Aristotle also talks about how a noise made by a mouth is not tantamount to a voice, but in order for someone to have voice--i.e., to be articulate, and to make meaning--there has to be phantasia, or the ability to envisage or conjure images that go along with words. And get this: phantasia is totally ramped up when emotions are running high, or so says Aristotle. Relatedly, I'm arguing that phantasia is rhetoric's primary perceptive faculty, at least where Aristotle is concerned.
In any case, movie does really interesting stuff with these categories of sight and sound, experimenting with the way that sound (not voice) can also help images narrate and emote. Silent movie makers knew (know?) this better than most, I suppose. And Brand upon the Brain!'s replication of the fuzzy filmstock and circular vignettes with darkness and light only enhances the rest of the film's narrative dalliances with phantasia.