Cinema Violence and the Ontology of Capitalism


  • Se Young Kim Vanderbilt University, USA


Marxist film theory, Marxist philosophy, Cinematic violence, Media violence, Capitalist ideology, Class antagonism


Cinema, in its most massively produced and widely disseminated format in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is violent. In dialogue with both the public discourse and scholarship regarding the cinematic representation of violence, this paper approaches film violence through a Marxist framework. It does so to propose that the philosophy of Karl Marx reveals critical insight regarding the relationship between cinema, violence, and capital. In particular, this essay scrutinizes commercial narrative cinema and thus approaches cinema as hegemony. The violence of cinema is considered to have a role in reproducing the social organization of capitalism, namely the hierarchical relationship between the ruling and ruled classes. Cinema has historically used violence in narrative and spectacle to propagate these relations of production, the ontology of capitalism that consists of Cartesian subjectivity and its vertical orientation towards the Other. In other words, violent cinema is crucial for the subject in capitalism, for it shares the pivotal function of perpetuating class antagonism. But because cinema must constantly mediate the violence of capital, simultaneously obfuscating it while also maintaining it, violent cinema — like the proletariat — also holds the emancipatory potential of its own critique and eventual dismantling.




How to Cite

Kim, S. Y. (2016). Cinema Violence and the Ontology of Capitalism. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, (8), 10–29. Retrieved from