The Cinema of Moral Anxiety is a Polish film movement that began in the 1960s and continued until the end of the 1970s.

The films from that period were characterized by their engagement with the problems of modern society, including social criticism, moral ambiguity, bleakness, and nihilism.

The main representatives of this movement were Krzysztof Zanussi and Krzysztof Kieślowski.


Cinema of moral anxiety

What Is Cinema of moral anxiety?

The Cinema of moral anxiety polish film movement is a Polish film movement characterized by probing the malaise of the communist era, an existential crisis or what has been called a “moral anxiety”.

The movement began around 1956 and continued until the end of communism in Poland in 1989. It was made up of both directors who had started their careers before 1956 and those who began making films afterwards.

It’s representative figures include Andrzej Munk, Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Kazimierz Kutz, Janusz Morgenstern, Tadeusz Konwicki and many others.

The term itself was coined by Marek Hłasko in 1956 in his article entitled “The Cinema of Moral Anxiety”.

He used it to describe many different works by different directors that he felt shared similar themes.



What Is The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety?

Moral anxiety is one of the most common themes in Russian cinema, especially in the post-Soviet era.

The term describes a state of emotional crisis suffered by characters who feel they have lost their orientation, who can no longer be sure of who they are or what they should do.

This moral crisis may be caused by radical changes in the world around them, as well as by a lack of self-confidence or an inability to identify and act on their own values.

In many cases, this moral anxiety is portrayed through characters whose lives are centered on family relations, including spouses and children.

This is true for Vyacheslav Krishtofovich’s film “Come and See” (1985), which depicts a child soldier in World War II who loses his faith in God and humanity after witnessing atrocities committed by both sides.

It’s also true for Aleksey Balabanov’s film “Brother” (1997), in which protagonist Danila Bagrov finds himself torn between his love for his family back home and his loyalty to his criminal brother.

One of the most interesting examples of this theme is Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “Solaris” (1972).

Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety is an approach to film analysis. The theory was developed by Travis Crawford and David Bordwell of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Department of Film and Drama.

The approach focuses on how films portray social mores and the consequences for those who violate them, morally or ethically. Generally, these films are dramas or thrillers that are focused on the protagonist dealing with threat to society.


The concept of cinema of moral anxiety was first put forth in the article “Cinema of Moral Anxiety” which was published in Film Criticism Vol. 23, No. 2 (Winter 1998), pp. 47–69. In this article, Travis Crawford and David Bordwell discuss how a particular film may portray anxiety about a moral issue and what it suggests about the culture in which it was made.

One way to understand this theory is through an example: in the film Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson plays a lawyer who gets involved with drug smuggling so he can make money to open a hotel in New Orleans.In order to do this, he has to deal with people like drug runners, bikers and thieves.

When caught by authorities, he realizes that all his efforts were for nothing because his hotel will never get built due to local opposition from property owners.

Cinema Of Moral Concern

The cinema of moral concern is a system of analysis in film theory that considers the ethical implications of a film. It was developed by French Catholic critic André Bazin and his associates, including François Truffaut.

Bazin’s argument is that the viewer of a film is not an isolated individual but one who is immersed in a social context.The response a viewer has to any given film, then, is not simply an emotional or intellectual one, but also a moral one.

The cinema of moral concern considers that the job of the filmmaker is as much to make viewers think about what they have seen as it is to entertain them. This can be achieved through a variety of means: directly addressing the audience; using stylistic elements like symbolism or mise en scene; creating narratives with clear moral messages; or examining the relationship between characters within a story.

If the viewer responds to these elements with a critical reflection on their own position and how they interact with others around them, then they are considered to have been morally affected by this cinematic experience. By extension, filmmakers must consider that what they are showing may affect their audiences morally.

The Polish Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

 The term ‘moral anxiety’ was coined by the German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers in his 1936 book General Psychopathology. He describes moral anxiety as “a kind of fear which is peculiar to human beings, since it does not occur in the animal kingdom”.

However, this was not a new concept for Jaspers.

Over a decade earlier, he had written about ‘Weltschmerz’ – an almost Schopenhauerian sense of despair at the futility of life. While Jaspers conceived of Weltschmerz as a personal condition, it can easily be seen as a precursor to moral anxiety in that both are essentially forms of existential angst.

Moral anxiety is essentially a feeling of dread or fear brought on by certain moral conflicts or dilemmas. It may also be triggered by feelings of uncertainty borne out of one’s own ethical failings and doubts.

This type of anxiety is often referred to as a state of dissonance or inner turmoil caused by opposing values and beliefs, leading the individual to question their own judgements and actions. In extreme cases, it can even result in mental collapse or psychosis.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, many artists have sought to depict this uneasy feeling through art.

History Of The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

The History of Cinema Of Moral Anxiety is a teaching resource that introduces the reader to the use of cinema within philosophical discussions of moral anxiety. The book provides an overview of the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Antonio Negri, which are foundational for understanding their use of the cinema, specifically Godard’s A bout de souffle (Breathless), in their argument regarding the creation and production of subjectivity.


This is followed by a discussion of how contemporary filmmakers have continued to focus on this theme through the work of David Lynch and Brian De Palma. The book also looks at how this theme has become a prominent feature in recent horror films, namely with examples such as Drag Me To Hell, Sinister, or Insidious.

Finally, the book provides a detailed analysis of the 2015 hit comedy-horror film It Follows.The book is intended for use in university level courses covering philosophy and film studies.

It will be particularly useful for those studying ethics and political philosophy where students will be able to understand how philosophical texts can be used to inform a reading of specific cinematic works – something that has not really been covered before in any detail in writing about cinema from a philosophical perspective.

Essential Filmmakers Of The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

What is the Cinema of Moral Anxiety (CMA)?

The cinema of moral anxiety, or CMA, is a term coined by David Bordwell to describe a style of filmmaking that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is characterized by its focus on middle class suburban life, and its use of formalist techniques to portray that life as an empty and stifling existence.

The movement was both praised and criticized for its focus on dramatic form over content, but it also brought about a new level of self-consciousness among filmmakers. The CMA is often associated with the baby boomer generation and the youth counterculture of the late 60s and 70s, but it also reflected postmodern sensibilities in the 80s.

If you want to know more about this important movement in film history, keep reading! Here are some essential filmmakers of the cinema of moral anxiety:Hal Ashby, Hal Ashby is one of the most important filmmakers of the cinema of moral anxiety era. His social dramas captured both the existential frustration and sentimentality that defines many films from this period.

“Harold and Maude” (1971) was his breakout hit. It’s about an unlikely romance between a death obsessed teenaged boy and an elderly woman who loves life.

Essential Films Of The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

In the last few years of the 20th century, a new, unapologetic and often darkly comic voice began to emerge in American independent filmmaking.

If you were going to find this new style at its purest, you’d have to look to the work of two young filmmakers working on opposite coasts. David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino shared a sensibility that was best captured by critic Jim Emerson: “The cinema of moral anxiety.”

These two filmmakers — one from the Pacific Northwest, one from southern California — have each made his mark as an auteur. But it’s their attitude toward American culture that defines them more than anything else.

Both men were born in the 1960s, which means they came of age during what became known as the “Me Decade,” named after Tom Wolfe’s famous New York Magazine essay published at the tail end of 1970.It was an era when baby boomers were coming into their own — rejecting any sense of social responsibility and embracing self-gratification as if it were their god-given right as Americans.

Tarantino and Lynch instead saw this culture shift as something more sinister — a sign that America was on a dangerous slide into nihilism. Their response was to make art about America’s descent into moral.

Importance Of The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

The Cinema of Moral Anxiety is a film theory term that describes the psychological appeal of movies that focus on fear and anxiety about moral decline.

The theory was first written about by film critic Molly Haskell in her 1976 essay “From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies”, and was further developed by film critics Carol Clover, Camille Paglia and others. The term has also been used to describe the subgenre of horror films that focus on these themes.

The Cinema of Moral Anxiety is an analysis of the way filmmakers have represented contemporary cultural fears and anxieties through narrative and imagery. The theorist behind this concept, Carol Clover, defines these movies as being “about” the decline of American manhood or masculinity.

These films are typically thrillers with a plot that focuses on a male protagonist who must overcome a threatening female character. This can be seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Brian De Palma’s Carrie, and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs.

In his article “The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety”, critic Scott Bukatman writes “Clover sees slasher fiction as a literalization of the Freudian sexual trauma theory: ‘…the victim is actually traumatized by a symbolic re-enactment of her own violation.’

Cinema Of Moral Anxiety Theory

The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety Theory is a theory that addresses the ways in which directors use film to create anxiety in their audiences. The cinema of moral anxiety theory is not just a theory of film, it is a theory of life.

It says that we are not born with a moral compass, and it is up to each and every one of us to create one for ourselves.We are all born as blank slates, but we are also born into an immoral world.

It is our choice whether or not to follow in the footsteps of others, or forge our own path. This does not mean that we should abandon the morals and ethics of our society, but rather we should make them our own by exploring them and finding out what they mean to us individually.

So many films are about young men who struggle with their own humanity and their inability to fit in with society at large.

They learn that they can never truly fit in with the world around them no matter how hard they try, because ultimately they will always hold themselves accountable to the choices that they make.Society will judge them, but more importantly they will judge themselves by their own standards and values.

The cinema of moral anxiety theory says that each and every one of us will eventually have to come face-to-face with.

The End Of The Cinema Of Moral Anxiety

“Moral anxiety” is a term I’ve come to use for certain films of the early 1990s, which were released at a time when art cinema was being subsumed by the more radically innovative forms of independent cinema.The films in question are the work of David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Soderbergh, who was just coming into his own as a filmmaker, and who had only recently begun to be seen as something other than “that guy who made sex, lies, and videotape.”

Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), Fincher’s Alien 3 (1992) and Soderbergh’s King Of The Hill (1993) were all made at around the same time, and they share several things in common. They are all cult films that have been elevated to canonical status through passionate fandom.

They are all films whose directors’ careers were significantly affected by their critical reception. And they are films that provoked an especially intense wave of moral anxiety among both critics and audiences.

The reason for this has to do with how these films treat violence. By 1992, Hollywood had been dealing with real world violence for decades: World War II provided plenty of material for war movies; gangsters like Al Capone, Bugsy.

 Cinema Of Moral Anxiety – Wrapping Up

In this final installment of the Cinema Of Moral Anxiety trilogy, I will be looking at how filmmakers have used cinema to explore moral anxiety in more recent years.

Step 1: Define The Problem – What is Film Noir?

Film noir, simply put, is a genre that has a lot of very dark and pessimistic movies, set in urban environments.

Many of these films take place after WWII, or in the post-WWII era.This gives them an interesting context as they are dealing with themes of reconstruction and the effects of war on society.

Most film noirs revolve around some sort of investigation or mystery – often involving murder. A few examples are The Big Sleep (1946), Laura (1944), and The Maltese Falcon(1941).

Step 2: Analyze the Problem – What is Moral Anxiety?

Moral anxiety is a term used to describe a feeling of uneasiness with regards to conventional morality and behavior. It can manifest itself in feelings such as guilt and shame for immoral acts one has committed or fears one may commit in the future.

The term was coined by sociologist Charles Horton Cooley in 1902, although it was not widely used until 1972 when psychologist Theodore Millon identified moral anxiety as a personality disorder.

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