Visions and Prophecies in Cinema. The Moment of Revelation.

Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (12.-13.12.2019), 24. May 2019.

Call for Papers

Dec 12, 2019 – Dec 13, 2019
Location: Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium)

Submission deadline: May 24, 2019

Organizing Committee

- Ralph Deconinck (UCLouvain/INCAL/Cinespi)
- Sébastien Fevry (UCLouvain/GIRCAM/Cinespi)
- Jean-Benoît Gabriel (UNamur)
- Serge Goriely (UCLouvain/Cinespi)
- Arnaud Join-Lambert (UCLouvain/RSCS/Cinespi)
- Walter Lesch (UCLouvain/RSCS)
- Jean-Luc Maroy (UCLouvain/Cinespi)

URL Cinespi:

Objectives & theme of the Conference

The Cinespi Research Group of the Catholic University of Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve) organises an international conference on “Visions and Prophecies in Cinema”.

Vision is here to be understood as a supernatural representation coming into sight (or mind) of one or more character within a film. It may illustrate a biblical episode (e.g. the Burning Bush) or involve a relationship with powers that can be divine or divinised (God, Christ, angels, saints...), satanic (Devil, demons…), elementary (natural forces), magical (fairies, magicians, superheroes...) or obscure (ghosts, monstrous creatures...). When a vision announces future events it is more fittingly called a prophecy.

The forms under which visions and prophecies are represented in cinema include premonitory dreams, subliminal experiences at the limit of consciousness, scattered signs across the storyline suggesting a supernatural order. Therefore, visions as well as prophecies imply a time when an "other world" is revealed to the real world. The conference will focus on this particular moment of revelation.

Sometimes only anecdotal or illustrative, the moment of revelation can also be crucial for the entire story. Often, it represents a turning point in the hero's journey, especially when it helps them define their action or give them its full meaning. In doing so, the moment of revelation opens up complex issues such as the relationship between worlds of different nature - real, invisible or even divine -, be it at an individual or collective level.

Likewise, the moment of revelation offers an opportunity to question the role and means of cinema itself. As a representation, it involves aesthetic, technical and narrative devices that also deserve to be analysed: special and digital effects, focusing effects, inserts, overprints, off camera, editing choices, shot length... and of course the sound effects and music choices.

The moment of revelation can be found in many different types of audiovisual production, all of them deserving to be considered: fiction, non-fiction, short or feature films, documentaries, TV series... The spiritual dimension within a film may be related to a recognised religion (i. a. Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism) or not. Since the general theme is very broad, the Conference will focus on audiovisual production after 2000.

Research areas

Different approaches are possible to address the Conference theme, including:

1) Aesthetic and Narrative Axis

The representation of the revelation moment gives rise tovarious choices. As such, they all deserve to be studied. Some filmmakers use significant film resources (like special effects), often in order to highlight the greatness and uniqueness of a given experience. In contrast, others prefer to rely on more discrete signals (like rustling leaves, the sound of a voice), which will tend to suggest the elusive, even indescribable nature of a special event. Similarly, it should be noted that some filmic works involve complex narrative processes (multi-point of view sequences, mixed temporalities, flashback, flashforward...), whereas others remain merely attached to classic, neutral and continuous patterns.

2) Approach by Motif

The same motif can appear in different films. This may be a famous moment within the biblical story (the burning bush, temptations of Christ, road to Damascus...) or religious history (e.g. the "voices" of Joan of Arc). It can also be related to classic characters famous for their visions (prophet, false prophet, missionary...), archetypal apparitions (Devil, Grace, Nature...) or phenomena affecting nature, art, the environment or even people (physical deformation). The diversity of treatment of these motifs can be studied from an aesthetic and/or historical perspective.

3) Focus on Author

Some accomplished film directors are very familiar with the representation of visions or prophecies. This is the case for Malick, von Trier, Lynch, Scorsese, Haneke, etc.. Going through their films on the basis of the moment of revelation is very relevant and likely to be fruitful.

4) Anthropological Axis

It would also be interesting to question the figure of the clairvoyant (or prophet) in cinema : his/her status, qualities, role, listening skills, social environment. To what extent does s/he fit into the iconographic, religious tradition? How does s/he define him-herself in relation to other characters who play an important role in society (scientists, artists, politicians...)? As a person “who sees”, s/he encourages reflection on what s/he sees, the meaning of it (the future, kingdom of heaven, the role of mysterious creature in nature), and possibly the message it carries (a piece of information, mission to be accomplished). Finally, the choice of the place where the revelation occurs (the desert, mountain, place of worship...) deserves also to be addressed, since it is rarely neutral.

5)Theological Axis

The moment of revelation can also be linked to the topic of "signs and wonders", all the miracles or biblical visions being forms of excess compared to natural experience. According to P. Schoonenberg, the sign can be seen in different ways: first, as a striking fact implying an objectifying awareness; then, as an indication of an interpersonal relationship; and finally as a call bound to a promise (or warning) which should be considered as a part of the dialogue between God and man and therefore contains a message. It is thus necessary to take into consideration the historical, cultural and social background of the clairvoyant at the moment of revelation. As a matter of fact, remembering revelations plays a structuring role for a given community with a view to updating it and opening up to the future. It raises therefore questions such as : which imaginary is solicited? which sources are mobilised? which processes are at stake (explicitly or implicitly)? what meaning is to be understood? and by whom?

Practical information

The Conference will be held in French and English at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve.

Researchers wishing to participate are kindly asked to send their proposal to

Deadline: May 24, 2019.

A publication of the proceedings from the conference is planned (Éditions Academia-L'Harmattan).

Related published works by Cinespi

A. JOIN-LAMBERT, S. GORIELY, S. FEVRY (dir.), L’imaginaire de l’apocalypse au cinéma, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2012 (Structures et pouvoirs des imaginaires) 196 p. ISBN 978-2-296-96971-1

S. FEVRY, S. GORIELY, A. JOIN-LAMBERT (dir.), Regards croisés sur Incendies. Du théâtre de Mouawad au cinéma de Villeneuve, Louvain-la-Neuve, Academia-L’Harmattan, 2016 (Imaginaires) 142 p. ISBN 978-2-8061- 0281-2