The Manifesto for Ontological Cinema

September 19, 2008

I have written a new Manifesto being published in the MUFF catalogue.

Here is an Idea Fix, preview, and its first official publication. Enjoy!

Comments please afterwards.



The Manifesto for Ontological Cinema (1st Ereignis)
By Richard Wolstencroft

The following is a non-dogmatic manifesto theorising and thinking the notion of an Ontological Cinema. A cinema of Being. Ontology is the field of philosophy that studies Being. We have applied reflections on ontology toward defining and expanding on notions of cinema as it is presently understood.


Cinema is not a mere film or video, a mere medium, or even a mere moving image. Cinema, at its finest, is the possibility of the Ereignis – the Appropriating Event.

PART A: Founding statements

1. We declare mainstream and Independent cinema worldwide to be in a state of crisis and entropy.

2. We declare that cinema has not died as is suggested by filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and others. It has merely lost its way in the forgetfulness of Being.

3. We declare that cinema must find it’s way again. It must do this by pulling itself from the wreckage of this ‘forgetting of Being’.

4. We declare the need for a cinema that recognises the importance of fundamental ontology, a project best explicated in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger.

5. We declare that cinema is being polluted by technology and special effects, poor stories and storytelling, a culture of moronic celebrity, computer game models, and many other examples of how “the wasteland grows”, as a one Friedrich Nietzsche put it.

6. We declare something must be done about this in thought, cinema, philosophy, and praxis.

7. We declare that this ‘something’ must be done beyond the realms of good and evil and the sickening metaphysical humanism that infects 90% of all cinema.

8. We declare that we must prepare the way for the coming of ‘The new god’.

9. We found in this document the Manifesto for Ontological Cinema. It is not part of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, just previewed here to the public for the first time.

10. Naturally, we do not claim to have invented Ontological cinema, only to provide our own humble attempts to better define and describe an already existing phenomenon, and further propagate its practice.

11. Cinema is not ‘cinema’; it is really aiming for the Ereignis, the appropriating Event or Act. There are many types of Ereignis, individual, cultural and singular historical/political. The later is The Ereignis, the founding of a second beginning in Western/World – culture/history. Another Greece, a second Athens, a new god. The last Ereignis is a goal one can only wish and hope for at present, given our dark world picture.

12. Cinema must change to become the appropriating event that founds new truth in our present age.

13. As one of the most dynamic art forms, cinema, as an art form, must for the first time become as the Greek temple is to the Greeks or the Gothic chapel is to the Middle Ages. It must found, revel and uncover the truth of being.

14. We acknowledge the philosopher Martin Heidegger as being the inspiration and genesis for much of this Manifesto. Essentially, it is attempting to apply the ideas of Martin Heidegger and others to cinema.

15. We acknowledge the Dogme 95 Manifesto and agree with many of its basic tenants as being advisable, and another way to approach filmmaking within its historical destiny. But we disagree with certain tenants of Dogme 95. For example, the idea that hard rules, certificates and other factors are what defines a film as Dogme is clearly a sadistic, Von Trierian prank. While we salute and recognise Von Trier’s sadistic-fascistic predilections, and indeed consider him a fellow traveller in Ontological Cinema, we take the subject of cinema too seriously to wish to impose some form of personal subjective prank upon it. Therefore, this manifesto is non-dogmatic (indeed, non-Dogmetic), has no hard rules, and is merely a movement toward a thesis for the idea of Ontological Cinema.

16. We acknowledge the following filmmakers as Ontological filmmakers or pre-Ontological filmmakers at whole or in part: Terrence Malick, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann, David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog, Pasolini, Henry Jaglom, Lars Von Trier, Nicolas Winding Refn, Todd Field, Kenneth Anger, David Lynch, Stan Brakhage, Haneke, Kieslowski, Polanski, Peter Weir, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Quentin Tarantino, Thomas Clay, Ivan Kavanagh. We do not say that these filmmakers are the only Ontological ones or that their work is pure and free from metaphysics and morality but they display at times purely and at other times less so major tenants of ontological cinema.

17. Ontological cinema is an existentialist cinema.

18. Ontological cinema is a future of cinema.

19. Ontological cinema aims to reveal the being of something in its essence.

20. There are many strategies for achieving this, not all correlative.

PART B: Major Tenants and practices of Ontological Cinema

21. A new streamlining in filmmaking techniques. No adverse or unrealistic digital effects, no sets when possible (preferably the use of real locations), small crews, a feeling of realism and documentary but aiming to go beyond these forms to something deeper – to Being itself.

22. Simplicity and purity of story. Stories and subjects chosen for cinema should be intense, holistic, and aim to uncover the inherent truth of Being to be found in the subject matter. All the filmmaker’s energies with the cast and crew should be focussed on this one goal: to reveal the ontological essence of what ‘is’ on screen.

23. Many cheap DV (and now the exciting Red cameras) are available to the public and cheap editing software, also. This provides almost anyone with facilities better than that available to anyone in the first 30 years of cinema to create new works. There is no excuse apart from the dumbing down of world that is Legion, why there should not be many more great filmmakers emerging from this arena. Hence our own efforts to inspire and foster such voices with this manifesto and also locally to engage practically by supporting such ideas with the Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

24. Cinema should be personal and have intense, extreme and provocative reflections of the director/auteur. An auteur theory of intersubjectivity is much needed, beyond the psychoanalytic limitations of ego.

25. We reaffirm the auteur theory of filmmaking without being pretentious or taking away the vast importance of collaboration in the filmmaking process.

26. Cinema should reflect, make manifest and develop the themes, concerns and the purpose of philosophy and literature. Indeed cinema expresses the concerns of philosophy and literature quicker and with more ontological truth than mere words.

27. The language of cinema is the language of images and sounds in time. Against Derrida it exists beyond the text.

28. Be honest when you make a film; do not lie. Uncover the truth of Being, do not observe it as an object.

29. Be aware of the superstructure elements of cinema like the role of cast, crew, writers and director. From a directorial perspective avoid morality in all its forms. Be aware of the superstructure dictatorial nature of cinema.

30. Cinema is in some senses inherently fascist at a deep level. The role of the director is fascism at its purest, a dictator of a cinematic world, with total power. But it should be noted that many, many directors are not tyrants or authoritarians and are truly and deeply transcendental fascists. Acknowledgement of the benevolent dictatorship of many directors, and its lessons, can be learnt for the application of ontological political power in the real world. Anyone who says this is not possible, has never experienced the reality of truly leading a cadre of cinematic actors and technicians. The fascistic nature of cinema itself, should be recognised, a singular dictatorial succession of images in time, that does not change once a film is complete. This static nature and respect for the complete film is a major mantra of film conservation and a vital duty for cinema lovers. An understanding of cinema’s fascist essence can help further turn it toward
something more transmogrifying and palingenetic in its nature. A true cinema of Being. There is nothing inherently wrong with ideas of hierarchy, authority and leadership as long as they are applied along lines of meritocracy and existential ontology.

31. We should be aware of the potential for cinema to be poisoned and perverted in a negative sense by metaphysics, humanism and morality. Indeed, this the normal state of cinema. All cinema, as Robert Farrell (Phd, La Trobe), once said, is in a way ontological. But not all of it is authentic or attempting to uncover the ontological realm itself.

32. We must be wary and constantly on alert for the metaphysical distractions that make a film less and less authentic ontologically. This is not something you can learn in film school. It is something that can only be learned only from life and Being.

33. Filmmakers and cinema lovers are all invited to debate and discuss this manifesto. It is neither meant as a dictatorial statement on cinema, nor as a list of caveats or rigid instructions a filmmaker should attempt to strictly follow. There are many paths in the forest of Being, of which this is just one. Some of course go nowhere though. But there are many authentic ways toward an ontological cinema. I hope this manifesto can be something of a contribution toward the noble end of making manifest such a cinema I have been outlining here.


From Heidegger and the mystics we are told that human beings are here to be witness to the awe and spectacle of Being itself. But when we the witnesses create through film our own witness using the elements of Being itself, the result is something third, neither purely human or purely Being. We have created something other, an alchemy of the two world, through the ereignis. We have created, dare we say it, something holy.


This manifesto is a first reflection. A second, expanded and more definitive version will be released at a later date.

One Response to “The Manifesto for Ontological Cinema”

  1. RINAT said

    Me only recently has interested such concept as Ontological cinema.
    I left on it in search new possibilities of self-knowledge.
    I the student of the sixth course of the Russian university of service.
    That year at me protection of the degree project “cinema”.
    I can tell one that in Russia from the giving of cinema, for last decade,
    it is observed or vulgarization of forms by this industry,
    or that it would be more fair to notice, Commerce that, in my opinion,
    has suppressed in consciousness of people a essence Cinema,
    I any more do not speak about cinema as art. Your manifesto is interesting
    to me and I divide your point of view. It is impossible to deprive of the person
    of the right to risk. From the creator it turns In the passive the executor.
    He should know and Not to know, guess. It is a major principle of any creativity.
    The cinema should bear this principle of self-knowledge. Here that general
    that Unites the person and the cinema, that powerful principle which
    pushes on reunion with similar.

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