Allowing the Fly to Leave: The Chance Meeting of Wittgenstein and Buñuel at a Mexican Dinner Table

  • Michael T. Miller, James Batcho
  • Film-Philosophy, October 2018, Edinburgh University Press
  • DOI: 10.3366/film.2018.0086

Allowing the Fly to Leave: The Chance Meeting of Wittgenstein and Buñuel at a Mexican Dinner Table

What is it about?

Within Luis Buñuel's classic surrealist film The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador, 1962) is a philosophical motif which expresses, demonstrates, and develops two of Ludwig Wittgenstein's central concepts: (1) language lays traps for the unwary that can lead to illogical thought and mind-bending quests; and (2) any picture of the world (Weltbild) is formed through cultural habits that cannot be rationally expressed but can be changed. This article argues that what we find in Buñuel's Angel is a “picture” that is at one level rational and habitual and at another entirely absurd. These apparently rational preconceptions – the insular habits of privilege and the language that maintains it – produce a certain “aspect” which, when clung to, can entrap us. In this effort we thread a series of chance meetings into a web of encounters: of people at a dinner party, of a philosopher and a filmmaker, and perhaps most significantly, of games that form a totality of gamesmanship – a chance meeting of the game of language and the game of cinema.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/film.2018.0086

The following have contributed to this page: James Batcho and Michael Miller