Ars Dogmatica

Pierre Legendre

An Allied Writing: Cinema

To film thought: why, how?

I have made use of a number of carefully chosen films as a way of retaining the lesson of how to speak the truth about structures in a modern way. Amongst other masters, Bergman, Dreyer, Kurosawa, are those that came closest to the roots of human affairs: the stakes of genealogy.

Meditating on what in cinema comes closest to painting, I derived a message: by means of the power of the screen there emerges a very special form of writing, an art of painting and dissembling – according to the word play of renaissance exegetes: pingere/fingere, paint and make – with images, words, music. This detour of thought, also borrowed by the legal historian Peter Goodrich, teaches us that fiction is inherent in all institutional creations.

Take note of this. The obscurity and indefiniteness of cinematic magic is here the medium of enlightenment, recalling again the bond between the speaking animal and opacity, the tie to the void which again and again triggers the repetitions of civility that support Reference after Reference, always according to the same logic.

One can try to use cinema to reveal what hides our attachment to the universal imperative that we have to enter into the order of things, and always through the same door: the opening of the stage of man and world, which is to say the renewal of the ceremonial montages that bind our species to theatrical mode of existence.

Thus I take literally the Biblical phrase in imagine ambulat homo (we walk amongst images). On the basis of this sensual and aesthetic apprehension of thought, I went to my friends and accomplices, the producer Pierre Olivier Bardet and the director Gérald Caillat and engaged them in the project of a cinematic painting of the institution.

I have no comment on the films, they have to watched and, if I may make so bold, it is worth the effort.

I draw your attention to their Title. In the same fashion as each volume of my Lessons was formulated by reference to an Emblem, an icon hiding an enigma, it is here also the Title and its secret that has to be discovered so as to follow the trajectory of the film. It is a question of documentaries, in their original Latin meaning, derived from ‘docere’ to teach: these films are a school, they teach the foundations of human knowledge.

Example: La Fabrique de l’homme occiderntal (The Fabrication of Western Man). Prior to the public release of this film, I indicated the source from which the term ‘fabrique’, now archaic in France, was taken. I referred to the famous treatise on anatomy by André Vesale, the doctor Charles-Quint: De Humani corporis fabrica. Using the anatomical metaphor, and basing myself on the Renaissance art of titles, the film put the enigma back into the heart of Western Modernity, which already knew of the homo faber of industrialisation.

Can our era avoid having anything to do with the Abyss of the past? Readers must make their choice and judge for themselves. If the syntagm La fabrique de … had a dramatic success in France after the release of the film, it is because the careful restoration of this vital term in its proper anthropological connotations was ignored by the media …

(Translation of Peter Goodrich)


Solennel, l’oiseau magique préside à nos écrits.
Le paon étale ses plumes qui font miroir à son ombre.
Mais c’est de l’homme qu’il s’agit :
il porte son image, et il ne le sait pas.

« Sous le mot Analecta,
j’offre des miettes qu’il m’est fort utile
de rassembler afin de préciser
sur quelques points ma réflexion. »
Pierre Legendre

« Chacun des textes du présent tableau et ses illustrations
a été édité dans le livre, Le visage de la main »

Ars Dogmatica