Ars Dogmatica

Pierre Legendre

Ancillary Writings : Cinema

Filming thought : why, how?

I have added a number of presentations to carefully chosen films, in order to retain the teachings pertaining to the modern ways of telling the truth about structures. Amongst other masters, Bergman, Dreyer, Kurosawa are those that came closest to the quintessence of human affairs : the stakes of genealogy.

I meditated on what brings cinema and painting together, and learned a lesson : from the power of the screen stems a very specific form of writing, the art of painting and feigning – according to the word play of the Renaissance exegetes of the tableau : pingere / fingere – with images, words, and music. This detour of thought, also taken by the legal historian and companion Peter Goodrich, teaches us that fiction is inherent in all institutional creations.

So let us take note of this. Indefinitely, through the magic spells of film theatres, it is the obscurity, seen here as a messenger of light, that recalls the inextinguishable connection between the human animal and the opacity, his link to the vacuum which purpose is to repeat time and again the work of civilizations who each formulate Reference after Reference based upon the same logic wherever they occur.

Therefore, cinema may be used as it somehow reveals our ties to the universal imperative of entering into the scheme of things, always through the same door : the advent of a scene for the world and for man, namely the dawn of ceremonial montages incidental to the theatrical condition of our species.

It is attending certain coteries, as well as receiving expressions of interest towards my writings from the part of first rate film directors that pressed me to retreat into erudition.

I was hence to take literally the Biblical verse “ a man walks amongst images ” (in imagine ambulat homo according to the latin vulgate).

On the basis of this sensual thus aesthetic understanding of the act of thinking, which my friends and accomplices the producer Pierre Olivier Bardet and the director Gérald Caillat instinctively share with me, the project of a cinematic painting of the institution took form.

I have no comment on my films. They have to be watched and, if I may be so bold : they are 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, or an icon hiding an enigma, it is here mostly the Title and its secret to be disclosed that brings about the developments. We are dealing here with documentaries, in the original meaning of the latin “docere” : these films are synonymous with schooling, they teach, with the tradition of knowing as their substance.

Example: La Fabrique de l’homme occidental (The Fabrication of Western Man). During the public release of this film, I indicated the source of the term ‘fabrique’, now fallen into desuetude in France. I referred to the famous anatomy treatise by André Vesale who was Charles-Quint’s medical doctor : De Humani corporis fabrica. As it used the anatomical metaphor and relied on the art of title cultivated by the Renaissance period, the film put back in question the enigmatic profundity of Western Modernity which was, already then, smitten with the industrial era’s “homo faber”.

Could it be that our own era tries to avoid having anything to do with the Abyss of the past ? Readers of the site, please see for yourself. If the syntagm “La fabrique de …” experienced a tremendously successful career in France after the release of the film, it seems obvious that the valuable term I set out to restore to its proper anthropological depth was then displayed throughout the media like a skeleton stripped from its flesh …


Translated by Peter Goodrich, with the collaboration of Vincent Bleuse













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