Registration for Talk

On the Threshold of Nihilism

17th Jun, Wednesday, 7:00-9:00pm

Free Entry. Online registration is required.
  • agnès b. cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
  • Professor Tao Kwok-cheung, Department of Philosophy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • View biography
  • Yung Ma, M+ Associate Curator, Moving Image
  • Cantonese, with English simultaneous interpretation

This talk will focus on the relationship between philosophy and film with particular reference to how the concepts of Friedrich Nietzsche are manifested in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nietzsche’s ideas are also central to Tsang Kin-Wah’s, The Infinite Nothing.

During his life, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) believed that he was born too early. He criticized his contemporaries as being too easily contented with their lives, and unable to fathom the purpose or potentiality of their lives; that they appeared to be like herds of sheep rather than ‘men’. 

Nietzsche’s time was one of existential crisis in which he questioned whether human existence had any meaning or value. Within this nihilistic tendency in Western Europe, Nietzsche asserted that traditional values such as freedom, equality, moral responsibility, rationality and forgiveness etc. represented 2000 years of self-deception. 

Nietzsche’s concept of ‘the Overman’, exemplified by Zarathustra, stated that some men can only evolve as humans superficially; they eventually fall into mediocrity and become ‘common men’. He gives the example of Zarathustra arriving at the market, and witnessing a tightrope walker plunging to his death because he cannot withstand the bustling crowd.

Envisioning the future in the year 1968, film director Stanley Kubrick played the anthem of Thus Spoke Zarathustra in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In our modernity, we pay tribute to Stanley Kubrick in Interstellar, where once again man longs to gaze into the future.

What is modernity?
Nietzsche thought that modernity is the era in which ‘God is dead’; the era of ‘the last men’, of the ‘twilight of the idols’, and the threshold of ‘nihilism’.


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