Belief in this World: The Dardenne brothers’ The Son and Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling


This paper takes Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s film Le Fils (The Son) and its critical reception as an occasion to explore Gilles Deleuze’s proposition that cinema’s capacity to show belief in this world—as a secular corollary to Søren Kierkegaard’s religious belief as a leap of faith—is one avenue by which the medium might rediscover its pertinence after the demise of the movement-image. Previous interpretations of The Son have taken up the film’s connection with the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (the problemata under contemplation in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling) to argue that the film’s ethical stance rests in its allusion to and rejection of the conception of faith demonstrated in the Hebrew Bible myth. These interpretations claim that where Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac to God represents a “teleological suspension of the ethical” (Kierkegaard 83), the central character of this film is ethical precisely because he overcomes his passion for vengeance. They rest on the conviction that Olivier looks to all intents and purposes as if he is luring the boy Francis out to the sawmill (the trip being compared to Abraham and Isaac’s journey to Moriah) in order to seek personal retribution for the murder of his son.

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