Cinema of the Not-Yet

The Utopian Promise of Film as Heterotopia


  • Adrian Ivakhiv University of Vermont



film, cinema, utopia, heterotopia, affect, ecocriticism


Drawing on Ernst Bloch’s writings on utopia, Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopia, and the ‘affective turn’ in social theory, I argue that cinema is by its nature heterotopic: it creates worlds that are other than the ‘real world’ but that relate to that world in multiple and contradictory ways. The landscapes and people portrayed in ?lm are affectively charged in ways that alter viewers’ relationship to the real objects denoted or signi?ed by them. But it is the larger context of social and cultural movements that mobilizes or fails to mobilize this affective charge to draw out its critical utopian potentials. I examine four ?lms from the 1970s—Deliverance, The Wicker Man, Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, and Stalker—as examples of richly heterotopic ?lms that elicited utopian as well as dystopian affects in their audiences, and I discuss some ways in which American environmentalists, British Pagans, Europe’s ‘generation of ’68’, and Soviet citizens worked with these affects to imagine change in their respective societies.


Aloi, Peg. 2009. ‘“And with Thee Fade away into the Forest Dim”: Neopastoralism and Romantic Renascence in the Ritual Literature of Modern Witchcraft’, in D. James and P. Tew (eds.), New Versions of Pastoral: Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary Responses to the Tradition (Cranbury, NJ: Rosemont/Associated University Presses): 58-79.

American Rivers/National Park Service. 2003. Use and Economic Importance of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River: Final Report, R.L. Moore and C. Siderelis, principal investigators (American Rivers Inc. and Park Planning and Special Studies, and Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Programs of the National Park Service). Online:

Arthen, Walter Wright. 1988. ‘The Wicker Man: A Ritual of Transformation’, FireHeart 1 (1997), EarthSpirit Web, last updated 26 June 2009. Online:

Barkan, Joanne. 2004. ‘Jonah after the Year 2000’, Dissent (Winter): 105-109.

Bartholomew, David. 2008 [1977]. ‘The Wicker Man’, Cinefantastique 6.3. Online:

Bell, David. 1997. ‘Anti-idyll: Rural Horror’, in P.J. Cloke and J. Little (eds.), Contested Countryside Cultures: Otherness, Marginalisation, and Rurality (London: Routledge): 94-108.

Blackman, Lisa, and John Cromby. 2007. ‘Editorial: Affect and Feeling’, International Journal of Critical Psychology 21: 5-22.

Bloch, Ernst. 1986 [1959]. The Principle of Hope (trans. N. Plaice, S. Plaice, and P. Knight; 3 vols.; Cambridge: MIT Press).

Boime, Albert. 1991. The Magisterial Gaze: Manifest Destiny and American Landscape Painting, c. 1830–1865 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press).

Bousé, David. 2000. Wildlife Films (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).

Brass, Tom. 2000. ‘Nymphs, Shepherds, and Vampires: The Agrarian Myth on Film’, Dialectical Anthropology 25: 205-37. doi:10.1023/A:1011615201664.

Bremmer, Jan M. (ed.). 2007. The Strange World of Human Sacri_ce (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters).

Brennan, Teresa. 2004. The Transmission of Affect (Ithaca, NY: Cornell).

Brereton, Pat. 2005. Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema (Bristol, UK: Intellect).

Brode, Douglas. 2004. From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture (Austin: University of Texas Press).

Cholodenko, Alex. 2005. ‘“Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear”: The Virtual Reality of Jurassic Park and Jean Baudrillard’, Journal of Baudrillard Studies 2.1. Online:

Chris, Cynthia. 2006. Watching Wildlife (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

Clough, Patricia T., with Jean Halley (eds.). 2007. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).

Clough, Patricia T. 2008. ‘The Affective Turn: Political Economy, Biomedia and Bodies’, Theory Culture Society 25.1: 1-22. doi:10.1177/0263276407085156.

Connolly, William E. 2002. Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

Conrad, Joseph. 1998. Heart of Darkness and Other Stories (London: Wordsworth Editions).

Daniels, Stephen. 1993. Fields of Visions: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Dawson, Jane I. 1996. Eco-Nationalism: Anti-Nuclear Activism and National Identity in Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine (Durham and London: Duke University Press).

Debord, Guy. 1977. The Society of the Spectacle (trans. K. Knabb; Detroit: Black & Red).

Dixon, Wheeler Winston. 2006. Visions of Paradise: Images of Eden in the Cinema (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press).

Doyen, Eugene. 1996. ‘Utopia and Apocalypse—The Cultural Role of Hollywood Cinema’, Unpublished manuscript, originally retrieved from internet (no longer available).

Dunaway, Finis. 2005. Natural Visions: The Power of Images in American Environmental Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Dyer, Richard. 1981. ‘Entertainment and Utopia’, in R. Altman (ed.), Genre: The Musical: A Reader (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul): 175-89.

Flinn, Caryl. 1992. Strains of Utopia: Gender, Nostalgia, and Hollywood Film Music (New Brunswick, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Foucault, Michel. 1986. ‘Of other Spaces’, trans. J. Misoweic, Diacritics (Spring): 22-27. doi:10.2307/464648.

Franklin, Sarah. 2000. ‘Life Itself: Global Nature and the Generic Imaginary’, in S. Franklin, C. Lury, and J. Stacey (eds.), Global Nature, Global Culture (London: SAGE): 188-227.

Franks, B., S. Harper, J. Murray, and L. Stevenson (eds.). 2006. The Quest for the Wicker Man: History, Folklore, and Pagan Perspectives (Edinburgh: Luath Press).

Fry, Carrol L. 2008. Cinema of the Occult: New Age, Satanism, Wicca, and Spiritualism in Film (Cranbury, NJ: Rosemont/Associated University Presses).

Geraghty, Christine. 1991. Women and Soap Opera (Cambridge: Polity).

GSC Game World. 2009. ‘Stalker: Clear Sky’. Online:

Hastings, A. Waller. 1996. ‘Bambi and the Hunting Ethos’, Journal of Popular Film and Television 24.2: 53-59.

Hayward, Philip. 2007. ‘Western Edges: Evil Aliens and Island Otherness in British Cinema’, Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 1.2. Online:

Heidegger, Martin. 1971. Poetry, Language, Thought (trans. A. Hofstadter; New York: Harper & Row).

———. 1977. ‘The Age of the World Picture’, in The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays (trans. W. Lovitt; New York: Harper & Row): 115-54.

Higginbottom, Judith. 2006. ‘“Do as Thou Wilt”: Contemporary Paganism and The Wicker Man’, in Franks et al. 2006: 126-36.

Hochman, Jhan. 1998. Green Cultural Studies: Nature in Film, Novel, and Theory (Moscow, ID: University of Idaho Press).

Hudson, Wayne. 2003. The Reform of Utopia (Burlington, VT: Ashgate).

Hutton, Ronald. 1996. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Ingram, David. 2000. Green Screen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema (Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press).

Ivakhiv, Adrian. 2001. Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

———. 2008. ‘Green Film Criticism and Its Futures’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 15.2: 1-28. doi:10.1093/isle/15.2.1.

———. 2011. ‘The Anthrobiogeomorphic Machine: Stalking the Zone of Cinema’, Film Philosophy 15.1 (forthcoming).

Jameson, Fredric. 2005. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso).

Kingsley, Elizabeth A. 2009. ‘The Wicker Man (1973)’, And You Call Yourself a Scientist!, posted 14 May. Online:

Kolker, Robert P. 2000. A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Stone, Kubrick, Scorsese, Spielberg, Altman (New York: Oxford University Press).

Koven, Mikel J. 2008. Film, Folklore, and Urban Legends (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little_eld/Scarecrow Press).

Lacy, Mark J. 2001. ‘Cinema and Ecopolitics: Existence in the Jurassic Park’, Millennium—Journal of International Studies 30: 635-45.

Lane, John. 2004. Chattooga: Descending into the Myth of Deliverance River (Athens: University of Georgia Press).

Levitas, Ruth. 1997. ‘Educated Hope: Ernst Bloch on Abstract and Concrete Utopia’, in Jamie O. Daniel and Tom Moylan (eds.), Not Yet: Reconsidering Ernst Bloch (London: Verso): 65-79.

Lutts, Ralph. 1992. ‘The Trouble with Bambi: Walt Disney’s Bambi and the American Vision of Nature’, Forest and Conservation History 36: 160-71. doi:10.2307/3983677.

Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).

McKibben, Bill. 1992. The Age of Missing Information (New York: Random House).

Miller, Angela. 1993. The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825–1875 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).

Mitman, Gregg. 1999. Reel Nature: America’s Romance with Wildlife on Film (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Mullarkey, John. 2009. Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan).

Murray, Jonathan, Lesley Stevenson, Stephen Harper, and Benjamin Franks (eds.). 2005. Constructing The Wicker Man: Film and Cultural Studies Perspectives (Glasgow: Crichton Publications).

Nichols, Mike. 1997. ‘Neo-Pagan Filmography’, revised 2 May. Online:

Pike, Sarah M. 2001. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Pitzl-Waters, Jason. 2007. ‘Musical In_uence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack’, and ‘The Wicker Man Soundtrack’, A Darker Shade of Pagan, 20 June and 22 June. Online:

Porton, Richard. 1999. Film and the Anarchist Imagination (London: Verso).

Quandt, James. n.d. ‘The Poetry of Apocalypse’, Cinematheque Ontario. Online:

Rossignol, Jim. 2007. ‘Worlds from the Zone’, The Escapist, 22 May. Online:

Roth, Matthew. 1996. ‘Lion King: A Short History of Disney-fascism’, Jump Cut 40: 15-20.

Runte, Alfred. 1997. National Parks: The American Experience (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 3rd edn).

Ryan, Michael, and Douglas Kellner. 1988. Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).

Scherer, Klaus R. 2005. ‘Unconscious Process in Emotion: The Bulk of the Iceberg’, in L.F. Barrett, P.M. Niedenthall, and P. Winkielman (eds.), Emotion and Consciousness (New York: Guilford): 312-34.

Sermon, Richard. 2006. ‘The Wicker Man, May Day and the Reinvention of Beltane’, in Franks et al. 2006: 26-43.

Shouse, Eric. 2005. ‘Feeling, Emotion, Affect’, M/C Journal 8.6. Online:

Stam, Robert. 1977. ‘The Subversive Charm of Alain Tanner’, Jump Cut 15: 1, 5-7.

———. 1992. Re_exivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (New York: Columbia University Press).

Stevenson, Lesley. 2005. ‘Sightseeing in Summerisle: Film Tourism and The Wicker Man’, in Murray et al. 2005: 107-22.

Sutcliffe, Steven J. 2005. ‘Religion in The Wicker Man: Context and Representation’, in Murray et al. 2005: 37-56.

Tanner, Alain. 1983. ‘Interview with Alain Tanner’, in Jonah Who Will be 25 in the Year 2000: Screenplay by John Berger and Alain Tanner (trans. M. Palmer; Berkeley: North Atlantic Books): 165-74.

TheoFantastique. 2009. ‘Interview with Carrol Lee Fry’, TheoFantastique, 4 May. Online:

Thrift, Nigel. 2008. Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect (London: Routledge).

Tomkins, Silvan. 1995. Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan S. Tompkins (ed. E.V. Demos; New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge).

Total Film. 2004. ‘Total Film’s 50 Greatest Movies Ever’, Total Film 95. Online:

VII Photo Agency. 2006. ‘Chernobyl Stalkers’. Online:

Whitley, David. 2008. The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation (Burlington, VT: Ashgate).

Williamson, Jerry W. 1995. Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).

Wood, Robin. 1986. Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York: Columbia University Press).

Wright, Melanie J. 2007. ‘The Wicker Man’, in Religion and Film: An Introduction (London: I.B. Tauris): 79-106.

Yacavone, Daniel. 2008. ‘Towards a Theory of Film Worlds’, Film-Philosophy 12.2: 83-108.

Yates, Christopher S. 2006. ‘A Phenomenological Aesthetic of Cinematic “Worlds”’, Contemporary Aesthetics 4. Online:

Zizek, Slavoj. 1999. ‘The Thing from Inner Space’, Mainview, September. Online: Re-printed in R. Salecl (ed.), Sexuation (London: Duke University Press, 2000): 248-50.


Apocalypse Now. 1979. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, USA.

Deliverance. 1972. Directed by John Boorman, USA.

Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000. 1976. Directed by Alain Tanner, Switzerland.

Jurassic Park. 1993. Directed by Steven Spielberg, USA.

Lost World, The. 1997. Directed by Steven Spielberg, USA.

Stalker. 1979. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR.

The Wicker Man. 1973. Directed by Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer, United Kingdom.



How to Cite

Ivakhiv, A. (2011). Cinema of the Not-Yet: The Utopian Promise of Film as Heterotopia. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 5(2), 186–209.