Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Film Trek: The Cinematic Experience of Walking


School of Communications


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences




Human beings are defined by bipedalism. Over the course of millennia, the fact of walking upright has determined much else about human evolution. For humans, walking is the universal, seemingly autonomic physical embodiment of moving through space which is quite distinct from being moved through space. For humans engaged in the activity, walking is a different phenomenological experience than running, driving or flying, and is slower paced than most other types of movement. Up until relatively recently, it was the way most humans moved. The peak of walking as recreation at the turn of the 20th century coincides with the birth of motion pictures,the dominant entertainment mode of the last century. The movies were perhaps the most striking visual embodiment of modernism, itself based on advances in transportation and communication technologies and a relentless drive to collapse the experiential categories of time and space. Some of the most popular films of the last decade have involved epic treks enhanced, or in some cases created by, digital effects. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise, depict such epic journeys. Given the growing tendency to fragment, and speed up, the experience of time and space in film aesthetics, it is surprising that these blockbusters spend so much screen time showing characters walking. This paper will examine the representation of the long trek to compare the visual experience of walking across a natural landscape (embodied movement on two legs) to cinematic walking in the 21st century.

Conference Name

University Film and Video Association

Conference Location

Chicago, Illinois

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