Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6735-2989 Zdunkiewicz Lech


Patricia Highsmith’s stated reason for writing The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) was to see if she could elicit empathetic engagement for her immoral protagonist Tom Ripley. Amongst other factors, she achieves her goal by allowing readers to align affectively with the protagonist’s road to self-discovery. Her experiment culminates with Tom’s fruition into an aggressive consumer, thus resolving his and the readers’ apprehensions. On the other hand, Anthony Minghella’s Ripley leaves more room for interpretation. In his interviews, the filmmaker states that he does not aim for his protagonist to remain the sociopath from Highsmith’s novel. Instead, his story explores the absence of a father figure and how it affects his main characters. Consequently, he frames Tom as an underprivileged youth whose emotional instability brings about his demise. To this end, he employs victimization scenes, as well as moral disengagement cues. I argue that, amongst other factors, such an application of an industry-tested design of emphatic concern elicitation obscures the filmmaker’s initial intent. As a result, Minghella’s Tom can be seen as a manipulative sociopath, as well as a victimized tragic hero.


empathy elicitation, antisocial personality disorder, emphatic concern, antihero, enjoyment, character engagement, identification


American Psychiatric Association. “Antisocial Personality Disorder.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013, pp. 659–63. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Batson, Daniel. Altruism in Humans. Oxford UP, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341065.001.0001

Bronski, Michael. “The Talented Mr. Ripley Review.” Cinéaste, vol. 25, no. 3, 2000, pp. 41–43.

Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. U of Chicago P, 1961.

Branigan, Edward. Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film. Mouton Publishers, 1984.

Carrol, Noel. “On Some Affective Relations between Audiences and the Characters in Popular Fictions.” Empathy, edited by Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie, Oxford UP, 2011, pp. 162–84. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199539956.003.0012

Carrol, Noel. The Philosophy of Motion Pictures. Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Coplan, Amy. “Empathic Engagement with Narrative Fictions.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 62, no. 2, 2004, pp. 141–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-594X.2004.00147.x

Dixon, Peter, and Marisa Bortolussi. “Literary Communication: Effects of Reader-Narrator Cooperation.” Poetics, vol. 23, 1996, pp. 405–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-422X(95)00007-7

Eisenberg, Nancy. “Empathy and Sympathy: A Brief Review of the Concepts and Empirical Literature.” Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, vol. 2, no. 1, 1988, pp. 15–17. https://doi.org/10.2752/089279389787058226

Fludernik, Monika. An Introduction to Narratology. Translated by Patricia Häusler-Greenfield and Monika Fludernik. Routledge, 2009. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203882887

Gaut, Berys. “Empathy and Identification in Cinema.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, vol. 34, 2010, pp. 136–57. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4975.2010.00211.x

Highsmith, Patricia. The Talented Mr. Ripley. Coward-McCann, 1955.

Iglesias, Karl. Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End. WingSpan, 2005.

Janicke, Sophie H., and Arthur A. Raney. “Exploring the Role of Identification and Moral Disengagement in the Enjoyment of an Antihero Television Series.” Communications, vol. 40, no. 4, 2015, pp. 485–95. https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2015-0022

Keen, Suzanne. Empathy and the Novel. Oxford UP, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195175769.001.0001

Kotovych, Maria, Peter Dixon, Marisa Bortolussi, and Mark Holden. “Textual Determinants of a Component of Literary Identification.” Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 1, no. 2, 2011, pp. 260–91. https://doi.org/10.1075/ssol.1.2.05kot

Małecki, Wojciech, Bogusław Pawłowski, Piotr Sorokowski, and Anna Oleszkiewicz. “Feeling for Textual Animals: Narrative Empathy Across Species Lines.” Poetics, vol. 74, 2019, pp. 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2018.11.003

Massey, Susan. “Highsmith, Patricia (1921–95).” 100 American Crime Writers, edited by Steven Powell, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 165–70.

Minghella, Anthony. Anthony Minghella: Interviews. Edited by Mario Falsetto. UP of Mississippi, 2013.

Minghella, Anthony. The Talented Mr. Ripley: Shooting Draft. 1999.

“Oscars.” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, https://www.oscars.org/oscars accessed 10 Mar. 2021.

Plantinga, Carl. Moving Viewers. U of California P, 2009. https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520943919

Schenkar, Joan. The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith. St. Martin’s, 2009. ePub.

Schwanebeck, Wieland. “Mr Ripley’s Renaissance: Notes on an Adaptable Character.” Adaptation, vol. 6, no. 3, 2013, pp. 355–64. https://doi.org/10.1093/adaptation/apt017

Shafer, Daniel M., and Arthur A. Raney. “Exploring How We Enjoy Antihero Narratives.” Journal of Communication, vol. 62, 2012, pp. 1028–46. https://doi.org/10.1093/adaptation/apt017

Shannon, Edward A. “Where Was the Sex? Fetishism and Dirty Minds in Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Modern Language Studies, vol. 34, no. 1/2, 2004, pp. 16–27. https://doi.org/10.2307/4150053

Smith, Greg M. Film Structure and the Emotion System. Cambridge UP, 2003. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511497759

Smith, Murray. Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema. Clarendon, 1995.

Stout, Martha. The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless vs. the Rest of Us. Broadway, 2005.

Sullivan’s Travels. Directed by Preston Sturges, performances by Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea, Paramount Pictures, 1941.

Tan, Ed S. Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film. Film as an Emotion Machine. Translated by Barbara Fasting. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996.

The Talented Mr. Ripley. Directed by Anthony Minghella, performances by Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, Miramax Films, 1999.

Vaage, Margrethe Brun. “Fiction Film and the Varieties of Empathic Engagement.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, vol. 34, 2010, pp. 158–79. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4975.2010.00200.x

Williams, Michael. “Plein Soleil and The Talented Mr Ripley: Sun, Stars and Highsmith’s Queer Periphery.” Journal of Romance Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, 2004, pp. 47–62. https://doi.org/10.3828/jrs.4.1.47

Wilson, Andrew. Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith. Bloomsbury, 2003.

Zillmann, Dolf, and Joanne R.Cantor. “A Disposition Theory of Humor and Mirth.” Humour and Laughter: Theory, Research and Applications, edited by Anthony J. Chapman and Hugh C. Foot, Wiley, 1976, pp. 93–115. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203789469-6

First Page


Last Page