Guide Projecting a Camera: Language-Games in Film Theory

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According to Lakoff and Johnson, all of our cognitive activity can be characterized in this way. The camera, according to Branigan, becomes a metaphor, a stand-in, or an analogy for concepts like perspective, attention, scrutiny, meaning, and the author or artist. Therefore, Branigan argues, a film theory must remain alert to this understanding of language. The work of Jean- Pierre Oudert or Kaja Silverman does not really require such a theoretical undermining, since they could be attacked simply for their bogus argumentative style and the dense discursive masquerade of jargon and citations that camouflaged their fallacious logic.

Yet, at other times, the book remains a little too generous and cautious in its critiques. Branigan often attacks unspecific targets of what he calls metaphysical conceptions of the camera. Certainly, academic debates can become too polemical, too petty, and too political in terms of professional associations. The emphasis Branigan places upon the shaping force that language plays in all film theory necessarily opens up his approach to the role of reception, and, as he acknowledges, the role of social, cultural, and historical contexts.

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In other words, a film theorist, Branigan argues, must remain alert to the shaping forces of history, of particular spectators, of culture, in scrutinizing film theory, for any and all of these categories factor into the language employed to describe and comprehend film. Thankfully, on page , Branigan offers us a sanctioned example from Gerald Mast.


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In this short excerpt, Mast dissects a single shot from a Chaplin film in which the great clown mimes his indecision, contemplation, and finally his resolution. Mast divides the shot into three spatial sections representing different mental states as the clown moves forward across the frame. A nice bit of writing, but an unfortunate choice. For another thing, the cognitivist-constructivist school tends to produce formal analyses that too often read as what might be called allegories of thinking.

As with so many other theories, as with, for example, deconstructive critics,. The sample from Mast—long gone before the cognitive school eked out a brief role for itself in film studies—comes off as a little trite in this sense. The shot, after all, also offers a single recording of Chaplin artfully miming human activity, entirely comprehensible without any triadic division of the frame.

His new work simply moves the issue of comprehension how we construct understandings of film through our cognitive concepts and experience to a well-honed exploration of the language-games known as film theory. But Branigan is up to much more here. Branigan sticks us with a much stronger position.

He argues that film theories should be based on an understanding of the embodied nature of our language. If, for example, the term camera remains a concept we employ to comprehend components of a film, then the proper and strongest usage of this term in a theoretical framework are those that remain rooted in the embodied nature basic cognitive and emotive responses of these language games.

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This emphasis on cognitive theory offers us a kind of lexical and conceptual measuring stick for evaluating the validity of film theories. Branigan turns to these thinkers in order to militate for a grounding of film theory in an understanding of the embodied nature of our cognition and language. As a bystander to these debates I feel it is important to accentuate the challenge Branigan presents here. Some portions of the book strike a seemingly balanced, even pluralistic or relativistic tone, one that might obscure the overall thrust of its argument. Often these sections remain the most strongly Wittgensteinian, in the sense that the language-games of various theories get framed under their different uses and purposes.

From this perspective, the language games of various film theories, then, need to be understood for their different goals: none the better; none the worse. But the emphasis Branigan places on cognitive philosophy even while Lakoff veers into a similar relativism in some of his own work strikes a harsher note.

If the various film theories remain only different language games, then, Branigan argues, they all possess a blind spot, in that they fail to acknowledge the embodied nature of their conceptual and linguistic structures. Whether other Wittgensteinian scholars will welcome or resist this latter move by Branigan remains an open question one beyond my level of expertise. It will be interesting to observe the reaction from other film theorists. Let the language games begin.

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Cinema and the embodied mind: metaphor and simulation in understanding meaning in films

Carousel Previous Carousel Next. Jump to Page. Search inside document. As with so many other theories, as with, for example, deconstructive critics, 3 www. Eric Leonard. Jorge Soto Andrade.


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  • Shahroze Ansari. Awfully Aurthohin. Vlad Cocuz. Monic Romero. As mentioned in the previous part, according to the message or code model comprehension is reached effortlessly by way of decoding the syntax of the form of the message. On this view, the perceiver of the form comes to know the meaning of the form simply by looking at the objective language-based rules of the form in question. Such a rule applying approach to meaning, however, eliminates the significance of embodiment. For instance, it does not require that we take into account the embodied morphology of both communicator and recipient as well as the embodied underpinnings of the formal expression.

    One merely has to look at the linguistic meaning of the transmitted sign to formulate the concept to which the sign refers.

    This neural bond is driven by the discovery of mirror neurons in the macaque monkey brain and evidence for the existence of a similar mirror mechanism in the human brain Gallese et al. This mapping enables one to perceive the action, emotion or sensation of another as if she were performing that action or experiencing that emotion or sensation herself. Because they discharge both during the execution and the observation of a given behaviour, mirror neurons have been considered to be conditional for mind-reading and a variety of related concepts such as intersubjectivity, empathy and theory of mind.

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    Hence, since film, like all other arts, exemplifies a mediated form of intersubjectivity between a filmmaker and his creative team see also Gallese and Guerra, , on the one hand, and the film viewer, on the other hand, it can be assumed that EST has a significant role in the way audiences grasp the meaning of actions and sensations in films. The line of reasoning underlying this hypothesis can be put as follows:. How, then, can the viewer connect up with these expressive acts if he or she is not performing or experiencing these acts him or herself when viewing the film?

    Examining this assumption has been central to the collaborative work between Gallese and film scholar Michele Guerra Gallese and Guerra, , In their specification of the relation between EST and cinema, they have pointed out that viewers are not only bodily engaged in terms of sensory-motor motor cortex activation during the observation of the actions and emotions of actors and actresses the most obvious level of embodiment , but also during the observation of the actions of cinematic devices for example, camera movements, changes of shot scale, different editing techniques, and so on.

    Support for this claim can be found in two experimental studies that were recently performed Heimann et al. For instance, with regard to the latter, the sensory-motor areas of the brain were found to be more active in cases for videos that were filmed while approaching the scene with a steadicam Heimann et al. If ES processes have a major role in prompting the actions of both characters and stylistic devices in the viewer, where, then, do emotions and top-down processes, these two other important components of the film experience, fit in this picture?

    For instance, in the previous section we have already argued that significant forms that is, forms that exhibit image schematic structures are vital in embodying meaning in visual expressions. In light of this claim, Grodal has argued that the discovery of these essential features, which he situates within the first stage of the flow, works in tandem with positive emotional responses from the limbic system. Footnote 4 Consequently, one might assume that ES processes in the viewer are more stimulated insofar they conjoin with the perception of significant forms that, from an emotional point-of-view, are more rewarding.

    Projecting a Camera - E-bok - Edward Branigan () | Bokus

    Furthermore, Grodal : — has claimed that emotions also have a significant role in the second stage of the PECMA flow, the process of associating or matching the significant input to stored memories and schemata. This stage can be seen as a top-down procedure insofar as this matching or reconstruction presupposes metacognitive functions see also Shimamura, : Underlying this process is the neurological notion that only a fraction of the information will get focal attention. Thus, one can assume that embodied processes are not only directed towards sensory cues that are emotionally gratifying, but also towards sensory cues that already have been selected for attention.

    For these reasons, it should be noted that the lack of reference to emotions and top-down processes in the above line of reasoning by no means implies the exclusion of them. Rather, the positioning of EST as a possible solution to the above problem presupposes the workings of both components. Footnote 5 Undoubtedly, it would be interesting, albeit outside the scope of this article, to further elaborate on these points. It is through the ES system, then, that we will now illustrate that film viewers are able to attribute subjective states to fictional characters in film.

    When speaking of fictional minds or fictional subjectivity, we refer in this article to the inner life and the personality of fictional characters see, for example, Eder, ; Reinerth and Thon, It involves such mental faculties as perception, cognition, evaluation, motivation and emotion. The property domain of the mind distinguishes itself, as Eder : 24 argues, from other anthropological categories of characters such as corporeality for example, external appearance, body language and sociality for example, social roles, power, status, and so on.

    The grounding problem of fictional subjectivity, then, amounts to the problem of how viewers are able to attribute mental states to characters given that these states are essentially abstract in nature. In what follows, we propose the embodied model of this article, as a solution to this problem. Consequently, this first requires that we narrow down the three central questions of our model as follows:.

    Which metaphors and metonymies do we use to conceptualize the mind? Because the target domain of fictional subjectivity is still too broad, we will subject each question and corresponding level of analysis to two of its specific categories, namely visual perception and emotion. It goes without saying that a discussion of the first question alone would take an overview of an extensive body of research in the field of cognitive linguistics.

    For our purpose it is, therefore, enough to summarize some of its main findings. The second and third question will be assessed through the analysis of some concise film scenes. Evidence in cognitive linguistics often seem to broadly support five conclusions regarding the different ways people tend to talk about the mental faculty of perception here defined as a relation between an object perceived O and a perceiving subject S see Fig. Fifth and last, scholars have also stressed the conceptual significance of perception for the way humans conceive the target domain of time Lakoff and Johnson, , ; Boroditsky, ; Gentner, ; Gentner et al.

    It is through the forces of cinema for example, framing, editing, camera movement and the formal density they impose onto the first-order reality, that we have claimed, that the viewer is prompted to see a fictional character S and the object of his or her perception O as spatially connected to each other, and by further metaphorical extension that S sees O. This spatial connection between S and O takes the form of a mapping in which the inferential logic of one or more image schemas, as forced cinematically, are extended to structure the inferential logic of perception that is, the relation between S and O.

    To illustrate this, let us consider two dynamic scenes of visual perception, respectively, taken from two films of Alfred Hitchcock: Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious see Fig.