Inside the Gaze: The Fiction Film and Its Spectator

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Sorlin, Pierre İstanbul: Yenihayat, p. Stacey, Jackie Routledge, London and NY. Gledhill, Christine Gledhill and L.

Deconstructing the Spectator through Meta-cinema: Bharathiraja's 'Bommalattam' | Sahapedia

Williams Ed. London: Arnold, p. London: BFI. Jarvie, Ian Charles Routledge: London and New York. Kaya Mutlu, Dilek İstanbul: The Isis Press. Babil: İstanbul. Kemper, Tomas Access date: 18 September Kuhn, Anette London, New York: I. Mayne, Judith Cinema and Spectatorship. London, New York: Routledge. Moores, Shaun Interpreting Audiences. London: Sage. Mutlu, Erol Ankara: Ark. Staiger, Janet Sebahat Adalar , Adana , 5. Meryem Oskay , Antalya , 3. Necla Oktay , İstanbul , DOI: Thus the film transforms the psychologically and socially defined individual into a spectatorial subject.

With the so-called fiction effect, which is one of many effects promoted by the device that designates the sensation that spectators will experience when they think they are the ones producing what is on the screen, Baudry went a step further by adding that in the film experience, unlike in real life, some of our most accumulated desires are illusorily or fraudulently satisfied.

Inside the gaze : the fiction film and its spectator

Christian Metz outlined better the cinema-dream analogy, the similarity between the cinema spectator and the subject who dreams. B asically, Metz argues that the dream and the film are stories told in pictures in which the unconscious desire is symbolic. The sense of reality and, therefore, its emotional counterparts are underlined in the film as a result of the identification mechanisms involved in the film experience.


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Metz links the primary identification with the mirror stage described by Lacan: spectators identify with the view of the camera because in their early childhood they experienced an equivalent psychic process in which they forged their ego. B Secondary identification with the fictional characters that resembles the identification promoted by the rest of the means of narrative expression.

In short, the Lacanian precepts help to reveal that cinema takes part in the desires of the spectator and gives him great pleasures. Without leaving the conceptual course of psychoanalysis, in this case of Freudian inspiration, the first wave of feminist theory denounced that in this way the institutionalised cinema reproduced the structures of domination. In a seminal essay, Laura Mulvey argued that men and women have different desires, that the cinema apparatus in its classi cal Hollywood version only gave form to phallocentric desires, and that the spectator that was immersed in this model of film experience, which is structured according to a male gaze, cannot feel pleasure without reproducing the structures of patriarchal domination.

On these premises, psychoanalytic theory and its feminist branch that soon rejected the Freudian principles that, transmuted in gender studies, reached the border of cultural studies have evolved considerably in the course of the years and have investigated the pleasures and desires produced in the filmic experience, which has not ceased to raise considerable suspicions among those who see things differently. The cognitive approach, for example, has denounced the real low value and attention that psychoanalytic film theory gives to emotions.

For Carl Plantinga and Greg M. Smith , two of the most recognised cognitivists, this alleged reluctance of psychoanalytic film theory to study emotions had its origins in the writings of Freud, who provides a comprehensive theory of instincts and sexuality, but leaves emotions in a second level of importance [ 5 ]. Plantinga and Smith have argued that the disadvantage of a theoretical approach based on instincts and libidinal impulses lies in its nullity at the moment of measuring the specific nuances exhibited by the filmically-reflected emotional situations.

As result we have a set of analysis cut by the same pattern that invariably reveals the libidinal origin of filmic emotions, but does not examine the unique physiognomy and vibration that these emotions acquire in each case. In other words, psychoanalytic film theory has not been able to detect the identical series of problems faced by all films regardless of the tone of the films and, what is worse; it has underestimated the rest of significant parameters regardless of their relevance.

Cognitive theory applied to cinema began to take shape in the s with the focus put on correcting that diagnosis error. Cognitivism is not a unified and doctrinal theory, but an eclectic constellation of proposals seeking alternatives answers from psychoanalysis and the film-linguistics to explain the way in which spectators understand films. Regarding the audience described as captive, subjected and in trance by psychoanalysis, the cognitivist approach emphasises that the response of the individual to a film has largely a rational motivation. From this critical equidistance, the cognitivist approach formulates a novel idea about the emotional experiences linked to the vision of films.

Although it acknowledges that there is a markedly personal trajectory that culminates in its neo-formalist theory, some of the numerous works by David Bordwell ; ; have given support to this shift proposed by the cognitivist approach from the unconscious psychoanalysis to the conscious and pre-conscious processes that are involved in the filmic interpretation.

However, Bordwell does not examine the emotional response of spectators:. This is not because I think that emotion is irrelevant to our experience of cinematic storytelling—far from it—but because I am concerned with the aspects of viewing that lead to constructing the story and its world. The most orthodox cognitivist authors not only resent this segregation, but also have focused, as I have said, much of their efforts on the study of the emotional responses of film spectators. The aforementioned compendium edited by Carl Plantinga and Greg M.

Smith , which includes some of the first postulates of cognitivism, is a good thermometer to measure their contributions in this area. The editors summarise in the introduction to the volume the three basic assumptions of the cognitive approach:.

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So the investigations of cognitive philosophers have been directed to describe those objects or causes that, present in the filmic text, cause the filmic emotion. His results were summarised and made applicable to melodrama and suspense, in a chapter included in the compendium of Plantinga and Smith , where he presents an overall profile of the relations between the genre conventions and the particular emotions they provoke. Murray Smith , on the other hand, undertook a deep re-reading of the axial concept of identification forged by psychoanalysis, which counteracted the notion of engagement.

Opposing psychoanalytic film theory which proposes a direct correlation between the perceptual alignment and allegiance [ 7 ] , Murray Smith insists on a qualitative leap that mediates between the perceptual alignment and allegiance: if to ensure recognition and alignment the spectator only has to understand the features and mental states that define a character, then allegiance is evaluating them and responding to the emotionally Thus, instead of being a consequence that is impulsive, unconscious and contrary to reason, the filmic emotion is part of the combined cycle of perception, cognition and action.

The spectator empathises after a rational process in which he evaluates the actions of a fictional character in accordance with its moral and ideological principles. Joseph D. Anderson has summarised this sort of ecological approach to cognitive theory of film in three nuclear proposals:. For the spectator film viewing, from the perceptual point of view, is an illusion. However, despite being one of the most cited and recognised texts of cognitive theory, this work remarkably neglects the emotional and somatic contrasts arising out of these cognitive processes.

Torben Grodal is much more insightful and incisive on the subject. He has examined the physiology of film reception, this emotional section of the film experience that even has somatic counterparts such as laughing, crying or goose bumps [ 9 ]. He also examines the incidence that the identification mechanisms [ 10 ] and the conventions of some specific genres [ 11 ] have in the field of the affections of the spectator.

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Greg M. Smith summarises quite accurately the virtues of the cognitive approach when he says that the study of the filmic emotions should address in details all the mechanisms that provoke them, from the lighting to the genre conventions, and including the production, the gestures of the actors, the camera work, sound, music, narrative resources, etc. Very relevantly, Greg M.


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This invitation is not unique, but unfolds throughout the film in a succession of requests that the spectator accepts or rejects. The proposal of Greg M. Smith is to academically study [ 12 ] the film components of stylistic nature in which that sequence of invitations is materialised. Today, reception theory also called the reader-response theory challenges the hegemony of cognitivism in film studies in Anglo-Saxon countries. We are talking about a certainly uneven epistemological rivalry since the reception theory makes common cause with the positions of post-colonial theory, cultural studies, and the gender studies in which the s feminist theory mutated, and even with the approaches of pragmatics, i.

A direct and concise way to describe the contributions of reception theory consists in pointing out the relative position of its idea of the cinematic experience in relation to the positions of psychoanalysis and cognitivism, which as we have already mentioned are antagonistic.

In Conversation With Laura Mulvey (Interview)

The hypnotic reception conditions emotionally hinder spectators until they are captivated by an experience that transcends them and is alien to them [ 13 ]. Focusing on the actual impacts that film consumption causes, reception theory emphasises, on the contrary, the polyhedral character of the film experience: the meaning of the text is not imposed by any instance discursive or extra-discursive , but is defined in each case in each update or reading in a conflict or negotiation which involves frameworks of reference, the motivations and experiences of the reader, on the one hand, and the possible world of fiction, on the other.

From this epistemological prism, the meaning of the text is the distinctive experience of each reader. In the case of cinema, the viewing of a film becomes, opposing the ideas of psychoanalysis, a projective experience in which the spectators put into play their determining factors such as race, class, nationality, gender, and ideology. Cognitivism, for its part, not only highlights the rational motivation of the emotional responses linked to film viewing, but also includes a notion of spectator as neutral, not contradictory, apolitical and universal, and unavailable in any case to the heterogeneous cultural determinations carried by the real-life empirical reader.

In other words, the semantic update of the filmic text is regulated by a number of perceptual and cognitive common denominators shared by all cultures. Thus, the emotional response from the spectator is the climax of the chain of inferences which, in the light of such universal codes of perception and cognition, the spectator makes by following the indicators offered by the filmic text.

Reception theory completely opposes the ideas of cognitive theory and claims the existence of sociologically and culturally differentiated forms of spectatorship that decisively influence the emotional effects of the films. Spectators become active and critical subjects that interact with the film text from a historically founded position according to a number of determinants that condition their reading and the emotions the text produces in them.