Film as Text
Film, including all moving pictures, is a cool medium in that almost everything is done for us and so we lie back and absorb it without really exerting our inner mental eye. Reading and listening, according to the guru of media studies, are hot medium because they engage our imagination.
Meaning in a film is created by cinematography also called mise en scene or sub- text. Spectacle includes colour, sound and language. Everything on stage or in the frame speaks to us and we need to learn how these elements affect us and create meaning for us.
Especially in drama or film, body language through stance, position, deportment, facial expression, posture and thousands of subtle features convey meaning. Then there are the other cinematic factors, such as staging, casting, props, sound effects, lighting and costumes that influence how a play creates and we derive meaning. These are factors that must be valued and the director’s role is critical in determining how a play is presented and received by a live pulsating audience.
Good actors become their characters and even without dialogue, convey emotional nuance, empathy or menace. Just with their presence they project elation or deep despair. Language becomes secondary. Developing a rapport with the audience creates trust so they identify and become interested in trivial detail and apply it to their lives.
Trying to put you into the shoes of the main characters can be an immersive experience. In film “jacking in”, recording thrilling experiences through subjective camera angles, can replicate them in alluring immersive techniques so we can experience them vicariously.
Performance communicates instantaneously – “a picture is worth a 1000 words” so language is secondary and often difficult to follow.
They say that “pictures never lie”, but we know this is a half-truth. Through various filmic techniques, pictures and especially moving images can manipulate the viewer’s emotions and distort the actual truth of the scenes they depict.
You will find more information on visual grammar under the Language of Visuals.
Sensual awareness is crucial so composers try to recapture scenes and objects through the appeal of the five senses, visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, gustatory.
(Sight, feeling, smell, sound, taste)
It is through performance - action, interaction and spectacle that we experience and glean meaning often sub-consciously.
Comparison of two film adaptations involves looking at cinematic factors, such as: setting, staging, casting, props, sound effects, lighting and costumes
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