Die Hard as an Emotion Symphony: How Reptilian Scenarios Meet Mammalian Emotions in the Flow of an Action Film

in Projections

The article analyzes how action films use different emotional sources of arousal to create narrative tension and suspense in the PECMA flow (i.e., the mental flow of perceptions that activate emotions, cognition, and action). It analyzes how different emotions link to each other or contrast each other in the narrative flow that one metaphorically might call an emotion symphony. The flow may create a time-out experience because of the way in which the action-oriented flow recruits consciousness in full, similar to the way in which music creates flow experiences, as discussed by cognitive music aestheticians. The article discusses how the flow supports character simulation and how it uses a small set of scenarios (HTTOFF scenarios) to drive the flow. To illustrate the symphonic flow, it makes a close reading of John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988).