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David Bordwell

Understanding how spectators interact with films requires some theory of filmic representation. This article reviews three such theories. The first, a communication model, assumes that an artwork constitutes or contains a message passed from a sender to a receiver. The second, a signification model, assumes that the film operates within a system of codes and that the perceiver applies codes to signs in the text in order to arrive at meanings. This conception of film as signification may be found in both classic structuralist and post-structuralist accounts. The third, an empirical-experiential model, assumes that an artwork is designed to create an experience for the spectator. This article argues that the cognitive approach to film studies is founded on the third model of representation. The article also traces the strengths and limits of cognitive film theory and its theory of representation.

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A Structure of Antipathy

Constructing the Villain in Narrative Film

Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen

Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and David Yates, 2001–2011)—that provoke their audiences’ moral condemnation. What are the psychological underpinnings of this response, and by what means do the villains provoke it? Cognitive film theory has not yet

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Dan Flory

. Thus, when we respond with racialized disgust to some sort of cinematic elicitor, it will be more reflexive, autonomic, and body-based than these related but more complicated emotional responses. From the point of view of current cognitive film theory

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Twofoldness in Moving Images

The Philosophy and Neuroscience of Filmic Experience

Joerg Fingerhut

2019 ). I will re-engage in a recent debate regarding their interpretation ( Fingerhut 2018a ; M. Smith 2018 ). My aim is to indicate how a new cognitive film theory and naturalized aesthetics of film could take shape if it were to engage more

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Catalin Brylla and Mette Kramer

analysis of fiction film over that of documentary, a tendency that is mainly attributable to four factors. First, cognitive film theory developed in the 1990s as (arguably) a theoretical alternative to the influential Marxist, psychoanalytic, semiotic and

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Carl Plantinga

Film scholars, critics, filmmakers, and audiences all routinely employ intuitive, untutored "folk psychology" in viewing, interpreting, critiquing, and making films. Yet this folk psychology receives little attention in film scholarship. This article argues that film scholars ought to pay far more attention to the nature and uses of folk psychology. Turning to critical work on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the article demonstrates the diverse and sometimes surprising ways that folk psychology is used in criticism. From an evolutionary perspective, the article defends the critic's and audience's interests in characters as persons. It also defends folk psychology against some of its most vocal detractors, and provides some guidance into how cognitive film theorists might employ folk psychology, arguing that such employment must supplement and correct folk psychology with scientific psychology and philosophical analysis. Finally, the article argues that the application of folk psychology to films is a talent, a skill, and a sensitivity rather than a science.

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Edward Branigan

Contemporary film theory is noted for its sturm und drang, though in the case of the soundtrack, incompatible attitudes and methods are found mostly below the surface where theoretical presuppositions are ruled by unpredictable melodic contours and accents. This article provides a comprehensive overview of philosophical issues concerning audition. It aims to orient a diverse array of sound theories in relation to a set of core issues involving perceptual processing, language, and mind. The article sounds out various cognitive frameworks, where each type of frame projects a favored description and explanation of sonic phenomena. It argues that what is heard in a sound depends on how one listens, and with what purpose.

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Murray Smith

Skepticism, even hostility, about the relevance of the natural sciences to the humanities has been the orthodoxy for several decades—a position finding support from otherwise disparate traditions and philosophies, including that of the late Wittgenstein, and post-structuralism. What, then, of the ambitions of those counter-movements within the humanities, like cognitive film theory, which have actively turned to scientific knowledge as a resource in exploring certain aspects of the arts and culture? This article examines emotional expression and experience in relation to film, testing the hypothesis that different theories of emotion, and in particular scientifically grounded theories of emotion, will yield different implications about both emotional expression in film, and our emotional response to films. To concretize the argument, this article offers an analysis of a sequence from Heimat 3, contextualized by a consideration of various factors that make the series as a whole a particularly illuminating case study.

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“Mind the Gap”

Between Movies and Mind, Affective Neuroscience, and the Philosophy of Film

Jane Stadler

Abstract

Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture makes a significant contribution to cognitive film theory and philosophical aesthetics, expanding the conceptual tools of film analysis to include perspectives from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Smith probes assumptions about how cinema affects spectators by examining aspects of experience and neurophysiological responses that are unavailable to conscious, systematic reflection. This article interrogates Smith’s account of emotion, empathy, and imagination in cinematic representation and film spectatorship, placing his work in dialogue with other recent interventions in the fields of cinema studies and embodied cognition. Smith’s contribution to understanding the role of emotion in screen studies is vital, and when read in conjunction with recent publications by Carl Plantinga and Mark Johnson on ethical engagement and the moral imagination, this new work constitutes a notable advance in film theory.

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Wyatt Moss-Wellington

Abstract

Cognitive dissonance provides a model for understanding how we experience film texts as profound. This article looks at the ways in which filmmakers might motivate or exploit the pleasure of resolving familiar narrative dissonance to inspire emotions associated with profundity, sublimity, or transcendence. David Lynch scholarship provides a primary case study in the conflation of cognitive dissonance and transcendence, however it is contended that moral obligations to rape and trauma victims are sublimated in the process. Alternative moral dissonances across a range of different cinematic modes are subsequently addressed. Comparative analysis of vigilantism in American revenge and “social cleansing” films, Ken Loach’s social realism, Richard Linklater’s Bernie (2011), and John Sayles’s Lone Star (1996) permits an exploration of variability in filmic dissonance and narrative comprehension, as well as alternative approaches to filmmaking ethics and responsibility. The article concludes with suggestions for an applied ethics extended from cognitive film theory