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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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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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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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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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Uri Hasson, Ohad Landesman, Barbara Knappmeyer, Ignacio Vallines, Nava Rubin, and David J. Heeger

This article describes a new method for assessing the effect of a given film on viewers' brain activity. Brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during free viewing of films, and inter-subject correlation analysis (ISC) was used to assess similarities in the spatiotemporal responses across viewers' brains during movie watching. Our results demonstrate that some films can exert considerable control over brain activity and eye movements. However, this was not the case for all types of motion picture sequences, and the level of control over viewers' brain activity differed as a function of movie content, editing, and directing style. We propose that ISC may be useful to film studies by providing a quantitative neuroscientific assessment of the impact of different styles of filmmaking on viewers' brains, and a valuable method for the film industry to better assess its products. Finally, we suggest that this method brings together two separate and largely unrelated disciplines, cognitive neuroscience and film studies, and may open the way for a new interdisciplinary field of “neurocinematic” studies.

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Torben Grodal

Abstract

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).

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Torben Grodal

Based on film examples and evolutionary psychology, this article discusses why viewers are fascinated not only with funny and pleasure-evoking films, but also with sad and disgust-evoking ones. This article argues that although the basic emotional mechanisms are made to avoid negative experiences and approach pleasant ones, a series of adaptations modify such mechanisms. Goal-setting in narratives implies that a certain amount of negative experiences are gratifying challenges, and comic mechanisms make it possible to deal with negative social emotions such as shame. Innate adaptations make negative events fascinating because of the clear survival value, as when children are fascinated by stories about loss of parental attachment. Furthermore, it seems that the interest in tragic stories ending in death is an innate adaptation to reaffirm social attachment by the shared ritual of sadness, often linked to acceptance of group living and a tribal identity.

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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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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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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.