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Understanding Characters

Jens Eder

Keywords: ANALYSIS; CHARACTERS; CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATION; FILM THEORY; HEURISTICS; INTERPRETATION; NARRATOLOGY; RECEPTION

Characters are of central importance for our film experience, and they confront us with a multitude of questions concerning their production, structures, meanings, effects, etc. Subjective intuitions do not suffice to answer those questions and to analyze, describe, and discuss characters in differentiated and comprehensive ways. To do this, we need a set of conceptual tools, an infrastructure for argumentation. This article summarizes the central results of my book Die Figur im Film in those respects, starting from a heuristic core model. The “clock of character” distinguishes between four aspects of characters: (1) As artifacts, they are shaped by audiovisual information; (2) As fictional beings they have certain bodily, mental, and social features; (3) As symbols, they impart higher-level meanings; and (4) as symptoms they point to socio-cultural causes in their production and to effects in their reception.

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