Understanding Cinema: From Semiotic Structures to Free-Floating Interpretations

Friday, May 26 – 3

In this proposal, we explore two main interpretative strategies that revolve around film content, aesthetics, and technical means of expression.

The first one suggests that cinema should be seen as an exemplifying basis for explaining specific aspects within a given theory or engaging readers/listeners through references to film images and plot instances that are easily understood. By incorporating, for example, psychoanalytic categories such as the death drive, displacement, symbolic order, or the Oedipus complex, the strategy aims to enhance and broaden the understanding of plots and plot twists, but it does not transport the viewer anywhere near the inner mechanics of the cinematic piece.

Contrariwise, the other strategy focuses on perceiving the film as an end-in-itself, rather than merely as a means, by delving into the intricacies of cinema language, the inner structure of image production, and what sets films apart from other art forms. These questions often arise within the context of structural linguistics, linguistics, and semiotics-oriented analyses of popular culture. The approach allows for a respectful consideration of films, taking into account the specificities of cinematic storytelling.

Then again, it is also possible to approach cinema by paying less attention to the content and focusing more on the structures that underpin the cinematic universe. This approach involves reducing the inner mechanics of films to linguistic categories and minimizing the influence of these structures on the overall film experience. Christian Metz’s grand syntagmathique project serves as an illustration of the former, while Gilles Deleuze’s exploration of movement- and time-images exemplifies the latter.

  • Deleuze, Gilles (1997). Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis.
  • Metz, Christian (1991). Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. The University of Chicago Press.
  • Metz, Christian (2001). Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Imaginary Signifier. The Macmillan Press.
UA 🇺🇦 • PhD candidate at Kyiv's Shevchenko University orcid || Full bio

Olena Verbivska is a PhD student at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine, with a philosophical background in structuralism and poststructuralism. Her current focus is on narrative theories, with a particular interest in narrative grammar.

Comments are closed.