Sai Gopal: Metaphor and Film

Continuing on from the concept of metaphor, the author finally gets to the topic of metaphors in films. In this chapter, the author sets up the foundation for the rest of the book. He clarifies the strategy of this book by putting forth a four point plan. They are:

  1. To argue that most film theoreticians have oversimplified the concept of metaphor.
  2. To develop a stylistics of metaphor appropriate to film
  3. To demonstrate the presence of metaphors in a significant number of films
  4. To put the case for a more inclusive theory of metaphor

He sets about by first distinguishing how metaphors are different when one compares between language and film image. He does so by first distinguishing between the two. He brings forth the point that film images are almost a copy or a direct impression of reality unlike language. He reinforces this idea by talking about a film image of a moving car. The viewer sees the car moving and not as three separate elements ie car, sound and motion. The reality and the film image share characteristics. Meanwhile words are usually arbitrary signifiers only.

He goes on to talk about how a viewer perceives film images. A viewer sees film images as if it is happening rather than as it happened. This is one of the key points of films. The viewer is ready to give it the credence that fiction demands, a willing suspension of disbelief.

However the author also talks about the disadvantage of film images. When the film images can be concrete impressions, how can they be used to express the conceptual or metaphorical meanings? He cites the Christian Metz who summarized Jean Mitry’s views on metaphor. In the citation, an example is given from Charlie Chaplin’s movie, Modern Times. The scene in reference is showing a herd of sheep which cuts to an image of a crowd descending in to an underground station. This association shows a symbolic leap.

The author goes on to clarify that metaphor are not the domain of language but our understanding. He cites GD Martin from Language, Truth and Poetry that when a term is extended into  a new context or used as a metaphor, it forces into consciousness, or at least into the fringes of consciousness, certain connotations, making them interplicit.

The focus being on an imaginative, rather than a rhetorical account of metaphor. It is a process of seeing as. He also talks about how metaphors are communicated by filmmakers for the audience to understand. He talks about how film images is not a passive process, but an actively creative one that can incorporate metaphorical connctions in the very images themselves.

The author then gives the example of an interview given Yves de Laurot. In the interview, de Laurot talks about the process of filming of a bank. The filming of these scene with the light, hushed footsteps, framing, cmposing etc is done to give the image that the bank is a temple in any capitalistic country. The connection is not explicitly said, but a conclusion that viewer arrives at.

The author finishes the chapter with several more examples of how film images can be seen as metaphors to tell a different story or the moral pointers that the filmmaker wants to convey to the audience.

Whittock, Trevor. “Language, Metaphor and the Film Image.” Metaphor and Film. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Print.



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