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.


Sai Gopal- Metaphor and Film

Continuing on from the introduction, Whitttock in the book first goes about explaining the concept of metaphors.

The author does so by by first trying to distinguish between the concepts of analogy and metaphor. He says that analogies form the basis of metaphors. He coins the phrase, similitude in dissimilitude to explain it.

He clarifies by saying that in case of analogies, the connections between the subject and the parallel case are accepted literally. However in case of metaphors, the connections between the tenor and the vehicle are understood figuratively.

He then tries to place the birth of metaphors in human experience. He says that metaphors are born at the frontier of human existence at the place where language with its inadequacies and our mental framework of classifications with its restrictions encounter unassimilated experiences.

He then goes about tracing the history of metaphors. He goes back to the period where metaphors were distrusted especially after the manifold works of metaphysical poets. The distrust was due to the fact that metaphors yoked together heterogeneous objects together. There was also the fear that some of the figurative meanings generated by metaphors could be illusory. The fear was that due to such meanings we could lose our grip on reality. While the author cheekily quotes Wallace Stevens by saying that reality is a cilche from which we escape by metaphor, he addresses this argument. The author argues that metaphors adjust our customary ways of thinking and contemplate fresh aspects and perspectives on the subject that are brought to light by metaphors.

The author then gives a few examples to the reader to identify metaphors in poems. He then goes on distinguish symbols from metaphors. While the author does say that the connections and the understanding of the said connections are the same in both the cases, the vehicle gains greater status in case of symbols.

He then goes on to say what are the uses of metaphors. He primarily lists six different uses. They are namely, decoration, emotional effect, concision, naming the unnamed, naming the unnamable and eliciting the reader’s own creativity.

He also lists out the principal forms by which metaphors are generated. He lists them out by recognising the fact that an exhaustive list i close to impossible and that his list is not the be all and end all. The forms are explicit comparison, identity assertion, indentity implied by substitution, juxtaposition, metonymy, synecdoche, objective correlation, distortion, rule disruption and parallelism.

Whittock, Trevor. “Concept of Poetic Metaphor.” Metaphor and Film. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Print.

Introducing Film Studies and Metaphor and Film

Lewis, Jon. “Introducing Film Studies.” Cinema Journal 50.3 (2011): 93-95. Web.

This article by Jon Lewis details the author’s personal experience in film studies, specifically in teaching film studies. The author teaches Film studies at the Oregon State University.

He details as to how the discipline of film studies was mismanaged and how he started the course himself. He talks about how film studies are not just about making students see films that they should, but also how students should be able to place the said films in their industrial, cultural and historical context.

Whittock, Trevor. “Introduction.” Metaphor and Film. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. 1-4. Print.

The author of this book introduces the topic of metaphors in films. He talks about how metaphors are present in films and how there is even considerable hostility from two quarters to this view. The first one from literary critics who believe that metaphors are exclusive to the words only and the second view is held by certain film theoreticians who say that such ideas arise out of misunderstanding the true nature of the film medium.

While the author does say that these views should not be dismissed lightly, he does talk about how film semiology is largely unexplored and that it is a challenge and adds that he would be discussing specific films and how one can see the metaphors and codes in them.