Chapter 4Textual Analysis of the Contents Encoded in a Film4.1 IntroductionIn continuation tothe third chapter, in this chapter the research would explore the cognitivesignificance of those filmic constituents which are either larger than frame,shot or are exocentric in nature. Therefore, one aim is to decipher film as a text form. There are varioussimilarities between the filmic text and the linguistic text and thesecommonalities will be investigated here.
Various forms of texts have beendistinguished with utmost clarity in the following section of the thesis whichmakes it clear how the filmic text is constituted by the amalgamation of thevarious forms of texts and why cinema is considered to be one of the mostcomplex forms of language. Another aimis to explore the metaphorical nature of language and film.4.2 Film as a textFilm as a textembodies the communicative intentions of its creator.
The success of thecinematic communication, therefore, depends on the successful deciphering ofthis encoded intention by the audience. If film is considered as a text owingto its constitutional features, it can be understood that the meaning of thefilm lies in the cognitive process of the audience. Therefore, one needs toembark upon a research in this direction to understand the hidden structuresand the processes that are involved in cognizing a film text, which can betaken as one of the most complex form of languages.Any object thatcan be “read” can be called a text, irrespective of the fact if it is a work ofliterature, an arrangement of buildings, a street sign or styles of attires.
Text is a coherent set of signs that have certain kind of informative messagein it. The set of symbols are actually considered in terms of the content ofthe informative message and not in terms of the medium in which these getrepresented or the physical form.Text is aconfluence of signs that add up to convey a meaning to the reader or the viewerwho gauges that meaning by virtue of the concept of the language. This processof cognizing the text also involves using cultural markers, understandingfigures of speech and so on.
However, the text remains irrespective of the kindof interpretation which is attributed to it. It is like a script, in the wordsof Barthes (1967) in the seminal essay “The Death of the Author”, which findscompletion in its comprehension by the reader or viewer.4.3 Similarities: Film text and Linguistic textWhiledistinguishing the types of text, one needs to take into account the differencein modalities and source. In our distinction, one form of text is Audio text whichinvolves the functioning of the auditory inputs, the source being external.Audio form of text can further be subdivided into Oral and Aural texts.What we are tryingto argue is the difference of origin and nature of these Audio texts. While anOral text would be constituted of spoken language, Aural text would find itsemergence in a non-linguistic form (e.
g., music compositions, sound of arunning stream of water, etc.).Aural text canfurther be distinguished into Naturaland Artificial text forms.
Natural text form is something which isnot created by human intervention, while Artificialtext form would need a human entity to produce and play the composition.Theother modality of text is Visual. Visual text has arranged visual data. Againit could be of two types, namely static and dynamic. Fig.
4.1Filmforms the complex inter-modal form of Audio-Visual text which involves thefunctioning of all these divisions and sub-divisions, thus rendering the textform a paramount complexity.There are certainsimilarities between Linguistic text and Film text.
If an attempt is made toapproach linguistic text from a compositional point of view, it can be notedthat it is composed of a set of paragraphs. These paragraphs can be seen as aset of sentences, which can further be reduced into a set of phrases. Phrasesare finally broken down as a combination of words.Similarly, thefilm text can also be approached from the viewpoint of compositionality. Thefilm text as a unit is a set of sequences.
These sequences each can be seen asa set of shots. A shot is actually a set of frames, while a frame can actuallybe understood as a set of entities at a particular time.4.4 Metaphorical nature of film and languageOne needs tounderstand what is meant by the word ‘metaphor’. Metaphor is essentially afigure of speech which describes a particular subject to be the same as anotherobject which is otherwise unrelated to it and this is done on some point ofcomparison between the two things in context. Metaphor is actually a kind ofanalogy and it is closely related to the other rhetorical figures of speechwhich achieve their desired effect through association, comparison orresemblance which includes hyperbole, allegory and simile.The principle ofcompositionality states that simple words the meaning is conventional orarbitrary. Also, the speakers need to learn to associate the word with itsmeaning on an item to item basis.
In the case of complex words, meaning ismotivated at least partly. The speakers, in this case, learn to derive themeaning of the words from the meaning of the parts by the help of the generalrules. Hence, it is said that meaning is derived compositionally. However, thisprinciple is not followed in certain cases. In case of language and film alike,context sensitive information can actually deviate from abiding by the theoryof compositionality which has been stated above. This deviation from theprinciple can also be context driven which is more aptly noticed in films. Infilms the nature of relation between the two things is determined contextually.Another very important device through which this principle is defied isanalogy.
Analogical references can be found in films in ample amount.The use of visualmetaphor in film can be comparable with the linguistic metaphor. Linguisticmetaphors like “time is money” or “life is journey” or “love is blind” etc.hardly follows the principle of compositionality. This essentially means themeaning of the whole sentence cannot be reduced into the totality of themeaning of its constituent parts.
Same thing can also be noticed in film. Oftenvisual metaphors are used to constitute the profundity of a literal sense. Forexample consider this audio-visual clipping related to the rising of the lionfrom Battleship Potemkin byEisenstein which indicates the inception of the revolt against the oppressivestate apparatus by the common people.
4.5 Film as metaphorSome theoristshave suggested that metaphors are not merely stylistic, but that they arecognitively important as well. In MetaphorsWe Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson opine that metaphors arepervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought andaction. They explain how a metaphor is actually the simple understanding andexperiencing one kind of thing in terms of another where both are unlike oneanother. In films, metaphor can be described as a comparison that shows how twothings that are not alike in most ways are similar in another important way.In film quietnessis as meaningful as the silence is in language.
For example, we might considera sequence from Kolkata 71 where thehorrific condition of the poor people is accentuated through silence after thedisturbing cacophony which surrounds the city of Kolkata in the previousscenes. The director, Mrinal Sen, shows the enormity of buildings in the cityand the background score makes the audience accustomed to the humdrum of thebusy city which has no time to spare. Then, the sequence suddenly shows thepoor children in hapless situation and the director invests no sound in thiscase to increase the effect. This is a very complex form of metaphor wheresilence might be seen to bring out the hopelessness of the poor people and thatthere is nothing which might give them respite from their ill-fate.
Metaphors can alsomap experience between two nonlinguistic realms. Nonlinguistic metaphors may bethe foundation of our experience of films. Background music in films is such anexample.There are numerousexamples of nonlinguistic metaphor in films in the form of background music. Totake just one among innumerable films, director Stanley Kubrick, in the famousfilm The Shining, which is knownacross the globe to be one of the best horror films of all time, utilizesbackground music to the utmost degree to create tumultuous emotional responseamong his audience. A more apt examplewould be the Indian film, Pushpak Vimana(1987), by the director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, where the director never usesany dialogue and all the actions in the course of the film are shown with thebackground music which evokes the emotional response of the audience.
In The Dream Frontier, Mark Blechnerdescribes musical metaphors, in which a piece of music can “map” tothe personality and emotional life of a person.4.6 Film as a system of signsThus, it can nowbe safely inferred that film is actually a symbolic assembly of signs. From theadvent of sound in cinema, the art form has been attributed a quintessentialstatus which involves the activation of various modalities during the filmperception. The film text is a combination of different types of signs thatfind meaning in the cognition of the audience who through their perception ofthe film language form the corresponding decoding in their mind. Stuart Hall inthe essay Encoding, Decoding talksabout the process of encoding the cultural markers and the message on the partof the creative artist, which then is decoded by the audience according to hisor her understanding of the text.4.
6.1 On the structure of signFerdinand deSaussure’s ‘theory of the sign’ defined a sign as being made up of the matchedpair of signifier and signified. The signifier is the sound-image, the visualimage etc. An image is simply a jumble of entities. The signified is theconcept, the meaning, the thing indicated by the signifier.
It need not be a’real object’ but is some referent to which the signifier refers. The thingsignified is created in the perceiver and is internal to them. Whilst we shareconcepts, we do so via signifiers. Whilst the signifier is more stable, thesignified varies between people and contexts.
The signified does stabilize withhabit, as the signifier cues thoughts and images.He goes on toexplain that the connection between every signifier (sound images or linguisticsigns) and what it signifies (that is the concept or the signified object) isarbitrary. This means it can be so that there is no logical connection betweenthese two. This explains how human beings comprehend film as a text. Theprocess of cognition is totally based on the principles of languagecomprehension as has been described in the section.
This kind of arbitrary relation is found whilehuman beings cognize films. The sound images or the linguistic signs which areshown on the screen to the audience are the signifiers and what the audienceconceptualizes are the signified. It is to be kept in mind that therelationship between the two being arbitrary, the interpretation orunderstanding of the signifier is subjective. This gives rise to individualexperiences and explains why different people have different aestheticexperiences while watching a movie. One person might like a film, while theother might not like it. Or the realization or affect can vary from person toperson when it comes to the experience of watching the movie. This reiteratesthe opinion of Roland Barthes in ‘The Death of the Author’ where he writes that”the text is a tissue of quotations” and it is upon the readers (in the case offilm, spectators) to understand the meaning of the text on their own based ontheir experiences, knowledge, life and environment.
4.6.2 On the relation between signifier andsignifiedCharles S. Peirce,the father of Semiotics, who was also a mathematician by profession, firstpropagated the concept of this complex set of relationships between thesignifier and the signified.
Three categorical distinctions were made accordingto his theoretical disposition, namely Iconicrepresentation, Indexicalrepresentation and Symbolicrepresentation.The nature ofrelationship between a signifier and signified within arepresentation changed from being analogous to sequential to arbitrary as perthe scale mentioned above. Thus, one could safely say that the amount ofarbitrariness increased from iconic to symbolic representations.In caseof iconic representation, if a person sees the picture of a dog, he or shethinks of a dog in the literal sense and this relationship is known to be analogous innature. On the other hand, in case of indexical representation, if thesignifier is smoke, the signified would be fire. In this case, the relationshipis sequential and the level or complexity increases a bit in comparison to theiconic relationship as shown in the figure.
In contrast to both of theserelationship types, symbolic relationship is the most complex of all. In thiscase, if the signifier is red roses, the signified would be passion. Therelationship is obviously arbitrary or conventional in nature in symbolicrepresentation according to the model of Charles S. Peirce. An example whichcan make one understand this model better can be drawn from Sergei Eisenstein’sfilm, Battleship Potemkin (1925).There is a sequence which shows the sculpture of a lion sitting and then risingup uprightly in chronology.
This can be seen as symbolic relationship of thesignifier and the signified as described by Charles S. Peirce. Here, in contextof the film, it is easily understandable that the common masses have united torise up against the oppression of the authorities and the standing up of the lionin the sequence of the film signifies the rage and revolution of the peopleagainst the baleful forces of state sponsored oppression.4.7 ConclusionThus, it can besafely concluded that film techniques as the part of closed class system areimportant in construing the content of the film, just like the way grammar of alanguage is useful in structuring human thoughts. An attempt is made in thischapter to show that audio-visual text or films and other forms of textsactually share very similar structures and hence represent the cognitivecomplexity which comes into play while comprehending them. Moreover, thecomprehension and production of a film are governed by those cognitiveprocesses which remain central in language comprehension and production. It isonly through substantial research in the discourse of cognitive linguisticsthat films and their structural complexity can be totally understood and therecan be meaningful advancement in the study of film cognition on the part ofhuman beings.