Filmforms 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 or resemblancewhich 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 Blechner describesmusical metaphors, in which a piece of music can “map” to thepersonality 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 signFerdinandde Saussure’s ‘theory of the sign’ went on to define a sign as being constructedby the matched pair of signifier and signified. The signifier is described as thesound-image, the visual image, etc. An image can be defined as simply a mesh ofentities. On the other hand, the signified can be defined as the concept, thething, and the meaning that get indicated by the contextual 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, the signifiedvaries between people and contexts. The signified does stabilize with habit, asthe 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.