Cinema and Semiotics
Anne Dymek, PhD (Semiotics Cinema Studies)
Panthéon-Sorbonne 75015 Paris (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The semiotics of cinema does not exist. However, in film science there is large number of studies questioning the nature, genesis, use and reception of various filmic signs. While in 1985, Winfried Nöth had registered nearly 2,500 published titles of studies in film semiotics, in 2003, Rolf Kloepfer affirms: “[Until now] in the world, the science of cinema and film has hardly developed under a semiotic perspective.” The difference between these two statements, both having their source in a different semiotic manual, is striking!
In the 1960s and 1970s, the semiotics of film, in particular that of Christian Metz, was seeking to organize the different levels of filmic expression or language in order to establish a general system of cinematic language following the example of linguistic structuralism. At that time, the hope for a general method of film analysis was tempting for the science of cinema, a science still young and wild back then. But the project of structuring the filmic language proved to be more difficult and complex than expected. The difficulty of taking into account the complexity of the mechanisms of filmic expression very clearly presented itself in the work of Christian Metz. Indeed, Metz failed to identify the "filmic code” that he almost desperately sought, this supreme unit or these supreme units constituting the "nerve" of filmic expression.
Almost simultaneously Metz, Eco and Pasolini launched a debate on the pedagogical dimensions of cinematic codes. The question was whether the filmic codes merely cover previously existing codes (Eco), or if they have a creative potential to produce new perspectives (Pasolini). The explicit and implicit responses to this important controversy expressed themselves either in line with semio-pragmatic studies of the image (Odin, Wuss, Peters) and semio-philosophical studies of film (Deleuze), or, on the other hand, within the scope of theories wanting themselves to be purely "cognitive" and explicitly demarcating themselves from “semiotics”.
Snce then, the evasive behaviour of film science vis-à- vis “classical semiotics” has become more and more prominent. This doubtlessly is due to a lack of a basic semiotic paradigm in the science of film: what can a semiotic of film be? First of all: do we have to call it semiotics or semiology? Is it a structuralist or a poststructuralist method? Is it a hermeneutic theory, a phenomenological or an epistemological one?
Since the "disillusionment” of the Metzian project, filmic semiotics has not continued to develop very bravely. Indeed, a radical change took place in the 70s. Since the 70s, the term "semiotics" seems to rather superficially describe the most diverse non-semiotic studies of meaning and image analysis. Frank Kessler goes so far as to claim that the semiotics of film today is neither a method, namely “a series of procedures that are applied within the process of concrete analyses”, nor an approach, namely “a series of generalizable hypotheses that outline at least the contours of a general art theory”.
In fact, within all the different studies commonly called "semiotic" that can be found in the world of film theory, one can observe a large part of works dealing with general narratological issues, without however taking into account the specificities of the filmic medium. The problem of these works is, we believe, that their theories or patterns developed are easily transferable and applicable to other narratological mediums such as literature or theatre. They lack, Metz would have agreed, proper cinematic scientificalness. However, it appears that no one aspires anymore to the realization of works dealing with the analysis of the peculiarities of filmic language, so that today the "semiotic" works on cinema only speak of “how the signified is doing” , as Dominique Chateau states. Chateau does not hesitate to call a spade a spade: It is a common feature, he says, that the discussions on the relationship between cinema and thought come across this difficulty to analyze the signifier.
In his "Methodological propositions for the analysis of film" (1967/1981) Metz explains of what should consist, according to him, a scientific analysis of film and what are the difficulties of such an endeavour:
“Les éléments filmiques ont leurs signifiants et leurs signifiés, les éléments filmés ont aussi leurs signifiants et leurs signifiés. Ces deux sortes de signifiants, comme ces deux sortes de signifiés, coexistent au sein du film en tant que ce dernier est une grande unité de discours, dont l’homogénéité n’est garantie que sur le plan de la manifestation. Mais l’adoption d’un véhicule autre que cinématographique – la transposition sous forme de livre, par exemple – permettrait de préserver pour l’essentiel (si l’adaptation était faite avec soin) les significations filmées, alors qu’elle entraînerait la disparition irrémédiable des signifiants et des signifiés filmiques, qu’on ne pourrait que remplacer par des « équivalences » très lâches et au fond inexactes.”
These words, even if highly idealistic, demonstrate also a highly scientific character: although explicitly emphasizing his methodological requirement, which is having to distinguish between the level of significance of the "shot "and that which he simply calls the "filmic", Metz does not hide the quasi-impossibility to logically discern the purely “filmic”. Given the complexity and fleetingness of what is specifically “filmic”, the notion of the "filmic" in Roland Barthes is quite instructive, because through it we have a concept referring to the inability to clearly locate the psychological potential of filmic signification. Metz and Barthes both agree on the fact that the total semantics of a film is never anything but a hermetic actualisation, that is to say a fleeting manifestation. But Metz remained hopeful, unlike Barthes, towards the possibility to analytically capture the specific expressions or meanings of filmic art. In the above cited conclusions of his "Methodological Propositions" Metz affirms that in the context of an adoption of a film by another medium one could preserve the significations of the "shot”. However, Metz argues, signifiers and signified of the "filmic" would be irrevocably lost. But the realization of such a transposition of a film to another artistic medium wouldn’t it rather lead to a considerable aberration also of the significations of what Metz calls the "shot", well beyond what Metz is willing to accept when he shyly admits that the “adaptation should in any case be made very carefully (avec soin)”?
The "virtuality" or “fleetingness” of the properly filmic significations and expressions, their almost completely non-tangible nature, doesn’t it result from an indeterminable semantic-phenomenological correlation between the “filmic” and the “shot” ? A clear discernment between the meanings of “shot” on the one hand and those taking place on the side of the “filmic” on the other hand, as Metz suggests it, may be a false methodological basis, operating a formal separation to which no separation on the perceptual plane corresponds.
But a semiotic approach to filmic images, filmic language and filmic expression can also depart from THE semiotics, namely that of Charles S. Peirce. However, while the reception of Peirce's philosophy is already well advanced in cognitive science, studies on artificial intelligence and game theory, this is not so much the case in art theory. Among the very few approaches that treat Peircean semiotics in an artistic context, Deleuze's attempt to transfer the ten Peircean classes of signs to the cinematic art is the most famous example within the science of cinema. However, Deleuze’s reception of the Peircean work is unfortunately not served by a coherent approach. In the foreword to The Movement-Image (1983) , Deleuze briefly legitimates the application of Peirce's semiotics by the fact, apparently obvious, that Peirce would have established "a general classification of images and signs, which is undoubtedly the most complete and the most varied”. But Deleuze soon encounters the complexity of what Peirce calls "image" and “sign”. The Deleuzian semtiocs of cinema are becoming complicated ….: “We do not yet know, Deleuze says on page 69 of The Movement-Image, what relationship Peirce proposes between the sign and the image. (…) We will have to compare the classification of images and signs that we propose with Peirce’s great classification: why do they not coincide, even at the level of distinct images?”. A good question! In Deleuze’s work, the semiotics and the phenomenology of the image correlate in a very different way than they do in Peirce’s work. Where exactly lie their differences? And in which ways does the Bergsonian philosophy of representation and images contribute to what we could call the Deleuzian semiotic of the cinema?
And we can go deeper into these fields of “unreaped” cinematic semiotics: which place is left for Bazin’s thoughts on indexicality in photography and cinema when it comes to what can be called hypercinema: is indexicality still a crucial concept of filmic production when we have digital simulation at the level of the mise-en-scene?
What would happen, semiotically seen, when Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the image met artificial intelligence as an apparatus for capturing or constructing images?
And don’t we have to consider a totally new pragmatic semiotics of the moving image when it comes to interfaces that allow individual interaction with the narrative?
Semiotics is able to question, analyse and reveal processes of filmic signification. Whereas there are plenty of semiotic studies that are concerned with film themes or film plots, filmic language still requires a deeper understanding of its sign-processes. After Christian Metz and the wide deception of structuralism, or at least after Gilles Deleuze’s rather incoherent adaptation of Peircean semiotics to cinematic images, filmic semiotics should not remain a “hopeless field”. Rather should semioticians continue to analyse the phenomenological power of filmic language. It is the semiotician’s task to reveal the psychology and pedagogics of filmic sign-processes.
This round-table encourages any contribution that questions the logic of properly filmic significations. Possible approaches might be (list is not exhaustive):
- Filmic semantics
- Filmic language
- Iconicity and film
- Indexicality and film
- Symbolicity and film
- Cinematographic connotation and denotation
- Semiotics of filmic perception
- Semiotics of filmic montage
- Semiotics of the moving camera
- Semiotics of filmic sound
- Diagrammatic structure of filmic images
- Semiotics of filmic movement, time and space
- Deleuzian filmic semiotics
- Metzian filmic semiotics
- Semiotics of the postmodern cinema
- Semiotics of Hyper-Reality
- Semiotics of the filmic psychology
Send proposals (500 words) to : email@example.com
1. François Jost, Professeur à la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Directeur du Laboratoire Communication Information Médias et du Centre d’Études sur les Images et les Sons Médiatiques.
A quelle distance sommes-nous de la sémiologie du cinéma ?
Cette conférence vise à rendre compte d’un parcours : non pas celui qui nous rapproche d’un but inaccessible que serait la sémiologie du cinéma, mais l’itinéraire qui nous en éloigne. Le terminus a quo est évidemment la sémiologie metzienne qui, par défaut, était une sémiologie du cinéma, persuadé qu’en était son auteur, que la télévision et l’audiovisuel en général, quel que soit le genre, ne s’en écartaient pas.
Le terminus ad quem est la télévision et certaines formes audiovisuelles présentes sur internet qui sont aujourd’hui mon objet.
Entre les deux : « l’aventure sémiologique », comme aurait dit un de ses fondateurs, avec ses péripéties, ses rebondissements et sa sérendipité.
2. Sylvie Périneau, U. de Limoges, CeReS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Énonciation audiovisuelle : faut-il renier Christian Metz?
Le nom de Christian Metz est indissociablement lié à l’analyse sémiotique du film (le cinéma comme langage et sa spécificité ; les opérations fondamentales de condensation et déplacement ; la grande syntagmatique, etc.). Cette présence forte - pour ne pas dire cette aura initiatrice - de Christian Metz, a clairement un effet inhibant, d’autant qu’il a échoué dans sa tentative pour théoriser un/le système filmique comme tel. La question se pose alors : pourquoi essayer à notre tour ? Or, c’est la nécessité qui fait droit : il nous faut reprendre là où Metz s’est arrêté, faute de quoi, il n’existe pas de sémiotique filmique ou audiovisuelle en tant que telle mais des contextualisations de problèmes sémiotiques dans le terrain de l’audiovisuel (cinéma, télévision, vidéo, etc.).
Comme le chantier est ouvert et qu’il faut bien commencer, j’ai choisi de suivre ce qui témoigne de préoccupations actuelles et qui est également un serpent de mer chez les théoriciens (pour n’en citer que quelques-uns : Laffay, 1947/1964 ; Branigan, 1984 ; Casetti, 1990 ; Gunning, 1990 ; Jost, 1992 ; Odin, 2000 ; Boillat, 2001, etc.) : l’énonciation audiovisuelle. Or, dans L’énonciation impersonnelle ou le site du film (1991) le rôle excessif dévolu à la « machine cinéma » et la mutabilité des figures de l’adresse constituent des obstacles à une énonciation comme partie intégrante d’un langage audiovisuel. D’aucuns se sont positionnés par rapport à une théorie globale de l’énonciation, parfois dans des directions tout à fait inverses. Ainsi, du côté de la deixis, là où François Jost (1997 ; 1998 ; 1999 ; 2001/2003) ou Roger Odin (1988) nous permettent de distinguer entre Je-origine-réel et Je-origine-fictif, Claudio Paolucci (2014) au contraire offre de dépersonnaliser l’énonciation comme de désindividualiser la subjectivité.
Pourtant, entre la version représentationaliste de l’énonciation et la version autoréférentielle du dispositif énonciatif qui se met en scène, entre la conception déictique ou la conception impersonnelle, il existe, me semble-t-il sinon une troisième version, ou du moins des espaces vacants et qui satisfont à un impératif de spécificité propre tout en permettant d’inscrire l’audiovisuel comme langage (Hjelmslev, 1968-1971). À cet égard, je propose de m’appuyer sur deux éléments clés : la spécificité de la médiation comme de la représentation audiovisuelle ; l’effectuation nécessaire par et pour le spectateur. En effet, ni l’activité globale de l’énonciation en acte, présupposée, ni même les traces en tant qu’elles sont censées renvoyer à cette énonciation, ne permettent ou ne suffisent pour envisager ce que les spectateurs font avec l’énonciation.
En me situant par rapport l’aspiration de Gilles Deleuze (1985) à une sémiotique pure de « l’énonçable » et avec le renfort théorique de Jean-François Bordron sur l’effectuation (2003), je propose de travailler l’énonciation comme n’étant ni l’activité globale ni même les traces de son passage mais véritablement une prise de la situation filmique, c’est-à-dire un cadre d’existence et d’actions offerts aux spectateurs.
3. Lorenzo Bianciardi
Semiotics of taste in movies. From “past” to “present” cinema: Sorcellerie culinaire (1904) vs Ratatouille (2007).
At the beginning of French cinematographe, food was thought of a problem of nutrition (Le repas de bébé, Lumière 1895) whereas immediately after it became a source of inspiration and imagination, as Georges Méliès shows in his movies. The subtitle of the Congress could inspire a reflection on the representation of food through cinema, starting from the past and going to a contemporary point of view. My proposal will be to put in comparison two movies far from each other - Sorcellerie culinaire (Méliès, 1904) and Ratatouille (Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava, 2007) – in order to demonstrate the “growth” of the medium as well as the mutation of the concept of food and taste during a century.
→ From past to present
Taste is a more complex concept in comparison to “simple” food, because it’s quite evident that not all the sequences where food is represented immediately stimulate our sense of taste. The first sequences of the cinema (Le repas de bébé) show the curiosity of the Lumière brothers for the daily life gestures. They point their attention on the “action” and its “reaction”: the meal of a baby becomes an interesting object to shoot, because it can show a moment of daily life in its temporality. The taste of the meal, in this case, seems to have no importance.
→ Magic & Imagination
Georges Méliès offers a vision far from the first realistic sequences, reversing the point of view of the Lumière brothers. The magic dimension of cinema here is “the” protagonist. Sorcellerie culinaire suggests a new kind of images, made for the pleasure of the show and not “only” to illustrate something. With the “analog editing” on the celluloid, Méliès discovers the magic power of cooking. Food is involved in the story, thought as an instrument of the show and not considered for its culinary meaning.
→ From food to taste?
Going to the present and looking at an example of the contemporary cinema, Ratatouille may be interesting in comparison with Sorcellerie culinaire. The two movies have many elements in common (the illusion and the magic in the cinematographic experience) and in contrast (black-and-white film vs colors, analog vs digital techniques, etc.). Focusing the attention on the concept of food, we can state with evidence that it has undergone many changes. In Ratatouille the spectator does not care about the action of eating or the magic dimension of cooking: we are interested in the meaning of taste and in the “total” perception through the five senses. Talking about the delicious French baguettes, one of the chef of the movie suggests that the soul of the bread is contained in its «crackling nature»: so we can discover the importance of sound in taste. We can also smell the odors of the ratatouille soup and we can feel the deep sensation of our childhood, thanks to the evocative power of memory. So we can notice that the experience of tasting becomes essential, as well as the research for a “good” flavor.
→ “New” proposals from the “past” cinematographe
In synthesis, starting from Méliès and looking toward Ratatouille, we are in front of a new “eye” of the contemporary audience. We could probably argue that the transformation of taste described by the cinematographic medium is a mirror of the society’s approach to new media in general. The representation of food becomes a perfect “sign of the ages”: it is not only a way to survive, but it becomes a 360 degrees perceptive experience. The problem of nutritionbecomes a source of imagination and feelings, coming from the five senses.
4. William James McCurdy
SCREENING DICISIGNS: Thoughts on Moving Pictures in the Light of C.S. Peirce’s Moving Pictures of Thought
KEYWORDS: Existential graphs, diagrammatic logic of relations, phemic sheet, relational networks, phemes (dicisigns), sign, object, interpretant, trichotomy of icons/indexes/symbols, hypoicons, trichotomy of images/diagrams/metaphors, trichotomy of rhemes/dicisigns/arguments, universe of discourse
C.S. Peirce argued that all varieties of inquiry involve observation of some species or other, including even mathematics, the most abstract of all the sciences. To facilitate his mathematical and logical investigations Peirce constructed what he called “the system of Existential Graphs” which “may be characterized with great truth as presenting before our eyes a moving picture of thought” (BRBP, p. 381). He further maintained that this comparison can be fruitfully strained in detail to a surprising extent “without snapping” (ibid). What motivates and sustains this comparison as well as his subsequent development of a diagrammatic logic of relations is Peirce’s recognition that a “picture is visual representation of the relations between the parts of its object; a vivid and highly informative representation” (ibid). He modelled his Existential Graphs after moving pictures which were being introduced during the same time period (1893-1913) as his own innovative work in philosophical logic.
This paper is preface and preamble for a genuinely Peircean semeiotics of cinema. Its initial conceit is rather than taking Peirce’s diagrammatic logic of relations as an analogate of moving pictures, we will instead take moving pictures as an analogate of his diagrammatic logic. In Peirce’s Existential Graphs diagrams representing relational networks are scribed on bounded surfaces called “Phemic Sheets” (alternatively, “Sheets of Assertion”). Such relational networks are phemes or dicisigns, Peirce’s semeiotical generalization of the logical concept of propositions. He writes that a Phemic Sheet “may be imagined to be a photograph” (CP 4.512). As such it “iconizes the Universe of Discourse,” and more immediately “represents a field of Thought, or Mental Experience.” Thus, by the semeiotic version of the Principle of Nota Notae, namely, that a sign of a sign of a thing is a sign of that very thing, “the Phemic Sheet in representing the field of attention, represents the general object of that attention , the Universe of Discourse” (ibid. p. 385). A Universe of Discourse may be actual such as physics, hypothetical such as mathematics, or even fictional such as the world engendered by Shakespeare in his Tragedy of Hamlet (ibid. p. 390).
Reversing this analogical order we can think of the movie screen as a phemic sheet, that is, a continuous but bounded two-dimensional surface on which we project pictures that represent relations between facets of those pictures. The relational networks thus projected are phemes or dicisigns making the corazon de corazon of cinema, the screening of dicisigns. Dicisigns are, according to Peirce, double signs in that they are signs which signify that two other signs, one of which signifies indexically and the other of which signifies iconically, are signs of the same object. This double signification is what makes it possible to convey information about a universe of discourse. The elaboration, explication, justification, and ramification of these claims will be presented.
Peirce, Charles S. “The Bed Rock Beneath Pragmaticism (BRBP).” The Logic of Interdisciplinarity: ‘The Monist’ Series. Ed.Elize Bisanz. Berlin. Akademie Verlag, 2009.
5. Anne Dymek, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1)
Genuine Filmic Signs: Diagrams of Perception
I will outline the semiotic dimensions of a diagrammatic theory of film in order to provide a specifically filmic semiotic that does neither start from the multimediality-approach nor from the multimodality approach. First, I’ll provide an analysis of the structure of filmic images, which can be semiotically analysed as phenomenological diagrams, materializing a perceptual structure. Filmic images are like phenomenological maps. They make it possible for the spectator to see the phenomenological relation that human beings maintain with the world. In a second step I’ll analyse the situation of filmic perception. Whereas no continuous reference to the forms of perception is possible in natural perception - since the perceiving subject occupies a constitutive and pragmatic place in the internal relation that it maintains with the perceived world - filmic art can visualise, thus externalise this internal relation of perception by putting the spectator in front of the forms of a pheno-technique whose realism is very close to the reality of human perception. Most of the time, the metalanguage character of filmic perception therefore remains subconscious for the spectator, which explains a lot of the pedagogical or psychological power of filmic language. Films, like many other types of diagrams, make use of metalanguage without using higher order logic and therefore, I cite John Sowa, « get an enormous increase in expressive power ».
 John SOWA, «Metalanguage and higher-order logic (was
Lost in Translation)», 2004, disponible sur : http://suo.ieee.org/email/msg12526.html, 2004
6. Nikos Terzis
Innovation through disobedience to the tradition of spatio-temporal continuity of Hollywood’s “invisible style”: the case of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (Ὰ bout de soufle, 1960).
The purpose of this paper is to bring forward the innovative filmic devices that Godard, in a palimpsest process, introduced in filmic language, against on one hand the tradition of cinema du papa, and on the other, against the overall narrative reassurance of Hollywood’s pseudo-realism of verisimilitude.
More precisely, with this paper, I am attempting to present the overall aesthetic, anarchic/revolution that Godard (the 1st famous, deliberately deconstructive, semiotician filmmaker, enigmatic especially in his latest period) brought to the Cinema worldwide, with his debut feature film Breathless.
In order to do so, I intend to use semiotics to analyze, mainly:
- The very 1st shot
- Close analysis (shot to shot) of the 2nd sequence where the film icon protagonist Jean-Paul Belmondo (Michel Poiccard, alias Laszlo Kovacs) drives off Marseilles on a country road with his first stolen American car
- Its first created, famous, internal jump-cuts, that a film ever introduced to international audiences, a montage technique, that American television later on first adapted (European television followed), with the video clip artists universally integrating it in their work, alas, devoid its Godardian, first, radical usage!
Breathless, after all, although a well established monumental film some decades now, it still strikes us afresh with its immediacy, existential aura, syncopated rhythm, meta-filmic dimension, its innumerous self-referential elements, finally its inter-textual qualities (before the term inter-textuality was ever coined!).
My semiotic approach will utilize Cristian Metz’s paradigmatic/syntagmatic axis of extracting meaning (Metz, 1974), and in addition, Peirce’s theory about indexical codes (Peirce, 1974) that Peter Wollen (I was lucky enough to have him as a visiting professor in my 1st film course at Columbia University in 1977-78), first brought forward in film theory (Wollen, 1971).
8. Elizabeth Zauderer
Toward an Appropriation of Polysemy in Film: The Case of Two Queens in Shakespeare's Richard III and Richard Loncraine's film Richard III (1998)
The concept of textual polysemy as manifest in an imagined link between sign and meaning governed by codes to produce multiple significances simultaneously, constitutes a significant challenge vis-à-vis its reconstruction in visual terms. Because visual signs are technically generated reproductions of their referents, the link between signifier and signified is determined by the distinct similarity between them. While this suggests a certain advantage of the word over the image, it at the same time underscores the dominant denotative quality of the visual sign as facilitating the precision and efficacy with which the filmmaker communicates meaning. Because visual signification is never isolated, but rather contingent on a particular context, denotative meaning is in fact an illusion, the product of the filmmaker's skilled manipulation of contextual codes. In film, an image of a rose is an image of a rose, but it is always an image of a particular rose, rendered as such by the particular complex of codes which the filmmaker chooses to employ. In these terms, a particular visual sign may generate different meanings in different contexts; in other words, the same sign may be modified to accommodate different contexts. Because a visual sign states meaning, its ability to communicate multiple stated significances will be manifest, therefore, in multiple modified forms. By applying one set of codes to the sign in one shot, other codes in another shot and so on, the filmmaker can reconstruct the effect of semantic multiplicity generated in textual polysemy.
This process is sequential and follows film's linear temporality. Reading a visual sign for the first time, the viewer may not be aware that its meaning is one of several alternative meanings. This agency becomes apparent only after the viewer has viewed various modified forms of the sign in consecutive shots. The process whereby the sign is recognized as a site of semantic overlap and contextual conflation is accumulative – having registered its modifications, the viewer evaluates how these distinctive significances form a complex of meanings. Thus, while multiple significances in textual polysemy are evident in a single moment of signification, multiple significances in film become evident in hindsight.
In this paper, I propose a theoretical model for reconstructing the effect of contextual complexity and overlap manifest in textual polysemy in terms of visual signification in film. The proposed model is applied in an analysis of recurrent polysemy in the representations of women in Shakespeare's Richard III and their visual counterparts in Richard Loncraine's film, Richard III (1998).
9. Federico Zecca, University of Udine
Comics in Motion. The Cinematic Translation of Comics: An Intersemiotic Approach
This paper aims at investigating the ways in which cinema “repeats” and transposes – in a word translates, in an inter-semiotic sense – comics. My analysis will be grounded on an original theoretical approach, combining Descriptive Translation Studies, Glossematics and Generative Semiotics. On the one hand – drawing on Itamar Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory and Gideon Toury’s descriptive translation theory –, I will consider the translation of comics into film in terms of “acceptability” to the (cinematic) target system, rather than in terms of adequacy or “fidelity” to the (comics) source text. On the other – drawing on Louis Hjelmslev linguistic theory and on Algirdas J. Greimas semiotic theory –, I will identify different “levels” of translation, distinguishing among three linguistic planes (expression, content and text).
Following these theoretical premises, my paper will be articulated in two parts. First of all, I will try to identify the “norms” and constraints (imposed by the target system) that regulate the acceptability of the cinematic translation of comics. In particular, I will make a distinction among technological/linguistic, economical, and institutional constraints, focusing in particular on the first ones. Through a series of examples, I will thus investigate which elements of comics can be translated into film, and how. I will identify three different translation processes – duplication, transformation, obliteration –, depending on whether elements of comics succeed in “passing through” the above-mentioned cinematic constraints or are instead deeply transformed, or even “rejected”, by the target system. In the second part of this paper, then, I will outline a taxonomy of the main “translative relations” between videogame and cinema, identifying four different intersemiotic levels: the intertextual, the interexpressive, the interdiscoursive, and the intersystemic. I will focus on the main linguistic forms pertaining to each level (quotation, allusion, adaptation), with examples taken from contemporary international film production.
10. Juan Alberto Conde (Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, Bogotá – Colombia / Université de Limoges, France).
The role of sound in filmic experience: a cognitive semiotics approach
In the Semiology of Cinema tradition sound was assumed as a particular type of “expression substance” among others, an ingredient of “syncretic” semiotics. From this perspective, films are closed texts made of codes decipherable by the spectator (Metz, 1971, 1974), one of which would be the sound code. After the cognitive turn in film theories (Bordwell, 1987; Branigan, 1992; Currie, 1995; Bordwell & Carroll, 1996; Grodal, 1999, 2009, among others), film (and audiovisual) semiotics is interested in accounting for the viewer’s experience. This experience is now understood under the same parameters of real life experience, to the extent that humans use the same skills to understand movies that to deal with reality. Some researchers have devoted part of their theories to the description of sound and hearing experience in cinema from different approaches: ecological (Anderson, 1998; Anderson, Fischer, Bordwell et al, 2007), socio-historical (Altman et al, 1980, 1992, 2001, 2007) “eclectic” (Chion, 1985, 1991, 1998, 2003) or even cognitive –in a broad sense (Jullier, 1995, 2002, 2012). Nevertheless, the bridge between cognitive theories and film semiotics is still weak, particularly when dealing with the multimodal dimensions of spectatorship experience.
To address the role of sound in filmic experience with more powerful tools, in this presentation I propose to follow the current trend of cognitive semiotics and its link with phenomenology and cognitive sciences (Sonesson, 2009). First, I will show the insights of philosophy and phenomenology of sound (Ihde, 2007; O’Callaghan, 2007; Nudds, O’Callaghan et al., 2009): the phenomenological description of the auditory field and sound horizons, and the idea of conceiving sounds as events in hearing experience. Second, I will present some discoveries of cognitive research from an enactive perspective, about the intersubjective exploration of sound spaces (Krueger, 2006, 2000, 200). Third, I will link these ideas with a general description of event perception and conception (Zacks, 2008, 2010: Zacks & et al., 2011), particularly in film comprehension (Zacks, Speer, and Reynolds, 2009; Zacks & Magliano, 2009). Finally, I will integrate all these insights in the context of a new semiotic theory: agentive semiotics (Niño, 2013a, 2013b; Niño, 2014, forthcoming). This theory provides precise criteria to distinguish (but also integrate) the experience of "semiotic scenes" (intentional constructions assumed here as a particular type of events) and the experience of the world. Thus I hope to provide a new approach to understand the role of sound in the (multimodal) experience of film spectatorship.
11. Michal Kříž, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic
The Plurimedial Nature of Film Narrative in the Perspective of Textual Analysis of a Structure of Filmic Images
(A Semiotic Perspective of the Function of Model in the Film Narrative)
The paper focuses on some issues related to the complex phenomenon of intermediality, which is intentionally connected with the idea of a model that underlies selected film narratives, and substantially influences the structure of film narrative in general way. Those models are taken from various media forms (e.g. basic model of musical harmony on a Cdur scale), which are increasingly appearing in the works of contemporary film. Their presence in the base of film narrative significantly affects not only the narrative structure but also the semantics of film language that is considered as the complex intermedial phenomenon. The presence of a model originally taken from the other semiotic complex (specifically from the musical composition) brings several questions directed to the context of the logic of filmic images; in other words, how to analyze a specific combination of the original structure of musical harmony (especially when dealing with issues in the perspective of characteristics of music “signified units”) and its specific implementation in the film narrative?
The paper will be primarily focused on the way how to analyze a film narrative based on the general plurimedial structure of signification (model of signification), actualizing at the various levels of a film work (mise en scène, editing, semantics of film language, etc.).
An example of the analysis may be Emir Baigazin’s film debut Uroki Garmonii (Harmony Lessons) which was released for first time at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2013. The theory of classical music harmony works primarily with triads. When taking the example of Cdur scale into consideration, seven basic chords that have three central harmonic functions are detected. If we follow the consonances at different levels, we see that some levels are considered as major chords (I, IV, V) while the others (II, III, VI) are considered as minor chords; the level VII is diminished chord. Individual harmonic functions have different importance, three basic functions are traditionally distinguished: prime (I), fifth (V) and fourth (IV) are the easiest intervals applying one simple rule: if the triad scale is placed on the scale of defined levels, we get the basic harmonic functions: tonic (T) – the chord at the first level – considered as the center, which is the subject to all other harmonic functions; dominant (D) – the chord at the fifth level – considered as the second most important part of
the structure of harmony, and finally sub-dominant (S, subdominant), considered as the lower dominant. Tonality is then determined by interrelationships between tonic, dominant and subdominant. The VII. level has special status which is called the leading note or also leading tone. The chord at such level is reduced significantly and its function goes to the tonic (just the link between a sensitive tone and the tonic is taken as the most distinctive characteristic of the tonality).
Major scale (Cdur)
Minor scale (aeolian)
The triads with its basic functions (T, D, S) are all considered, in the contrast to previous example, as minor. Both defined scales can of course be edited, especially at the VII. level, or within the minor key at the VI. level as well. The result may be the Major dominant or the Minor subdominant realized on the Minor scale or vice versa the Major dominant as well as the minor subdominant realized on the Major scale.
I. / V. / IV. (tonic / dominant / subdominant) + VII (leading note) T + D + S (L)
correspond with the structure of film images of the opening film sequence.
ELS [I] – VLS [II] – ELS [III] – VLS [IV] – LS [V] – VLS [VI] – MS [VII] – BCU [VIII] –
CU (MCU) [IX] – VLS [X]
when ELS: Extreme long shot (Plan général); VLS: Very long shot (Demi-plan général); LS: Long shot (Plan moyen); MS: Medium shot (Plan rapproché); BCU: Big close-up (Très gros plan); CU: Close-up (Gros plan); MCU: Medium close-up (Plan très repproché).
12. Ifigeneia Vamvakidou, May Kokkidou & Christina Tsigka
Music in film semiosphere: reconsidering Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey
It is well accepted now that it is of great significance to break down and cross barriers and artificial distinctions between every designated area or discipline (interdisciplinarity) in order to bring disparate areas of interest into contact with one another. In this vein, the underlying idea of this paper is to bring together concepts and issues on music-semiotics and film studies areas, illustrating important points of their inter-connections.
Our study is based on the axiom that film music is not an isolated structure; it influences film interpretation and vice-versa. This idea was highlighted by Nicolas Cook (1998) who stated that "the very fact of juxtaposing image and music has the effect of drawing attention to the properties that they share, and in this way constructing a new experience of each; the interpretation is in this sense emergent" (p. 73).
The main aim of the present study is to explore how music functions in the film context and, in particular, how it constantly generates new connotations and interpretations.
Our research questions have as follows: What is the nature of the boundaries between music and image in films? Are there shared characteristics between music and image and, if so, how can we interpret them at a semantic level? What is the case of pre-existing music in films? How music functions in the construction of meaning-making in a film and in the generation of new meanings? Does music, as it opens up the filmic scenes, lead to the emergence of new meaning? Ought we re-consider the conceptualization of non-diegetic music in films and the ongoing debate regarding the term diegesis in cinematic music?
Finally, acknowledging that every film is an integrated semiosphere, we examine whether the narrative can function as a whole if we separate the filmic music from filmic images.
We discuss the aforementioned issues through the paradigm of Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Moreover, taking under consideration that Kubrick, as powerful and dominant auteur, came to the decision about the seven music works which had initially been chosen by him as temp tracks (temporary), we investigate the music connotations which emerge in the continuity of the filmic narration and we focus on their construction in the certain filmic context.
13) Hsiu-chih Tsai, Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures, National Taiwan University, email@example.com
The Grandmaster: The Flowing of Forms and Their Visual Impacts
Hong Kong movie director Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster (2013), a stylistic martial-arts film, presents many excellent shots on fighting, maneuvering, and practicing of martial-arts. It pays attributes to the great Chinese martial-arts masters, and in particular, Ip Man, during the Republican era and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, the North Eastern part of China and the British colonization of Hong Kong in the first half of the twentieth century. Accompanying the shots on the performance of martial-arts, there are many ones focus on the flowing, sweeping and spreading of water, rain, snow, fire, and smoke in the film. In this paper I would like to study the metaphoric significance of these visual images together with their aesthetic sign functions in The Grandmaster. Walter Benjamin claims that the secret of the modern art of photography lies in its preservation of certain optical unconscious that was kept while there was not even a slight awareness of its being there upon the very moment of the shot. I would argue that Wong’s superb style in cinematography lies in the presentation of the creation and maneuvering of the optical unconscious. His shots on the various forms of flowing and changing of water and fire images are well designed and calculated so as to map out a territory of aesthetics characteristic of the flow of filmic images that can be categorized into different dossiers symbolizing the uniqueness and heterogeneity practiced by masters of various martial-arts schools. The sign functions of these visual images therefore help formulate the structuration of Wong’s stylistic articulation of and reflection on the world of martial-arts.
Key words: Wong Kar-Wai, The Grandmaster, martial-arts, visual image, metaphor, structuration, optical unconscious, Walter Benjamin
13) André Helbo, : Sciences de l'Information et de la Communication Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Une semiotique des arts du spectacle est-elle possible
The sensitive problem of intermediality, adaptation, transposition the transition from one language to another gives the opportunity to raise a few questions that are common to the fields of both the performing arts and film. By the way it is time to raise the question of the (ir)relevance of a joint semiotics for these arts.
I will focus my attention on three types of questions:
- First, the place of externality in semiotics. By reconsidering the issue of the origin of meaning, as general semiotics does, the semiotics of performing arts and film opens the way for externalising theories (embodiment, the study of bios/life, theories of corporeity).
- Second, the issue of the researcher and in particular his or her exteriority regarding the object. Redefining the researcher’s position towards both the performing arts and music as objects raises many questions, not least as to the dialogue with other disciplines (performance theories, neuroscience, cognitive science).
- The third and last topic is that of the scientificity of the methodology. Although particularly relevant with regard to contemporary concerns centred on the subjectivity of the utterance (presence, effect of presence, intermediality, body-machine relations, etc.), does semiotics still have a universalising vocation? How can one reproduce the experience of subjectivity if we accept that the experience is an important process in semiotics?
14) Elodie VERLINDEN, Chercheur/ Maître d'enseignement, UNIVERSITE LIBRE DE BRUXELLES
La danse et ses traces
Art allographique par excellence, la danse a toujours été confrontée à la problématique de sa conservation. Noter, filmer, photographier, quel(s) moyen(s) pourrai(en)t permettre la transmission d’une œuvre qui se définit en partie par sa fugacité? Quels sont les signes qu’il s’agit de fixer pour transmettre et partager l’œuvre ? La multiplicité de systèmes de notation et l’absence de système largement partagé montrent à quel point il est difficile de répondre à la question de façon à satisfaire danseurs, chorégraphes, spectateurs, chercheurs, etc. L’arrivée de moyens technologiques plus modernes comme la photographie a pu laisser espérer une solution. Danseurs et chorégraphes s’accordent pourtant sur un point, l’imitation ne suffit pas, l’essentiel n’est pas capturé. Qu’apporteront la chronophotographie et kinéphotographie à la danse? C'est à cette question que nous tenterons de répondre.