Film as Text #

Film, including all moving pictures, is a cool medium in that almost everything is done for us and so we lie back and absorb it without really exerting our inner mental eye. Reading and listening, according to the guru of media studies, - Marshall McLuhan, are hot medium because they engage our imagination.

This may have been true initially, however sophisticated auteurs use a variety of technique to assault our senses in an immersive expericnce.

Meaning in a film is created by cinematography also called mise en scene or sub- text. Spectacle includes colour, sound and language.

Everything on stage or in the frame speaks to us and we need to learn how these elements affect us and create meaning for us.

Especially in drama or film, body language through stance, position, deportment, facial expression, posture and thousands of subtle features convey meaning.

Reliable and versatile stage and screen performers have the ability to take on any role and own it. Good actors have an exacting control over their varied expressions, and a distinct capability to reflect every emotion. Great Australian actors like Cate Blanchard, David Wenham, Tony Collette have proven that in matters of performance, they have “elasticity as a physical performer”.

Trying to put you into the shoes of the main characters can be an immersive experience. In film “jacking in”, recording thrilling experiences through subjective camera angles, can replicate them in alluring immersive techniques so we can experience them vicariously. Film can convey the lived experience behind the facts and figures that even a filmed documentary cannot.

Then there are the other cinematic factors, such as staging, casting, props, sound effects, lighting and costumes that influence how a play creates and we derive meaning. These are factors that must be valued and the director’s role is critical in determining how a play is presented and received by a live pulsating audience.

The Camera can come in much closer to the characters. The silver screen is a more effective medium to depict the craft of performance and highlight the power of language.

Conversely, a good story teller can conjure imaginative pictures even more picturesque with the right words.

Performance communicates instantaneously – “a picture is worth a 1000 words” so language is secondary and often difficult to follow.

They say that “pictures never lie”, but we know this is a half-truth. Through various filmic techniques, pictures and especially moving images can manipulate the viewer’s emotions and distort the actual truth of the scenes they depict.

You will find more information on visual grammar under the [Language of Visuals.]

Sensual awareness is crucial so composers try to recapture scenes and objects through the appeal of the five senses, visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, gustatory.

(Sight, feeling, smell, sound, taste)

It is through performance - action, interaction and spectacle that we experience and glean meaning often sub-consciously.

Comparison of two film adaptations involves looking at cinematic factors, such as: setting, staging, casting, props, sound effects, lighting and costumes