Author Topic: Psychoanalytic aspects of film spectatorship  (Read 2938 times)

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Offline sithari

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Psychoanalytic aspects of film spectatorship
« on: September 08, 2006, 10:09:30 PM »
Psychoanalytic aspects of film spectatorship
Saman Wickramaarachchi

True we do read books. But is there such a thing as reading films. Reading films could be done if we read films as texts.I have been writing from the outset that the texts are different from works. If we read a film as a text the first question that comes to my mind is that what are we doing when we see films?

In fact, I believe, nobody denies that a film represents reality we experience. But the problem is that whether that film mimetically represents reality itself or is it a symbolic, differential structure?

In dealing with all these problems what we should understand is the position where the spectator is placed with respect to a film. What I emphasize in this article, following Christian Metz, a film critic, who based his views on Lacanian psychoanalysis, and the author of the text called Imaginary Signifier, is to come across certain solutions in psychoanalytic framework.

Cinematic signifier, for Metz, is perceptional as visual and auditory and distinguished from other visual arts (such as paintings and sculpture). Cinema is more perceptional. According to Metz's analysis of perception, cinema gains an apparent superiority.

But the facts in a film we see, must not be forgotten as everything in it is recorded. In that context the reality depicted in cinema is mere illusion. What is cinematic is none other than to combine perceptional status and the absence of it at the same time.

The cinema screen works as a mirror before us. The spectator sees in this mirror the protagonist or any other character selected by him as himself and he identifies with him.

In that way the spectator establishes his subjectivity getting the cinema as an imaginary signifier

This concept of imaginary signifier comes from Lacanian theory and it relates to the early mother-child relations. I, in my last article, briefly explained about the mirror stage which represents a fundamental element of the structure of subjectivity.

The child at his age of eighteen months identifies the image he sees through the mirror as himself with his mother's help.

The cinema screen would be a comparative assessment with the child's imaginary stage, a mirror for the spectator. But there is no mother, to assist him and the spectator is no more a child but a matured person.

This particular spectator in the process of developing his individual self has already entered into a symbolic world and he is not passing an imaginary stage.

Thus, the screen would be a different mirror for this spectator. He identifies, seeing through the screen mirror not with himself as a child, in the process of developing subjectivity, but with a character of the cinematic narration. That in psychoanalytic perspective.

Beyond the virtual meaning of reading, the film would be articulated here as a text and seeing a film is a reading it.

Now as far as the spectatorship is concerned, the problem would arise that how the filmic pleasure is connected to reading films. In other words how do we define the relations of certain spectators to certain films?

In an attempt to answer those questions, in elaboration of psychoanalysis preview of things, we would be able to learn to read not only the movies themselves, but also spectators also as texts. Why some spectators, opposing certain films, attempt to induce authorities to ban them? I would try to deal with those questions in my future columns.

As I indicated, if the film is a signifier the viewer would be the subject. But even if the film is supposed to be some kind of mirror the spectator realizes that he is missing on the screen.

Thus, ultimately he has to identify himself as a subject, with characters of the film according to the camera position. This position of the spectator, for Metz, can be identified as basically voyeuristic.
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