In formulating a notion of filmic reality, this book offers a novel way of understanding our relationship with cinema. It argues that cinema need not be understood in terms of its capacities to refer to, reproduce or represent reality, but should be understood in terms of the kinds of realities it has the ability to create. The book investigates filmic reality by way of six key film theorists: André Bazin, Christian Metz, Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Rancière. In doing so, it provides comprehensive introductions to each of these thinkers, while also debunking many myths and misconceptions about them. Along the way, a notion of filmic reality is formed that radically reconfigures our understanding of cinema.
étranger au cinéma qui l’a suivi’. 8 But by examining
Méliès’s films in the light of a structural model of
narrative analysis designed with modern films in mind, we can begin to erode
the entirely artificial dichotomy between early and modern cinema. ChristianMetz developed the grande syntagmatique in order to break film down
into discrete units of meaning, each of which could be analyzed in relation
logics in which their allegedly sexist spectacles are embedded. For reasons
that will become clear in the course of my argument, I will consider the
three films in counter-chronological order.
Voyeurism and fetishism are concepts
with considerable critical currency in film studies. In 1975, ChristianMetz
theorized that film, in contradistinction to theatre, which admits of the
3 The imaginary as filmic reality
5 Over the rainbow: the imaginary of The Wizard of Oz
(Victor Fleming, 1939)
f ‘filmic reality’ for Bazin was a matter of authenticity and the
establishment of ‘social’ forms of reality, as I argued in the
preceding chapter, in what ways might ChristianMetz provide
a theory of ‘filmic reality’? At first sight, ‘reality’ would appear
to be a concept quite alien to Metz’s conception of cinema.
Certainly, he did once write an essay on the ‘impression of reality’
in the cinema (Metz 1974b), but impressions are precisely what
and coded meanings which
lie within the text. Pioneered by ChristianMetz in the 1960s, such work
in breaking down the filmic language and seeking to understand how
meaning is communicated through visual and auditory representation
can help us explore the deeper textual meanings being played out on
Unlike semiotics, which draws on linguistics and language, the
discipline of history – along with politics, media studies and sociology
– approaches film in a different way, foregrounding the importance of
film as a cultural object and emphasising the importance
instrument rather than a scribal tool, and yet sound remains a material substance that can be crafted into acoustical structures, which rival the materially adorned artefacts that produced them.
ChristianMetz and Georgia Gurrieri define the concept of the ‘aural object’ in order to readdress ‘the conception of sound as an attribute, as a non-object, and therefore the tendency to neglect its own characteristics in favour of those of its corresponding “substance”, which in this case is the visible object, which has emitted the sound’. 43 We can read the material and
Representing the supernatural in film adaptations of A Midsummer
spectacle, one would expect ‘animated photography’, or film, to also be a remnant of past motion.
However, ChristianMetz argues that motion or movement is always perceived as being in the present.
Rick Altman takes this further by arguing that the cinema event (not only the film itself, but all the texts, institutions, agents, business, etc. which relate to a film) is not just always in the present, but is ‘a continuing interchange, neither beginning or ending at any
cinema by ChristianMetz. Metz attempted to construct a semiology of
cinema, which he called the great syntagmatics, and which was the
precise determination of a certain number of cinematographic
syntagmas. The underlying criticism that one can make of Metz is
that he based his syntagmatics on the novel […] Chateau and
Jost, in opposition to the idea of syntax, which was
perspectives but from a centred, single viewpoint: the eye of the
beholder. According to apparatus theorists like ChristianMetz, Jean
Baudry and Daniel Dayan, and media theorists like Marshall McLuhan, the
single eye of the Renaissance viewer is in traditional cinema emulated
in the subject-position of the spectator, following the ‘eye’ of the
camera. 10 This encourages fantasies of
-spectator’ who is engaged in ‘audio-viewing’ ( 1994 : xxv). Less directly, ChristianMetz also contests the hegemony of the eye when he identifies the five ‘tracks’, or ‘matters of expression’, that generate meaning in film. There is, it emerges, an auditory majority here: while two of the tracks are visual in their address (the photographic image; text that appears on screen), the remaining three – dialogue, sound effects, music – solicit the ear (Stam, Burgoyne and Flitterman-Lewis, 1992 : 38).
For Chion, provocatively, ‘there is no soundtrack’ ( 1994 : 39). To