Sunday, 15 February 2015

Yr3 Week 16 (Thurs 12 Feb - MDA3200 Film Theory - Post-Structralism)

Today´s double act focused on the notion of post-structuralism, which, though often seen as what destroyed Grand Theory as a legitimate method of dissecting cinema, is actually more of a mutation of it. That is to say, both are still focused on examining the relationships in film and its effects, but both go about differently, as we shall see.


The filmmaker and the spectator share what can be considered a cinematic language, a means of being able to present ideas and stories on the screen and how the audience is able to follow them. Of course, this ties back to language (linguistics), which we use to define things in our lives, as well as ourselves (thought and spoken). The challenge then is how to go beyond that and think of the unspoken, which can be seen in avant garde filmmaking, breaking the common cinematic language and trying to get the viewers to think a little more.


Of course, said viewers are also bound to their social and mental upbringings, which also helps us define a film´s target audience, and can lead to various ways to ´read´something. Theorists Lapsley and Westlake summed this up as ´Endowed with capacities, subjects can reject and formulate alternatives´, and methods like the ´Chain of Signification´symbolise these notions of endless interpretation. This is very much what post-structuralism is about, finding that rupture and distrusting theories and ideas of absolute and concise meaning. As an example, the Soviet film Mirror (1975) plays fast and loose with notions of time, relative space and continuity, never being fully clear on where it is going or what it is saying, but leaving it to you, the audience, to draw your meanings as to what the sequences mean (we have a mentally deficient man in a seance, we have a mysterious woman in the woods, we have a strange dream sequence involving water, we have a boy watching static on the television).


Of course, as a byproduct of freeing the spectator so much, it also puts notions like Auteur Theory into question, seeing the ´creator´ as more of a tool of the audience than as an entity themselves.After all, if you can draw countless different meanings, what does it matter what the original author thought or felt? In the seminar, we delved into this a little deeper, viewing the extract from Mirror as well as the famous Ride of the Valkyries sequence from Coppola´s Apocalypse Now (1979), and seeing what we thought and felt about each sequence and what it was saying/doing.

Naturally, this was a lot to stomach, and Patrick has said he will break it down further in the coming weeks, which should prove interesting, as it certainly gives one a lot to think about here. Naturally, it is not difficult to see why this ended up taking over from Grand Theory as a major mindset in the word of Film Theory and Analysis: it allows for countless viewpoints and thoughts on the matter not limited by the rigidity we have seen from Grand Theory in the past, and really encourages us to go deeper into the layers of a film beyond any sort of ´apparatus´ or other confining trope.

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