Are Movie Theatrrs Suppoosed To.Take One.Part Of.The Tocket ‘That’s Entertainment’: Making Meaning in Films

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‘That’s Entertainment’: Making Meaning in Films

Cinema has become, perhaps after television, the most popular form of visual entertainment in the modern world. Every night, millions of people sit down to watch either a movie on TV, a movie on video or a movie on the silver screen, in a movie theater.

Moviegoers leave the theater satisfied with what they saw or disappointed, and some have a kind of neutral view of the quality of the movie. All, however, were in communication with the messages conveyed by the film.

Unlike printed text, which uses words, or music, which uses sound, the film medium uses several different “tracks” to reach its audience. These are pictures, music, dialogues, noise and written material.

The film’s producers mix these five together to form a “language”, although it is not a language of words, sentences or text, but a language of signs. All five are projected onto the audience, and each of the five forms a sign, a signifier, for something else. The language of film is the language of semiotics, the language of signs.

The term ‘signifier’ is used to refer to the physical form of the sign. In a movie, it can be a smile, a red traffic light, dramatic music, a shout, or words from a letter someone is reading. Each signifies something, represents something else.

A smile can mean happiness, joy or love, but it can also mean a triumph of some kind for the person smiling. Everyone knows that a red light on a traffic light means ‘STOP’.

Dramatic music can mean that something important is about to happen. A cry usually indicates danger or some kind of pain, but this can depend on the context in which the cry is heard. Finally, the words from the script that someone reads on the screen use the semantics of the language, English, French or Arabic, for example, in a way that we are familiar with. The word ‘dog’, for example, in the English language represents the type of dog so familiar to pet lovers, despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing ‘dog’ in the letters of the word DOG. The word is also a signifier.

These examples of signifiers and the things they signify, signifieds, using real objects, referents, point to several important features of sign language. For signifiers to represent something to an audience, they must be universal enough to be fully and quickly understood by everyone watching. A green light stopping traffic would confuse everyone.

However, it is worth noting that filmmakers can use these ‘universals’ to some effect. If a person who has just lost a race smiles into the camera instead of frowning, the audience may be alerted to the fact that something unusual is going on; that person intended to lose the race, for reasons that may become apparent later in the film. In a letter, the word ‘DOG’ might turn out to be code for ‘SPY’, for example, and this points to another aspect of the sign, that the context in which it appears determines its meaning.

A shout heard at a local football match can only mean that a goal has been scored, in a fight, that someone has been mortally wounded. However, in different contexts, universality must be applied. If this does not happen, that particular use of the signifier would appear either inappropriate or misleading.

Finding meaning in seemingly meaningless events is a very human trait, and the effect discovered by Lev Kuleshov in the 1920s in the former Soviet Union, and for which he got his name, is that two frames are shown in rapid succession on film, one after the other, not they are interpreted separately in the viewer’s mind. They are interpreted as causally related. A + B = C, where A and B are two snapshots and C is a new value not originally included in the two snapshots.

So, for example, if the first shot shows bombs falling from an airplane and the second shot shows a village on fire, the audience will assume that the bombs hit the village and destroyed it.

This is in accordance with that peculiar characteristic of men; their search for meaning in otherwise meaningless objects. This also has its equivalent in language. Two sentences appearing one after the other will always be treated as causally related, even though there may be nothing to suggest so.

A: The bombs fell from the plane.

B: The village was completely destroyed..

C: Here it would be assumed that the village was destroyed by the same bombs that fell from the plane. What works on film sometimes works with language.

In today’s films, this is used to great effect, and is reminiscent of the film director, Alfred Hitchcock’s advice to be filmmakers; “Don’t talk, show”. This seems to suggest that the five “lanes” of film language are more powerful when used together than the mere spoken word on film. Even Shakespeare commented that “the eye is more learned than the ear”, suggesting that we really learn more by being shown than being told.

In the well-known series of James Bond films, for example, the complete ruthlessness of the villain, be he a megalomaniac or a drug lord, is shown not so much in words about him, but in scenes showing an unsuspecting former confidant of his. it comes to a grizzly end in a tank full of piranhas or something equally distasteful and spectacular.

That he is extremely fickle is shown in the early sequences by the friendly and urbane hospitality he shows the hero of the hour -007.

The scenes where he shows his true colors come as no surprise to audiences expecting some exotic, high-tech form of brutality from Bond’s adversary.

Those of us who have seen all those movies know exactly what to expect and we will never be disappointed. In a sense, the ‘language’ of film extends the communication to us through several films, and to that extent the James Bond films can be said to be formulaic and predictable. Giving the public what it wants, however, works at the box office; sequels sell.

In terms of what the audience brings to the movie theater, I suspect that by far the most important is the expectation, the expectation that what they will see in the movie is the same as what they expect. Trailers, commercials and the almost innate knowledge of modern cinema about the stars as well as the producers combine to ensure that all of the industry’s blockbusters make money.

More unconsciously, the audience brings what is called a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ to the performance and although this is more obvious and necessary to audiences watching live performances on stage, it is still a vital part of audience participation in the cinema. . Some film theorists point to the fact that a three-dimensional image, with depth and field, is projected onto a two-dimensional screen, yet still perceived as three-dimensional, as evidence that audiences are willing to suspend some of their disbelief. . The technology of the giants of the film industry is so extraordinary that it makes this statement quite meaningless.

In The Lord of the Rings, for example, the appearance of giant mammoths amidst thousands of fearsome orcs really doesn’t require much suspension of disbelief; everyone who watches this wonderful film knows very well that such creatures do not exist anywhere on the planet. Where disbelief must be suspended at first is entering Tolkien’s world of dragons, dwarves and hobbits. The overall universe of Middle Earth is more subtly designed. Not being able to fully immerse yourself in this world can interfere with any enjoyment of watching a movie, or it can prevent that person from watching the movie.

Art is not nature, art holds up a mirror to nature, or so we are told, but it is the posture and choice of which part of nature to mirror that makes the film so fascinating and meaningful. People watching a movie in the splendid isolation of a darkened cinema enjoy the form of entertainment in which this one-way communication works, bringing to the stage only what they can: participation in the culture in which they live and the desire to know that they are not alone in this world.

It is this identification with the characters in the film that hinders their critical evaluation. Bertolt Brecht knew this and took steps to avoid it, but Hollywood enjoys it. More identification with the main character sells more tickets. Leave critical theorizing to university media studies courses. “Not a dry eye in the house” is what every successful film director strives for.

Foreboding, letting the audience know something the person on screen doesn’t, is one of the many devices used by skilled directors. The screams heard when a woman is stabbed in the shower in the Hitchcock classic; ‘Psycho’ probably has nothing to do with the amount of pain the knife caused. The audience really can’t imagine it. The screams were caused by the shock of the situation; extreme levels of identification with the victim, a sense of powerlessness either by the victim on screen or by the audience outside, unable to stop the attack.

So why do people willingly go to see a movie that they know will even hope to scare them?

They are experiencing something beyond their total range of experience, and they are doing so in comfort. They are alone, even in a crowded movie theater. Cinema is not a community event, it is individualized. In the cinema, the audience is kept enthralled in a way that is rarely possible watching TV or video on TV. The movie on the big screen cannot be stopped. The drama unfolds with or without your presence, and few people leave in the middle of a movie. It’s fun!

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