Film Discourse Interpretation, Talk in Hongkong, 7 October 2013

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How do we understand films? How do we construct meanings out of the interplay of the various modalities in filmic text? …

How do we understand films? How do we construct meanings out of the interplay of the various modalities in filmic text?
These questions are still up to date in contemporary film theory and multimodal discourse analysis. The talk wants to give a general overview of how these questions are focused and answered with the help of advancements in text linguistics and discourse semantics. It will show general parallels between verbal and filmic discourse and introduce recently developed tools for filmic discourse interpretation. With the help of some filmic examples, it will furthermore give illustrations of concrete film analysis at work.

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  • 1. Film Discourse Interpretation Janina Wildfeuer Bremen Institute for Transmedial Textuality Research Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Science Bremen University
  • 2. 2 What is it about? How do we understand films? How do we construct meanings out of the interplay of the various modalities in filmic text?
  • 3. 3 „Understanding film…“ • analysis of the semantic content • analysis of the dynamic unfolding text/discourse • analysis of information processing
  • 4. 4 Filmic Meaning Construction "Understanding is mediated by transformative acts, both "bottom-up" – mandatory, automatic psychological processes - and "top-down" – conceptual, strategic ones. The sensory data of the film at hand furnish the materials out of which inferential processes of perception and cognition build meanings. Meaning are not found but made. […] Comprehension and interpretation thus involve the construction of meaning out of textual cues. In this respect, meaning-making is a psychological and social activity fundamentally akin to other cognitive processes.” (Bordwell 1989: 3)
  • 5. 5 Inferential View on Text/Discourse How do we understand what is going on in sentences and texts? – We just work out ‘what is going on’... (traditional pragmatics) – We ask for clear textual cues that provide explicit guidance about how interpretation is to proceed.
  • 6. 6 Discourse Mechanisms for Language
  • 7. 7 Linguistic Examples of Discourse Relations Paul arrived. Max greeted him. – If we add b into a discourse interpretation then we might deduce that b adds to a narrative – If Narration (a, b) then a happens before b temporal sequence: Narration event a event b
  • 8. 8 Linguistic Examples of Discourse Relations Max fell. Paul pushed him. - If we are adding b into a discourse interpretation and b causes a then we might deduce that b is an explanation of a causal relation: Explanationevent a event b
  • 9. 9 What kind of structure is text structure? • discursive, not syntactic • defeasible/ abductive (Peirce) / non-monotonic Formal and functional models of discourse semantics Kamp, Asher & Lascarides, Martin, Polanyi, Webber
  • 10. 10 Theory of Film Comprehension THEORIE DES FILMVERSTEHENSLOGIC OF FILM DISCOURSE INTERPRETATION 1. level of identification and arrangement of the meaning-making entities 2. level of coherence and structure 1. logic 2. logic constructing logical forms of discourse relating the logical forms via discourse relations Wildfeuer 2013
  • 11. 11 2 Steps of Film Discourse Interpretation 1. ask for the multimodal construction of narrative events in the film: intersemiosis of the various resources 2. ask for the combination of these events into a coherent structure via inferring discourse relations
  • 12. 12 Film Discourse Interpretation 1. step: Interpreting Narrative Events of the Filmic Discourse level of identification and arrangement of the meaning-making entities
  • 13. 13 1. Step: Interpreting Narrative Events
  • 14. 14 1. Step: Interpreting Narrative Events
  • 15. 15 Film Discourse Interpretation 2. step: Inferring Discourse Relations between the Events level of coherence and structure
  • 16. 16 Logic of Film Discourse Interpretation (Wildfeuer 2013)
  • 17. 17 Discourse Relations in Film temporal sequence
  • 18. 18 Discourse Relations in Film causality
  • 19. 19 2 Steps of Film Discourse Interpretation 1. ask for the multimodal construction of narrative events in the film: intersemiosis of the various resources 2. ask for the combination of these events into a coherent structure via inferring discourse relations 1 2
  • 20. 20 What for…? • work out how filmic material constructs meaning • work out clear textual cues within the artefact = semantic basis further interpretations
  • 21. 21 What for…? • work out how filmic material constructs meaning • work out clear textual cues within the artefact = semantic basis interpretations
  • 22. 22 Example: El Vendedor de Humo (Maestro, 2012) available online: http://vimeo.com/42329392
  • 23. 23 El Vendedor de Humo
  • 24. 24 El Vendedor de Humo
  • 25. 25 El Vendedor de Humo
  • 26. 26 El Vendedor de Humo
  • 27. 27 Causality in Film
  • 28. 28 What for…? • analysis of the propositional/semantic content • analysis of topics in the text • evaluation of topics • questions of genre, style, aesthetics etc.? analysis interpretation
  • 29. 29 What for…? Website German Film Academy, „Classic Movies in School“ | http://www.deutsche-filmakademie.de/no_cache/herzlich- willkommen/aktuelles/meldung.html?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=279&cHash= 0594f5ed6d2c84f69fc632cbcb682811 | „Watching classical movies – understanding film“
  • 30. 30 Thank you very much for your attention! wildfeuer@uni-bremen.de || www.fb10.uni-bremen.de/bitt || http://extra.neous.de