Motion pictures or films have come up to be one of
the most popular form of art in the cultural domain of the entire world and the
past century has seen massive growth in the medium. The aesthetic richness and
vast influence of this art form has made it the need of the day to look into
the communicative nature of films and how it influences the human mind. Human
beings not only find entertainment from movies, but also see it as a very high
form of artistic representation. In this situation, the present work seeks to
investigate the ay meaning is represented and processed in film.
evoke emotions, are used as propaganda, spread information and awareness and
also document the reality. There are specific techniques which are involved in
the filmmaking procedure to encapsulate or to construct stimuli which are
crucial in attaining the purpose. In fact, it is noticed that the avant garde too cannot escape from the
involvement of the basic techniques and structures which are involved in
filmmaking. The problem related to structural and structuring aspect of filming
has become more complex as it involves both the visual and aural stimulus along
with the gesticulations and background music, lighting, editing and so on which
creates a mesh of physical form of communication and technical manipulation.
research has to progress in the avenue which would be able to identify how
people understand all these things in amalgamation to each other to make sense
of the film. It involves very complex cognitive functions on the part of the
audience and there has to be an attempt at having a clear understanding of how
human beings cognize films. It is as complex as the understanding of the
experiences of real life, if not more.
1.2 What is film?
is also known as motion picture or movie and consists of numerous still images
which get portrayed on the screen thus creating an illusion of moving images
owing to phi phenomenon. Phi phenomenon is a kind of optical illusion. What
happens is that people perceive continuous motion though they view separate
objects in quick succession. Max Wertheimer defined phi phenomenon in Gestalt
psychology in the year 1912.
phenomenon is not to be confused with beta movement. In phi phenomenon, the
different images or lights are at the same place while in the beta movement the
images or lights are in locations which are different from each other. However,
in both of these cases, the images or lights get turned off and on very rapidly
to produce the effect. Thus phi phenomenon is a form of optical illusion which
compels the audience to perceive continuous change in the visual field on the
screen. This, in turn, creates an illusion of motion, though motion is a case
of imposition here. A motion picture camera is used to photograph the actual
techniques (by means of Computer Generated Imagery or CGI and computer
animation) can also be used in making films. Other visual effects can also be
involved in the filmmaking process in unison with the other techniques.
entire process of filmmaking can be seen as an art as well as an industry.
Plastic film is used to record the images and these images are shown through a
film projector onto a large screen. In modern techniques, filming and storage
is carries out digitally. The Red One camera is such a device which records the
images on hard disk drives or flash cards.
inclusion in films is optical soundtrack which is actually a graphic recording
of the words that are spoken along with the music and other sounds (ambient or
dubbed) that accompany the images which are shown on the screen. This runs
along a portion of the film which is actually exclusively reserved for it and
is not projected.
relationship between films and culture is one major aspect which needs to be taken
into account. Films are cultural artifacts which reflect the markers of the
respective cultural domains in which they are made. As a form of art, films
also influence the very culture which they reflect. Films are also considered
to be one of the most popular forms of art in the entire world and also a mode
of entertainment. Films are a very useful tool of spreading education or
carrying out indoctrination among the masses.
is the visual basis of the films which renders omnipotent power of communication
to the medium which ranges across cultures and societies. Dubbing or the use of
subtitles make films travel across the geographical and lingual boundaries and
reach out to the masses all across the globe. Thus, film as a form of art has
the most extensive reach among the masses across the world and this reach
transcends any other form of art.
film is made up of individual images which are known as frames. During the
procedure of projection, there is a rotating shutter which leads to the
intervals of darkness as every frame in turn is moved into the position to be
projected. However, the viewer fails to notice these interruptions due to the
effect which is known as persistence of vision. In persistence of vision, the
eye retains a visual image even after the source is removed for a fraction of a
second. The psychological effect which makes the audience perceive the motion
is known as beta movement.
term ‘film’ comes from the fact that the film stock or the photographic film
has been the medium for recording and showing the movies. The other terms which
are prevalent for individual motion picture are moving picture, picture show,
flick and photoplay.
Film as a form of communication
is essentially a form of communication as it is also a popular form of
entertainment. Films are catered to the masses on the large screens or
televisions. Stuart Hall in his seminal essay, Encoding, Decoding goes on to opine that the process of making a
filmic text involves encoding the various cultural markers of the cultural
domain which then reach the masses. It is totally on the people watching the
film how they would communicate with the film which they see. They eventually
decode the information and interpret the information accordingly. They might
support and comply with the things which are being communicated, they might
partly comply or they might reject.
the communication which occurs via films is quite a complex one and it needs to
be investigated. It has to be reminisced that communication through films is
done on a massive scale as a single film is shown to thousands across the
globe. Therefore, exploring communication through film from an intercultural
perspective could be a challenging task for the scholars. A film which is made
in a cultural domain will have the cultural markers and attributes of that
society. When it is viewed by the audience from another part of the world, he
or she needs to comprehend the film in the context of the society in which he
or she is dwelling. Or it might be so that the film is seen as a reflection of
the particular cultural domain from where it belongs. As such, it might be seen
as a representative one of that culture in which it has been made.
1.3 What is cognition?
problems involved in cognizing a film is thus a major challenge for the present
research work in this domain. It becomes a very interesting avenue of study to
understand the various factors which are involved in the procedure of
understanding films. It is believed that the cognition of films is similar or
even more complex in comparison to our comprehension of the environment around
process by which sensory input is used, transformed, elaborated, reduced,
stored and recovered is known as cognition. In the discourse of science,
cognition is the mental process which is constituted of the attention of
working memory, language comprehension and production, reasoning, calculation,
decision making and problem solving. Cognition is studied by various
disciplines like psychology, philosophy and linguistics. But, the use of the
term differs across the various disciplines. In cognitive science and
psychology, the word ‘cognition’ refers to the information processing capacity
of an individual. In the discourse of social psychology, the word is used to explain
attribution, attitudes and group dynamics. On the other hand, in cognitive
psychology and cognitive engineering, the word is used to mean the information
processing in the operator’s or person’s brain.
is essentially the faculty for the processing of information, changing
preferences and applying knowledge. Cognitive processes or cognition can be
artificial or natural and conscious or unconscious. All these processes get
analyzed from different perspectives in the contexts of linguistics, psychiatry,
anesthesia, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, systemics, and
1.4 What is language?
aim of cognitive scientists in studying language is to describe and account for
the systematicity, structure and functions of language and how all of these
mentioned functions get realized by the language system. But, a very important
reason for studying language remains in the fact that it is assumed that
language reflects the patterns of thought. Thus, studying language from this
particular perspective would mean studying the patterns of conceptualization.
One can very well get insights into the structure, nature and organization of
thoughts and ideas of the human mind through studying language. There is a
basic difference in the approach of cognitive scientists in the study of
language in comparison to scholars from other discourses. This lies in their
opinion that language reflects certain fundamental properties and design
features of the mind of human beings. This assumption has major implications
for the methodology, scope and models which have been developed within the
domain of cognitive linguistics. A very important feature to judge a model of
language is to comprehend whether it is psychologically plausible.
beings rely on language to perform various works in life, but still they take
language for granted. Every daily activity which is performed by human beings
depends on the use of language as a form of essential communication. The entire
societal structure would be jeopardized in the absence of communication among
the members of the society. Language is the greatest tool for communication
among the people. In every situation, language plays the role of the most quick
and effective expression and is a way of encoding and transmitting ideas which
are complex and subtle. The notions of encoding and transmitting are of great
importance as they are linked to two very key functions which are related to
language. These are the symbolic function and the interactive function.
Interactive aspect of cognition
serves the function of interaction in our everyday social lives. Language does
not merely pair forms and meanings. These pairings of forms and meanings should
be comprehensible and accessible to other people who belong to the community.
The main function of any language is to get the idea across to others and carry
out the process of communication. The process of communication involves the
transmission by the speaker and then the decoding or interpretation by the
hearer. The two processes are thus constituted of the construction of rich
can be utilized to create frames or scenes of experience, indexing and also to
construct particular context. Thus, it can be opined that language use might
invoke such frames which summon rich knowledge structures that make one recall
and fill in the background knowledge. Thus, it is safe to say that language
does not only encode particular meanings, but it goes on to carry out an
interactive function as it symbolizes the meanings which are a part of the
shared knowledge in a community
Symbolic function of cognition
of the greatest functions of language is to the put forward the ideas and
thoughts. This means that language actually encodes and externalizes the
thoughts of human beings. This is done by language by the utilization of symbols
which are ‘bits of language.’ These bits can be meaningful subparts of words
like prefix in a word (for example dis- as in disrespect) or whole words (like
fun, run, etc.) or also a string of words which might constitute a sentence.
All these symbols consist of forms which can be written, spoken or signed and
they have meanings with what these forms get paired in the conventional sense.
A symbol is better referred to as symbolic assembly since there are two parts
which are associated conventionally (Langacker 1987). Expressed differently,
the symbolic assembly which we are discussing about is a pairing of form and
form can actually be a sound or the orthographic representation that is seen on
written pages or also a signed gesture which is in a sign language. The meaning
is the semantic content or the conventional ideational which is associated with
the symbol. It is extremely important to comprehend that the cat which is shown
in the figure above is intended to represent the idea of a cat and not a
particular referent in the world of our experience. The image thus is actually
the representation of the meaning which is paired conventionally with the form
in English Kæt.
get derived from percepts, in turn. For example, one might consider an apple as
a piece of fruit. The different parts of the human brain perceive the shape,
texture, color, taste, smell and all these attributes. Thus, a diverse range of
perceptual information is gathered by us from the world we live in and these
are all integrated into one mental image which is a representation available to
our consciousness. This mental image leads us to have the concept of an APPLE.
When language is used and the form apple is uttered, the symbol actually
corresponds to the conventional meaning. Thus, this links us to the concept
rather than to a physical object directly which is present in the external
cognitive abilities of human beings go on to integrate the raw perceptual
information in the form of well-defined and coherent mental image. The meanings
which get encoded by the linguistic symbols actually refer to the projected
reality (Jackendoff, 1983) which is a mental representation of reality. This
mental representation of reality is construed by the mind and plays a crucial
role in mediating between what one sees and what one knows in a given point of
space and time.
symbolic function of language is to encode and externalize what one knows. So,
symbolic function of language is clearly linked with the process of
conceptualization. Language in general is a tool to conceptualize the world
around us. By conceptualization, we intend both production and comprehension of
the reality. Since reality is always in flux, any form of language should have
enough potential to represent as well as to process infinite aspects of the
projected reality. In contrast, human mind as an information processing system
is finite. It is argued by the famous scholars that in spite of being a finite
system human mind as well as the human language have enough potential to encode
and to process infinite number of realities in the virtue of being generative.
In other words, language is merely a prompt for the construction of a
conceptualization which is richer and more elaborate than the meanings which
are actually minimal being provided by language (Fauconnier 1997). Thus, what
is encoded by language is not complex in itself, but it can be seen as the
rudimentary instructions to the conceptual system to create and access ideas
which are rich and elaborated.
1.5 How does film stand in relation to language and
can be taken as a form of language and it is very complex in nature. Film has all
the features of a language and it requires high level of cognitive processing
to cognize films. Films are shot and then constructed so that they can make
some meaning on the screen. But, it is up to the audience to comprehend the
films and make sense of cinema and this cognition and understanding requires
engagement. The scenes and sequences provide external stimuli to the audience
who has come to see the movie and the audience makes up the meaning of the
movie in their mind. Moreover, the complexity of cultural boundaries come into
play while cognizing films.
like normal language, films have encoded messages as mentioned earlier in the
chapter. These messages are carried in the movies and it is the onus of the
spectators to decode them. Films externalize thoughts of the makers and quite
like language the film communicates this externalization of thoughts and
expressions to the masses. The audience understands the film by
conceptualization of the ideas which are communicated via this medium of art and
primary objective of the work is to understand film as a language and take the
limelight on the attempts which have been made in the scholarly discourse to
study cinema as a form of art. Film as a form of art is new, but has developed
and advanced enormously since the time of its inception in 1895. In these
years, films have come forward to take the place of most popular form of
entertainment and refined form of art at the same time.
is aimed to comprehend various theories which are there to explain films and
how they fall short of their aim to describe the process of cognition of films
and thus ascertain a holistic understanding of the phenomenon of film and
cognition. Specific models which can explain how films are understood would be
delved deep into to take forward the study in this discourse. The relations
between language and film would be further investigated and the links would be
established to show how film is cognized just like human beings cognize and
process language in their minds. The complexities of film as a form of art
would be deciphered and the filmic text would be broken down to bring to light
the structure and content which amalgamate to form the art form.
1.7 A brief description of the chapters
the first chapter has endeavored to
bring forth the apparent similarities between language system and cinema, the
next chapter would investigate further into the avenue of film and cognition.
the second chapter, the cumulative
knowledge of film analysis and comprehension would be discussed thoroughly. The
various theories which have emerged in the due course of time in the domain of
film studies try to explain the cinematic text from different perspectives. The
shortcomings of these theories can be understood in juxtaposition to the work
of the cognitivists which has been discussed as well.
the third chapter, it has been
discussed how cognitive linguistics is relevant in the study of film as a form
of communication. This entails a detailed description of the development of the
discourse of cognitive linguistics and the various principles which are
involved in the representation and processing of information in the human mind.
Another very important aspect has been looked into in this chapter. This is the
meaning construction in language and films. The similarity of the processes is
highlighted and the links are established with details.
the fourth chapter, the cognitive
approach to film is researched properly to give a clear view of the matter. Film
is actually a complex form of text and the different forms of texts have to be
differentiated to make one understand the intricate levels of the filmic text
and the multi-modal nature of experience which film provides its audiences
with. The chapter further investigates how the filmic text and linguistic text
structurally resemble each other. Both language and film are metaphorical in
nature and this has been described in details in this part of the thesis.
Moreover, film is also a system of signs which needs to be understood. The
categorical differences based on this theoretical disposition have also been
discussed in details in this part of the chapter.