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Film Language. In Search Of A Definition. A Linguistical Approach

1480 words - 6 pages

Since the beginning of film history, film-makers and film-theoreticians have tried to compare "film" with verbal language in a serious attempt to justify the film medium. The debate over a special "film language" is in itself problematic. The main difficulty lies in the use of the term "language" to describe words and images. It is very surprising that the concept of "film language" has been around since the time of the earliest films. Even though cinematography occupies a position between moving images and storytelling, it seems to have grown into a technical, visual competitor to spoken language. From there something resembling an international language theory has developed.In the early ...view middle of the document...

He speaks with the syllables of design and lighting and newly developed film techniques, all of which provide the viewers with a form of independence and freedom.In early German film theory, language-related theories appeared only rarely. One exception is Bela Balazs. Inspired by the non-verbal processes in film, he conceived of film language as a "universal language" on the same level as mime, gestures and symbolic images. The analogy of film to language is, for him, metaphorical.Film-makers have always been interested in ways to portray the world as realistically as possible. With the introduction of sound in 1927 the acoustic environment could now be represented and the world could be portrayed more realistically. For example, sound allows the feelings and the motivations of the characters to be clearly defined and presented. The introduction of audiovisual films was not welcomed by everyone. Directors like Charlie Chaplin vowed never to make a 100% audio film. The development of sound technology really cuts both ways. On the one hand, spoken words can be viewed as superfluous elements in film since the images can tell the complete story. On the other hand, spoken words play a dramatic role in film by enriching the elements of the film. The silent film-makers declined to use "gramophone reproductions of sound and voices" for the reason that it had no place in artistic life. Others see in film the possibility to portray both the audio and the visual aspects of the world, and thereby the ability to portray reality.With the later development of the audiovisual medium and its related artistic processes another conception of film language was developed. Directors like Jean Cocteau, Andrej Tarkowski and Theodoros Angelopoulos enlarged the cinematic arena for artistic expression and form. Beyond meaningful film language, they introduced the art of poetic film language. They use pictures and sound as raw material for the resulting cinematic artwork. Hidden meanings become uncovered and dreamlike worlds are constructed in front of the viewers' eyes. Some masterpieces of poetical language are Jean Cockteau's "Orph?e" and "La belle et la b?te", Andrej Tarkowski's "Nostalghia" and Theodoros Angelopoulos' "O Thiassos".In the early 1960s a new category of thought developed known as semiotics and its pioneer Ferdinand de Saussure defined the "language" as a "system of sketches from which ideas emerge ". He showed that the language material had no meaning in itself, but instead that it produced meaning. By "sketches" he meant the union of "acoustic pictures" (alias "signifiant") with "concepts" (alias "signifie"). One example of this: the collection of letters and sounds in the word "cinema" is the "acoustic picture", and what the word represents, a room with a screen and a projector, is the "concept".The developing and understanding of "film semiotics" has its roots in the linguistic term of "semiotics". Its pioneers (Roland Barthes, Christian Metz and...

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