Toth database - Cinema 

Christian Metz

Cinema and literature


The problem of filmic expression



Cinema and literature. The problem of filmic expression the cinema is not a language because linguistic characteristics of three important fact contravenes: a language is a system of signs intended for intercommunication. Three elements of the definition. Now, the cinema, like arts, and precisely because it is one of these is a "one-way" communication; It is in fact much more a means of expression that does not communicate. Is, as we have seen, only a part of a system. Finally, doesn't employ that very few actual signs.Certain images of cinema that a lasting use as a function of speech ended up staring in a conventional sense, and becomes a sort of signs. But the film wanders and includes the same: means that the backbone of the semiological mechanism is elsewhere. The image is always first a picture, plays in its literalism of feeling the show meaning of which it is the signifier; Therefore, it is enough what view to avoid having to mean, if you mean this term in the sense of signum facere, fabricate an obvious sign. Many features are opposed the film image to the preferred form of the signs, arbitrary, conventional, codified. This is the same consequences that stem from the fact that from the beginning the image is not an indication of something else other than herself, but the pseudo-presence of what it contains. The show movie from filmmaker can be natural (film «realistic», for street shooting, Cinéma-vérité etc.) or designed (film-works of Eisenstein of the last period, films of Orson Welles, and more generally all cinema unrealistic or great or expressionistic etc.). M to do the same. J1 subject of the film can be "realistic" or not; the film, for its part, does not show, however, that what it shows. Here, then, is a filmmaker, realistic or not, who filmed something. What is going to happen? The show filmed, natural or artificial, already had its own expression, as it was ultimately a fragment of the world and as the latter always has a sense. The words from which the novelist have preexisting sense too, as are fragments of language, which means always. Is a State of grace given to music and architecture that you can deploy at first glance their expressiveness properly aesthetics — their style — in a material (here stone, there the sound) purely impressive and it does not refer to anything. But the literature and cinema are by their nature condemned to connotation, since the denotation is always prior to their artistic enterprise. The movie, like verbal language, it is susceptible to purely use veicolativi which is absent any artistic concern, and on which the designation only reigns (~ denotation). So the art of cinema, as the art of the word, is moved by one degree upward: it is ultimately through the richness of the connotations that Proust's novel stands out — semiologically talking — from a cookbook, which Visconti's film Apart from a documentary. Mikel Dufrenne promises that the world represented in every work of art is not the essence of what the author "had to say." Is a preparatory stage; non-representative arts is even defect: the art of the stone and the art of sound does not designate anything.

When present, they don't need to better introduce the world expressed: m style of the artist, the themes and values, «accent» recognizable; In short, universe of meaning.

There is however an important difference in this respect between literature and cinema. The expressiveness comes to engraft to the movies on a natural expressiveness, the landscape or face that shows us the movie. In the arts of the word, it is not so much about an actual transplant expressiveness primary but on a conventional signification inexpressive, that of the language extensively. Movie access to aesthetic dimension — expressiveness over expressiveness — takes place in conditions of total appeasement: easy art, cinema is constantly in danger of becoming a victim of this ease: how easy it is to work, when you have to visit the natural expression of beings, things in the world! Art too easy, cinema is an art. difficult; never ceases to move up the china of his ' easily. There are very few movies where there's a little bit of art, very few movies in which there is plenty.

As it is most unlikely the art of literature — and especially poetry! How to give positive outcome to this senseless transplant; provide an expressiveness (namely somehow natural) "the words of the tribe" reviled by Mallarmé, and linguists agree in acknowledging a weak dose of expressiveness than a good dose of arbitrary significance, even taking into account the corrections made after Saussure to the famous theory of "arbitrariness" (presence in the language of a partial phonetic, morphological or semantic motivation — — highlighted especially by s. Ullmann; motivation through the signifier and other " implicit associations» analyzed by ch. Bally ...; more generally, various studies on the areas «motivated people» of language).

But when the poet was able to achieve this Alchemy, the hard work is done: difficult art, literature has at least this easily.

His company is so steep as to be less threatened by her own chine. There are many books in which there is no trace of art, there are some where there isn't much.

The concept of expression is here taken in the sense that the defining m. Dufrenne. There is an expression when a "sense" is somehow immanent to one thing, grows directly from it, is confused with his own form.Some of the "intrinsic" sèmi e. Buyssens fall maybe in this case. The signification, in contrast, connects from outside a signifier to isolate a meaning which is itself — after Saussure you know — a concept and not a thing.

Are the "extrinsic" sèmi e. Buyssens A concept means, one thing is expressed. Being expressed, the service cannot proceed from a Convention; It is compulsorily required, because make it optional would deprive it of its sole support, consent. It is easy to recognize here the famous thesis of the Greek philosophers. Between expression and meaning, there is more than one difference: one is natural, the other conventional; Tuna is global and continues, the other broken into discrete units; one comes from the beings or from things, the other by the ideas. The expressiveness of the world (the landscape, the face) and expression of art (the melancholy of Wagnerian oboe) obey him essentially the same semiological mechanism: the "sense" it grows naturally from the collection of the signifier, without making use of a code. It is at the level of meaning and meaning only that you ask the differènza: there, nature (expressiveness of the world); Here, the man (expressiveness of art).

That's why literature is an art in heterogeneous connotation (expressive connotations on a non-expressive denotation) while cinema is an art in homogeneous connotation (expressive connotations about a denotation of expression). We should study within this perspective the problem of cinematic expression, and then you will need to talk about style, then by author. There is a famous image of ¡ Qué viva México! by Eisenstein, where are represented the tortured faces yet calm three peons buried up to shoulder height, and that the horses of the oppressors they tramped. Perfect triangular composition: well-known signature of the great filmmaker. The denotative relationship gives us here a signifier (three faces) and meaning (they have suffered, they died). Is the «reason», the «history». Natural expression on their faces you read the pain in their immobility death. At this point we connotative relationship overlaps, with whom art begins: the nobility of landscape structured by the triangle of the faces (— picture shape) expresses what the author, through its style, was going to ' mean ' means the size of the Mexican people, sure of his victory, sooner or later, some amour fou, by the Northern, towards this sunshine. Expressiveness, then. Yet, even "natural": it is in a very wild and powerful direct this greatness grows from a plastic composition where the pain is beauty. Two languages, therefore, coexist in this photo, as there are found two significant (there, three faces in an expanse; here, a triangolarmente structured by these faces) and two meanings (there, suffering and death; here, grandeur and triumph). You will notice, which is to be expected, that the term connoted is more «wide» denoted delrèspressione, while stationed in rappòrto to it. He finds himself depending on meaning of connotation all material (signifier and signified) of denotation: the mighty and painful triumph that connotes the image is expressed as much through the three same faces (meaning denotation) through martyrdom we read about them (meaning the denotazióne). The aesthetic language for meaning all meaning--meant a primary language (anecdote, why) who comes to fit inside of it. This is precisely the definition of connotation according to Hjelmslev; qùesto chb is known linguist does not use the words ' meaning ' and k meaning ", but expressions and contents (cenematica and pierematica). But for those who study the word cinema expression is too valuable (as opposed to meaning) because it gives the sense of «signifier», as it amounts to a collision manifold meanings very uncomfortable; within our perspective, "expression" does not refer to the meaning, but the relationship between a signifier and signified, when this report is "intrinsic». Would also be possible, in the case of semìe expression, mean expressing and expressed, reserving «signifier» and «meaning» for non-expressive relationships (meaning proper). M to be hesitating to abandon terms so consecrated by use, and, after Saussure, so connected to so many capital analysis, as signifier and signified. Established often comparisons between the film and the «language» in which the identity of the latter is uncertain and fluctuating. Is now literature (language arts), now the ordinary language as being opposed to the film; This ménage, nobody understands anything. The art of words and art images, we saw, are located on the same floor semiological; they are neighbors, on the "connotation". But if you compare the art of cinema in ordinary language, everything changes: the two competitors do not live more this time on the same floor.

The film begins where ends the ordinary language: with the «sentence», minimum unit of the filmmaker and highest unit properly language linguistics. We no longer then two art, but an art and a language (the latter being, in this case, the language). Properly linguistic laws no longer going in front of the instance in which nothing more is required, and the concatenation becomes "free". II movie starts from here; in is at first blush there where does that leave the rhetoric and Poetics. But then, how to explain a curious asymmetry that confuses insidiously spirits and makes that dark many books? From the part of the memorandum, the two plans will let you easily distinguish: ordinary language, literature. On the side of fìlmico, it always says «cinema». Sure, one can distinguish between purely utilitarian», «movies (educational documentaries, for example) and films ' artistic '. But he feels that something is wrong, and that this distinction has no evidence of that which opposes the poetic verb or theatrical in the conversation that takes place down the street.Nothing prevents you to quibble about the intermediate cases which blur the boundaries: the films of a Flaherty, a Mumau, Painlevé, documentaries (biological or cultural-historical) and art work together. But it would be easy to find in the order of minutes many equivalents of these cases. The essential therefore resides elsewhere. In fact, there is no use totally aesthetic cinema, ' ' the image that most connotes cannot avoid being also photographic designation. At the time, along with Germaine Dulac, you dreamed the «pure cinema», Vanguard films more unrealistic, top rated exclusive rhythmic composition, concerns were still something: clouds changing shapes, light games on the water, ballets of connecting rods and Pistons. There is not even a job totally utilitarian movie «»: the image that denotes connotes anymore. The educational documentary more explanatory flatly cannot prevent himself from delimit their own images and to organise their succession with something like an artistic concern; When a "language" does not exist at all, one must already be some artists to speak it, too bad. Speak, tantamount in part to invent it. Speak the language of every day is simply to use it. Everything depends on whether the cinema has a homogeneous connotation to its denotation, both equally meaningful. Cinema one passes continuously from art to non-art from non-art to art. The beauty of the film obeys the same laws of the beauty of the show filmed; in some cases, no one knows which of the two is nice, or which one is bad. A Fellini movie is different from a film of the American Navy (intended to teach reclùte | f ' art of making knots) for talent and for the purpose, for what is most intimate in its semiological mechanism. Purely instrumental movies are made like the others, while a poem by Victor Hugo is not made since a conversation between Office colleagues. First, Tuna is written and oral, as the film is ever filmed. But that's not all. It's because of the heterogeneous connotation (dar expressive value in words per se expressionless) which has created this gulf between the instrumental use of the verb and its aesthetic use. Hence the impression of having one hand two realities (ordinary language and literature) and the other only ima, «cinema». Hence also the veracity of this impression. Verbal language is used continually, from moment to moment. The literature, in order to exist, it assumes firstly that a man writes a book, privileged and costly Act which is not comparable to everyday life. The movie, be it "utilitarian" or "artistic", is always like the book, never like the conversation. You should always do it. Similar also in this book, and different from the spoken phrase, the movie does not imply a direct answer from someone that can replicate now and in the same language; even for this movie is more expression that signification. Is there a relationship of solidarity a bit obscure but perhaps essential between communication (bilateral relationship) and signification «arbitrary»; by contrast, unilateral messages are often derived from the expression (not arbitrary), tie this time easier to grasp. The expression, a thing or a being we deliver what they have of more different: such a kind of message does not imply answer. Love is not a more harmonious dialogue, is a chant, amebic. What Jacques tells Nicole's love of Jacques to Nicole; what Nicole told Jacques, is the love of Nicole for Jacques. They don't speak the same thing, and you have good reason to say that their love is "shared". Do not respond; wouldn't really can answer who is expressed. Their love is divided into two loves, giving rise to two expressions. It took some kind of coincidence — hence the rarity of the thing — and not the game of influences and subsequent arrangements, through which a dialogue (or even the understanding that prolongs the love), because they are two different feelings, expressing applied unknowingly at that Crossfire that is meeting and not dialogue, and that does not suck that the merger that will reverse all dialogue. As Jacques (Nicole) or as Nicole (Jacques), the film and the book are expressed, and no one ever answers really.If instead, using ordinary language, I ask: "what time is it?" and I replied: "the eight", I've expressed; I meant, I communicated; They replied. It is therefore true that compared to the literature/language, we have only one cinema, which resembles more to literature than to the language.


(from The cinema: language or language?, 1964)