Connotation is the element that makes any analysis of film products so interesting.
Connotation- what an image means to its audience -is the most significant part of film analysis.
If much of what we say about a film image is based on personal opinion or knowledge, then we can never be wrong, it is simply how we see it. No-one can tell us that it isn’t so. It is our opinion.
What we do have to do, is to explain why we have this connotation, why this image means a particular thing to us or to audiences of the film. For this we need observational evidence and an academic idea to apply. We then have a hypothesis.
How we ‘see’ or understand a film is governed by many elements – including our mood at the time and the place we view it and who we are with. None of these elements are under control by the film-maker, but, by manipulating the elements of film language at their disposal, they can seek to affect some of our understanding.
How film constructs audience viewpoint of a film
The film-maker controls what we see (the content of each frame) but also their choice of camera-shot (position; angle; type) controls how we see it. In the hands of a good director, this will impact on our understanding of the characters, the events and the message of the film.
Proximity shots also serve purposes such as a means of setting the context of a scene –the establishing shot – as well as a means of creating emotional reactions and the intensity of an event by the use of close - ups or of distance between characters.
The angle of a shot (high/low/eye) suggests relationships of power and construct how we might see the relative strength or weakness of characters.
As student of film you need to consider why specific shot choices are made – the director had a range of options as to how to frame the action, so why did they choose that proximity and that angle? As you study each of the basic shot types we will consider where these might be used, where you have seen them used and the effect it had on how you understood the sequence.
We need to develop or refine a language for our analysis. We need to able to not simply say that it ‘creates a sense of his dark character’ but state specifically the film techniques being used. We need to be able to discuss film in terms of:
Conventions of shot content; genre; colour palette implications for audience and meanings; audience manipulation; representations of gender/ethnicity/age; the polysemic nature of the image/celebrity; the application of anchorage of genre or stardom; the connotative and denotive use of images; iconography etc.
The term may be familiar, it is used to describe ‘everything in the frame’. This encompasses the way that film products use the elements of music, sound, lighting, costume, location and the actors as well as the framing, shot selection and manner of editing together of the shots to create a meaningful narrative for audiences.
At GCSE, the issue was what they were and how they are used. Here, at IB HL, we are now much more concerned with developing our ideas as to why these are used in particular ways by film - makers and the impact these choices have on audiences.
Music suggests the emotional tone an audience is asked to take. The easy bit – slow music = romance, serious; past paced = action; tensions. The music can be very useful in underscoring senses of sadness or rising tensions.
Lighting, like music, is all about setting mood. The obvious use of darkness and shadows in horror or the detective genre, high-key or natural lighting for romance and comedy.
Soundtracks can heighten our awareness of what is happening from the added thud of a punch to the eerie winds blowing through.
Costume obviously indicates professions, periods of time or social class. It may also indicate roles of villainy or heroism –think Darth Vader.
Location in some genre is about the exotic attraction to audiences (think the Bond movies) but also fulfils some of the effect of pathetic fallacy, creating moods and tones.
The actor’s performance is obviously key in shaping understanding and empathies, but we must also layer onto this the actor themselves and the audience expectations of the star in the role (Tom Hanks is 99% always the Everyman or good guy next door).
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