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A2 FILM STUDIES_fm4 section b - spectatorship - intro to unit

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louisa cunningham

on 22 February 2015

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Transcript of A2 FILM STUDIES_fm4 section b - spectatorship - intro to unit

FM4 - SECTION B: Spectatorship
popular film
emotional response
exam requirements
1. Individually, pick a film that you have really enjoyed
2. Write down all of the things about the film that made you enjoy it
3. Where did you see the film, who where you with and what did you know about it before you went to see it
4. Have you seen the film more than once and has it changed your enjoyment of the film
5. Share your ideas with another person in the class

Thinking about ourselves as spectators
What is Spectatorship & how is it different to audience?
what is an
who are they made up of?
how is an audience brought together at a cinema?
what is a
how is a spectator different to an audience?
the audience is a collective group made up of different people who are the intended target for a film

the spectator is an individual – someone who looks at the text and experiences it independently
in film theory...
1. What do you enjoy about watching a film in the cinema
2. How much are you influenced about a film based on what you have learned about from:
the media,
social networking,
the stars,
the director etc…
3. Do you feel influenced by the reaction of the audience or do you feel independent from other viewers?
In pairs, discuss the following questions:
what kinds of things do you enjoy about being a spectator?

based on what you enjoy about watching a film, what do you think are the main concerns surrounding Spectatorship in film theory?

What are the main concerns of Spectatorship theory?
There are 3 key concerns or assumptions around Spectatorship in film theory
Spectatorship happens in traditional cinema auditoria
The audience ceases to exist for the individual spectator for the duration of the film
The consumption films that are popular are geared towards providing typical forms of cinematic pleasure
 Spectacle
 Emotion
 Plot
 Resolution
 Conventional narrative
 Generic forms
As spectators, we position ourselves in front of a screen and engage in watching a film
• What kind of screen
• What kind of space
• What kind of film

The technology of cinema exhibition holds us powerfully
o Size & shape of screen
o Quality of images
o Clarity of sound
o Near darkness

We have very little control over film screening

We have a certain level of personal investment in the film screening
we choose which film to see
we pay money to see it!
cinema experience
is acknowledged
as special & different to other kinds of viewing
by both the spectator & producer of film
the oxford dictionary defines 'spectator' as:

"a person who watches"
thinking about an emotional response
1. individually list all the different emotions that you might have experienced when watching different films
write down some films you have enjoyed
write down the different emotions you felt when watching them

2. now compare the list with a partner
have you experienced the same emotional responses?
have you responded in the same way to the same films?

3. what aspects of the films created the emotional response?

4. why might a film's producer want to create an emotional response in a spectator?
• how other people react can alter the individual spectator response
There is a complex relationship between spectator & audience
1. We enter cinema as member of audience
2. Our expectations of a film enhanced by those around us
3. We go to the cinema with at least one other person
• we can hear other people responding to the film - it takes an audible form
4. We are conscious of shared reactions during screening
Some films are more likely to produce a passive rather than active consumer but, it doesn’t mean each spectator to the film will have the same reaction
Film theory very focused on critique of Hollywood
Evolved from political left – come contradiction in analysis
• Pop culture as having huge potential for harming masses
• Also seen as people’s culture
Begun with spectator as passive
• Overwhelmed by physical control of film form & presence of the image on screen
• Susceptible to absorbing ideas of cinema unthinkingly
Developed to ideas of spectator as now active
• Makes meaning & negotiates with a film’s meaning whilst consuming it
• In control of viewing & sophisticated in understanding film form
belief that cinematic pleasure in mainstream film is produced by
The influence of early cinema
i. In pairs, discuss the following:

1. What aspect of film form do you think is most successful in manipulating the audience into following a film?

2. Do you like to know what to expect from a mainstream film?

3. Do you prefer to be challenged by the stylistic devices used by the director?

4. When do you think the film language (uses of camera, editing, mise-en-scene and narrative devices) were established?
When was the first American film was made?
how might a spectator have responded to these films at the time?
as you watch the clips from early cinema:
identify developments in camera, editing and mes techniques
how is music used?
what techniques do we still see today?
The best way to understand the relationship between mainstream commercial film and spectatorship is the study how the two evolved together in Early Cinema (1895-1917)
Developments in early cinema led to some of the ways spectator can be drawn in to a relationship with the screen through control exercised by film form
By 1917, fundamental features of what we now consider as mainstream film language were in place
In very early films there are technical limitations of equipment

The camera is static before action & character

Assumptions are made about the spectator viewing position
that the camera eye assumes position of audience member sitting in middle of arch stalls & can’t move closer than this
Makes early films appear clumsy

Shots full of people & action were included in the same frame without guidance on what is significant for the development of the plot or which characters we should follow

No cus or povs

No or very little cutting
how might you respond to these films now?
Edison - Newark athlete 1891
Edison –morning alarm 1896

Edwin Porter 1903 - the great train robbery

Edwin Porter 1905 - the kleptomaniac

Edison 1910 – a trip to mars
Griffiths - the lonedale operator 1911
chaplin – the fireman 1916
views of the spectator

Opposing views of spectator theory – the spectator ‘position’ to ‘the look’
Thinking about different spectator positions

In pairs, discuss

1. When you watch a film, do you surrender to its effects or, do you remain critically aware
2. Does how you react to a film depend on where you watch it or who your with?

Early cinema found ways to control look of the spectator in order to:
3. to provide pleasure in looking
1. ensure meanings intended by makers were those taken by the audience
2. replicate realism and effect the way we engage in looking outside of the cinema
Film audiences were
into a particular cinema practice sitting in the quiet & dark at same time as film form had evolved to manage act of looking is significant

This socialisation of cinema practice has had a big impact on film theory, to make assumptions that:

The spectator is unified as the subject addressed by a film

The viewing situation is constant (the same) for each and every spectator of the same film

As a result of early American cinema...
film theory has 2 oppositional views regarding the role of the spectator
views of the spectator

This is known as a deterministic model to explain how the spectator is positioned/absorbed/controlled

the passive spectator
vulnerable to the manipulation of film language and the effect of this on their cinematic experience
• Common approach for left wing critics from 1930s - 1980s
3 Key concepts of the negative view of the spectator:
The mode of film making, language of film form and mode of exhibition creates an ‘APPARATUS’
the APPARATUS controls the spectator’s look and makes them vulnerable to ideological messages
Through the use of film form and characterisation, the spectator is interpellated into the film (invited to identify with one of the characters)
the spectator subjects themselves to ideological ideas about that character
The spectator is 'stitched' into the world of the film through the apparatus & interpellation
they are overwhelmed by the experience
they are unable to think critically about the wider messages of the film
The cinema apparatus
the active spectator
A move away from deterministic models around theories of subject and apparatus to provide alternative approaches to the question of how we respond to media messages

Notion of the spectator as an individual who will have an independent response to the film dependent on their own personal experiences and expectations

our personal experiences will predispose us to:
• certain interpretations of character
• attitudes toward moral and political issues and
• certain emotional responses

Idea that the film has no real meaning without the spectator and we can respond whilst watching a film in 3 different ways:
1. Affective
2. Physical
3. cognitive

if we accept this view of the spectator, it suggests that there are many readings of a film and can be as many readings as there are spectators
Stuart Hall: Reception theory
All films have a preferred meaning encoded in them through the cinema apparatus.
But, not all spectators will read the film in the same way and may therefore come out with a different reading.

3. Oppositional reading
completely rejects the preferred reading and has an entirely different reading of the text
1. Preferred reading
accepts the producers intended meaning
2. Negotiated reading
thinks about the text, may agree with some aspects of the preferred meaning but not others
3 types of spectator reading
3. cognitive
positive theories of active spectatorship also identify that we can respond whilst watching a film in the following ways:
1. Affective
2. Visceral
the way a film makes us feel emotionally
it can alter the way we feel or think
the way a film makes us feel physically
film form can make us feel like we are experiencing a physical feeling
the way a film makes us feel intellectually
themes and narrative devices can make us respond to a film with thought
some problems with defining the spectator as active

• We are familiar with the same cultural forms & social structures
We tend to share similar values and beliefs socially
More likely to read the ideological values in a film in the same way

• We have learnt to suspend disbelief
Some spectators choose to surrender to the spectacle of the film apparatus

although audiences display independence and diversity in their response to a film,
audiences do tend to respond uniformly to a film

key concepts about the relationship between the spectator and the film text
i. the pursuit of pleasure
ii. the relationship with character
iii. Imagining
the relationship between spectatorship and character is important in the creating an emotional response and different pleasures in the audience

There are
3 aspects that work to enable this relation between spectator and character to develop

1. Recognition
Do we recognise the character? Are they credible? Does the star persona further develop the recognition?

2. Alignment
Process of identification where we align ourselves with the character’s experience, morals, values etc… and create a bond with them as a result

3. Allegiance
We feel a loyalty to the characters ideological views and needs that will either reflect or are different to our own in the real world.

Theories of spectatorship often rooted in idea of pleasure
The promise of pleasure motivates us to enter the cinema

Different kinds of pleasure:
• Aesthetic
• Moral
• Social
• Intellectual
• Emotional
• Erotic
Cinema promises pleasure because it focuses on the fulfilment of expectations:

• We can comfortably handle what we see because we are able to understand the familiar form

• The promise made by a specific genre, star or director
Overall, there are 3 different kinds of spectator pleasure:

. Emotional -
How we feel about a character or a situation
These can be
both active & passive
(conscious or unconscious)

Physical -
The way the film stimulates our senses
. Cognitive -
How the plot and themes make us think intellectually about the visual experience of watching the film
i. What kinds of films do you enjoy - films that create an emotional response, a physical response or an intellectual response?

ii. Pick a film and say which of the 3 kinds of pleasures it satisfied in you

iii. now compare your answers with another person in the class, how do their answers compare to yours?
Spectator theory has come up with 2 different ideas of ‘imagining’ in relation to mainstream film, depending on the type of spectator involved:
some film theorists believe that 'imagining' has a vital function to our spectatorship of film
The idea that when we watch a film we imagine what it must be like or feel like.
Passive spectator

central imagining
• The use of film form makes the audience directly imagine the physical or emotional sensation recreated by the film or the characters etc…
• They surrender completely to the film experience

Active spectator –
a-central imagining
Can be both simultaneously inside & outside the film
I imagine that it must be…they negotiate the film form to help them to empathise with the physical or emotional sensations found in the film
Today, spectatorship can be seen as a mix of both central & a-central imagining
watch the clip and decide if you are:

central imagining

a-central imagining


1. read through the prezi if not completed in class & take notes

2. watch a film of your choice and select your favorite sequence

3. write a review of your reponse to the sequence that discusses:
your type of emotional response and
how it was created by the film
i. Pick any film of your choice and select two contrasting characters in the film

ii. Explain which you prefer and why that might be
working individually,
working in pairs,
i. complete the above and compare your ideas with your partner

ii. what conclusions can you come to about your spectator position to the characters
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