encourage them to
seek out, and in part what the artist’s shaping of cinematic form encourages
them to see. With film, viewers spend less time with any single image but an
equivalent amount of cognitive time with the work as a whole.
presents numerous cases that support the view of cognition put forth here. D.
W. Griffith, by breaking scenes down to close-ups and long-shots and by
alternating times and places, demonstrated the possibility of conveying a
situation and its meaning through a segmented presentation. Eisenstein and
Pudovkin each formalized theories of how montage conveys the artist’s intended
meaning to the viewer, and conducted experiments to demonstrate that completely
different meanings are conveyed by arranging the same group of shots in
If the film maker
involves the viewer in a stereotyped, superficial, or destructive view of
reality, then schema may be gained, but no broadening of understanding can
occur as a result. This is the situation that exists with most commercial
television and many feature films.
Thus, it can be
comprehended that there has been substantial endeavors to find a solution to
the riddle of films and their cognition by the human mind. It is only through
cognitive approach the processional and representational aspect of cinema can
be understood. The process of cognition is a very complex one and it is through
further research that this phenomenon can be fully understood. The various film
theories which have been discussed in the chapter hardly suffice the
requirements of describing the processes through which films are understood. It
is only when the cognitivists took the onus on their shoulders there was
further development in the lane of understanding the matter.
Film as a System of Communication and Cognitive Linguistics
This chapter deals
with the discourse of cognitive linguistics in order to understand if certain
insights of this field are applicable in exploring the cognitive principles
involved in film production and comprehension. There is huge significance of
cognitive linguistics in the study of cinema and the cognitive linguists have
taken the research to the next level. Several cognitive principles which have
been developed by the linguists can be applied to the study of movies. The
chapter discusses this in a certain line of argument to establish how these
processes come into play while the audience watches films on the screen.
Cognitive linguistics subsumes films in its general theory of signification and
this can be very well validated. The cognitive principles of specificity,
focusing, perspective and prominence are the ones which are also functional in
the case of cognition of films. The meaning construction of language and films
by the human mind are also similar to each other. All these things have been
discussed in details in this chapter with examples and elucidation. More
specifically, the chapter tries to explore those cognitive principles which
play significant role in organizing the content of a frame or a shot.
3.4 Cognitive principles involved in representing and processing of
conceptual content which is evoked by an expression is not its only meaning.
What is equally important is how that content is construed by the human mind.
Owing to the conventional semantic value, each symbolic structure construes the
content in its certain fashion. The visual metaphor is what is inevitable as in
it the content is likened to a scene and construal to a particular way of
viewing that content. It is never claimed that all meanings are based on space
or visual perception. However, the visual metaphor suggests that there is a
path to classify the many sides of construal, if only for expository purposes.
viewing a scene, what a human being sees is dependent on how closely the person
examines it and what the person chooses to look at. It also depends on which
elements that person pays most attention to and from where it is viewed. To
comprehend the construal phenomena one needs to delve deep into these four
labels: specificity, focusing, prominence, and perspective. These four apply to
concepts in all domains. Hence, it is clear that in the process of film
cognition too these four labels will come into play on the part of the
of the dimensions of construal is the level of detail and precision at which a
particular situation is characterized. The temperature on a particular day can
be described by saying that it is hot. However, the person can opt for a lot
more specific by saying that it is in the 80s, about 85 degrees, or exactly
85.2 degrees. Likewise, mother is
more specific than relative and white pigeon is more specific than bird. Granularity and resolution are the
alternate terms for specificity.
it means to say that an expression is highly specific is that it describes a
situation in fine-grained detail, with high resolution. The expressions which
have lesser specificity have coarse-grained descriptions and the low resolution
reveals only gross features.
opposite of specificity is schematicity. Thus relative is schematic with respect to mother, and bird with
respect to white pigeon. It needs to
be mentioned that a schematic characterization is instantiated by any number of
more specific ones, of which each serve the purpose of elaboration.
relationship which is elaborative is represented by a solid arrow:
can be arranged in elaborative hierarchies. Here each expression is schematic
with respect to the ones that follow:
? pigeon ? white pigeon
? in the 80s ? about 85 degrees ? exactly 85.2 degrees
has to be understood that participating in elaborative relations are both novel
expressions of any size and also lexical items. In lexicon, such relations
constitute taxonomies which mean hierarchies of conventionally recognized
types. An example is cited below:
? object ? book ? geography book
has to be understood that a person can make an expression as specific as he or
she likes and it can be of any length or stretch in case of films. Making the
stretch longer means the person can describe a situation more precisely and in
greater detail. However, there are practical limits. Since the stretch is
finite in nature, a certain expression can only be specific to a particular
extent and this is possible with respect to certain facets of the overall
situation in context.
can be expressions as the one mentioned below which exhibit a mixture of
schematic and specific description:
saw a rugged thug wearing a black jacket.
lexical meanings too are specific in only some respects while being schematic
in the others. What is very fundamental to cognition is the phenomenon of
schematization. This is constantly occurring in every realm of human
experience. Schema extraction is actually the reinforcing of something inherent
in multiple experiences. This is done by identifying the commonality among them
at whatever level of granularity it can be ascertained. Thus, a schema should
be seen as immanent in its varied instantiations. It is not separate and
distinct. The very nature of schema is to capture the common thing which can be
estimated after having experiences. Schema serves a categorizing function and
thus can be applied to any new experience which exhibits the same
every aspect of language structure and film cognition, schemas and elaborative
relationships are very essential. It can be claimed that all conceptual
generalizations arise via schematization from structures which are more
specific. In the field of semantics, schemas and categorizing relationships
which are based on either elaboration or extension make the network which
represents the senses of apolysemous lexical item.
the representations of conventional patterns, schemas provide the basis for
assessing the proper formation of language. An expression is taken to be
well-formed to the extent that it bears relationships of elaboration (rather
than extension) to the schemas which are invoked to categorize it.
notion of specificity is also applicable in case of films across the world. In
the closing scene of the famous film White, which is one of the films of the
Three Colors Trilogy, the director, Kieslowski, shows the male protagonist
looking at his wife who is jailed on the accusation of killing him, something
that he has framed her for as revenge. He looks at her from a distance as she
makes some gestures expressing her desire to be with him. His face is held in
close up by the camera and the audience can very well see each of his facial
reaction, his frowns, his tears and his grin which all in unison express his
pain of love and hatred which are dichotomous, yet prevailing in his mind at
the same time. The expression of these
emotions in the scene by the use of cinematic apparatus makes the audience find
specificity of the protagonist’s emotions which are shown on the screen. In
juxtaposition to this, if this would have been a long shot and his expressions
would not have been so conspicuous, the audience would have missed out on the
subtlety of his emotions and they might have comprehended the sequence
depending on the schema of emotions in their minds which goes with the sequence.
beings access particular portions of the conceptual universe through the
linguistic expressions. This dimension of construal which is known as focusing
includes foreground vs. background which can be described as the arrangement
which helps one understand the meaning of something.
lexical item gives direct access to a set of cognitive domains ranked for the
centrality as a part of the conventional value. The inventory of the domain is
actually a representation of a selection of conceptual content. The central
domains are foregrounded (in the sense of being more accessible) vis-à-vis
peripheral ones. It has to be understood that the domains which are selected
are active to varying degrees. Also, of all the domains in the matrix, only a
limited number can be activated on a particular occasion. A high level of
activation can be defined as a kind of foregrounding. It has to be understood
that focusing is a matter of degree. Focusing is actually relative to
particular purposes, and levels of organization, dimensions of structure.
Foreground vs. Background
sorts of asymmetries lend themselves to the metaphoric description as
foreground vs. background. These are differentiable but can be seen to manifest
a very general feature of cognition. What they all involve is the departure
from a baseline, the exploitation of previous experience for the interpretation
of the subsequent experience. The manifestation in perception is a phenomenon
which is called figure vs. ground. For example, a sudden sound stands out as
figure against the ground of silence and a small, moving cursor against the
more stable background on a laptop screen. The other manifestation is
categorization. This happens when the categorizing structure is recognized
within the experience being categorized. What lies in the background is the
categorizing structure and it is taken for granted as a pre-established basis
for assessment. The target is in the foreground of awareness as the structure
which is being observed and assessed by the spectator in case of films.
can speak of background and foreground for any situation where one conception
precedes and in some way helps the emergence of another as in films too. Thus,
in this broad sense, it can be said that expressions invoke background
knowledge as the very basis for the process of comprehension. For example one
can take the sentence ‘I want to put the canned tuna on the top rack of the
refrigerator.’ Presupposed knowledge comes into play in this case. Although it
seems that the information is too explicit, the interpretation lies in the
cultural knowledge pertaining to food storage and refrigerator organization. If
this knowledge is absent, one might go on to interpret that it is needed to
take out the tuna from the can first and then kept on the rack and the can
should be placed somewhere else or so on. At the same time, the basic knowledge
of our physical world as we experience it is very important for comprehension.
In case of films too one needs to understand the cultural context or the
comprehensive process might remain faulty or incomplete.
the same way, the source domain of a metaphor has a kind of precedence
vis-à-vis the target domain. The source domain provides a conceptual background
in terms of which the target domain is comprehended and the source domain is
more directly anchored in bodily experience. The spectator views the target
against this background. Thus, the blended space comes into play which is a
hybrid domain and the source and target domains jointly constitute the
background from which the blended conception emerges.
each step of cognition, the current expression is constructed and interpreted
against the background of those that have happened before. The prior events are
very important determinant (together with context, background knowledge, etc.)
of something which can be termed as the current discourse space (CDS). This CDS
is actually a mental space which comprises everything presumed to be shared by
the characters on the screen during the movie and the spectator as the basis
for discourse at a given point of time. Having its inception from that basis,
every successive event shown in the movie updates the CDS in some way.
of the expressions are symbolically complex and are actually assembled out of
smaller symbolic elements. The concept of ‘lipstick’ can be taken as an example
of symbolic components. This concept as an integrated whole is the composite
symbolic structure and the parts ‘lip’ and ‘stick’ are component symbolic
structures. It has to be remembered that a composite structure can itself
function as a component structure in an expression which has a greater symbolic
complexity. Thus a lipstick and maker are the components of the higher level
composite structure: ‘lipstick maker.’ ‘Lip’ and ‘stick’ form a word, while ‘make’
and ‘-er’ form another. These two words combine to create a new meaning.
film, to make one understand the notion of composition we can draw the example
of many movies. For example if we take for example the film White by Kieslowski, in the ending
sequence we can find the background score playing a melancholy tone and the
husband who has come to see his wife looks at her from distance with various
emotions in his heart and tears in his eyes. The lighting is done to make the
audience focus on his face. All these elements which come into play in this
sequence compose it. The meaning of the scene gets accentuated in the mind of
the audience experiencing all these things in unison.