Are Women Really Focalized?

By Bálint, Katalin | PSYART, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Are Women Really Focalized?


Bálint, Katalin, PSYART


abstract

The aim of this paper is to find a way how a psychoanalytic-feminist abstraction and cinematographic-visual facts can interact each other. The goal is to examine the correspondence between the concept of male gaze and focalization, and to find the link between the structuralist term used by narrative theory of film and literature, and the highly theoretic idea of male gaze.

According to the hypothesis, if a conceptual correspondence can be found between the two ideas, then it is possible to transform the concept of male gaze into a focalization pattern - as a constant combination of a male focalizer and a female focalized object - within a film.

At the level of composition, cinematic techniques of internal focalization (focusing on the point-of-view shots) were analyzed in two films by Hitchcock (Vertigo, Marnie).

Results show the temporal structure of the characters' focalization. Mulvey's claims are verified partially. The focaliser-focalised combinations reveal complex relations of the narratives.

Are Women Really Focalised?

Overlap Between the Conceptsof Male Gaze and Focalization in Film Theory

Introduction

Judith Mayne (18-20) makes a provisional but useful division between "apparatus" and "textual" tendencies in the psychoanalytic film theory of the 1970's. Following Louis Althusser's argument on ideological state apparatuses, works of film theorists (e.g. Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry and Laura Mulvey) had a pronounced emphasis on the question of how cinema functions as a cinematic apparatus, and were centered around the investigation of cinematic situation. In the same period, film theorists as for example Thierry Kuntzel, Raymond Bellour, Stephen Heath applying Roland Barthes's method of textual analysis were concerned with micro-analysis of narrative fiction films, in order to find how cinematic devices position the spectator's desire. The two tendencies certainly informed each other a lot, but the integration in terminology and in methodology has remained unfulfilled (Mayne 20).

Reconsideration of psychoanalytic concepts appeared by the development of cognitive and narrative approaches in film studies. Cognitive theorists strongly criticized the psychoanalytic abstraction of the passive and homogenous spectator implied in apparatus theory, and has provided a concept on film-viewing that is based on the results of cognitive research (Bordwell 12-18). The narrative approach seems to disregard the psychoanalytic interpretation, and to keep the method of textual analysis, providing a useful terminology of narrative devices derived from the narrative theory of literature.

Aim of the research

The aim of this paper is to find a way how a psychoanalytic and feminist abstraction and cinematographic-visual facts can interact with each other. The goal is to examine the correspondence between the concept of male gaze and focalization, and to find the textual connection between the structuralist term used by narrative theory of film and literature, and the highly theoretic idea of male gaze.

Aesthetic features are widely regarded as unquantifiable. My goal is to demonstrate that quantifying elements of the compositional pattern in a film can be a useful method of analysis.

Hypotheses

The hypothesis of the investigation has two levels. On the first one, the question is whether a conceptual correspondence can be found between the two ideas. This requires a theoretical investigation. If it turns out to be reasonable, then on the second level it may be possible to transform the concept of male gaze into a focalization pattern within a film. This requires a textual analysis. This transformation can be a fruitful integration of different theoretical perspectives, that may provide an inspiring basis for further research.

The Concept of Male Gaze

Description of male gaze assumes that the visual structures of mainstream films repeating the patriarchal logic of power and domination, where point of view is controlled by the male character and the female character appears as the object of his gaze (Mulvey 19-20). …

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