Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery

Article excerpt

UNDERSTANDING CINEMA: A PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY OF MOVING IMAGERY Per Persson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 281 pp.

In Understanding Cinema: A Psychological Theory of Moving Imagery, Per Persson succeeds in making the case for a theory of cinema that emphasizes "mental nature of meaning and its production" (23). Persson explains that the task of such a theory is to "investigate how and under what circumstances different meaning types actually are realized in the mind of the spectator before, during, and after viewing" a film (34). Because he organizes his arguments in an accessible manner, using lists, figures, and diagrams to illustrate his main points, he demonstrates the viability of a psychological theory of film.

Persson begins his discussion with an illuminating examination of dispositions, which allows him to explore how people "understand and experience the world" around them (1). In "Understanding Dispositions," he describes how people "make meaningful their physical, social, cultural, and historical environments" (22). Then he provides a solid background for analyzing moving imagery by detailing six different levels of meaning, from level o (pre-meaning) to level 5 (interpretive). His goal is to reveal how "written and image-based discourse acts as triggers or cues for various kinds of cognitive-emotional reactions and meaning construction efforts" (43). This chapter will be valuable to anyone interested in visual media, as Persson's discussion of dispositions and levels of meaning can be extended beyond cinema to all forms of visual text.

Next, in "Understanding Point-of-View Editing," Persson discusses point of view as an important mechanism for audience manipulation. He looks at the historical context of point-of-view editing and describes the ability of the spectator's deictic gaze "to follow other people's direction of gaze," and this ultimately leads him to examine the behavioral pattern of the spectator (50). Persson also provides numerous examples of how "the spectator detects, appraises and evaluates cues in a film" by making point-of-view inferences (92). Although his perspective on the importance of the deictic gaze in point-of-view editing is not entirely new, his summary of deictic gaze as a behavioral pattern is especially useful (74). …

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