Most of my time recently has been spent pondering filmic linguistics. I don’t know why, but I seem to have become obsessed. I have decided, and am convinced, that using natural language as a paradigm for film is a dead end – the two are just too different. Words are both simple in their composition and highly complex in their combination. Metz was right when he said that shots were more akin to sentences than words.
Yet I think the truth – even from this highly reductive perspective – is even more complex than that. Shots are not still, but move – the camera moves. This gives the director an extra dimension with which he can make meaning. Of course, unlike writers, directors have an infinite lexicon, so all the shots available cannot be bound in a simple dictionary, but the question is, can we catalogue all the available techniques.
I have observed that two films on similar themes may employ the same style. Last weekend, Luke and I were channel hopping: on one channel, there was a batman film, on the next was a Spiderman film. Both superhero movies used the same kind of triuphalist music, the same cinematography, etc. in other words, they were using precisely the same set of signs: ergo language, but not as we know it.
Pinning it’s exact nature down is a huge task, but it intrigues me as the question appears to have many paradoxes. for example, does film have a basic unit, and if so, what is it.
I need to read, think, write and – above all – watch lots of films.