Iur Jifji

This happy music could be considered to be the narration's straightforward endorsement of the blissful upper-class utopia that the Morrisons seem to inhabit (particularly in comparison with Laurel's home with Stella). When examined in context, however, this music's function is complicated somewhat. We first hear the upbeat theme immediately after the gut-wrenching birthday party scene. The appearance of this suddenly sprightly music makes a strong contrast to the overall mood that has just been...

Kittens Griffith and the Child at Play

The emotional payoffs that Strike's segments provide depend on several different cuing strategies. Some of these strategies owe more to the classical and preclassical cinema (particularly that of D. W. Griffith) than one might expect, given the explicitly anticlassical bent of much of Eisenstein's rhetoric. As noted earlier, the historical-materialist narration in Strike calls upon a range of different materials (both radically socialist and retrogressively bourgeois) to organize its segments...

Stylistic Not Emotional Orientation

Strike has the distinction of being the Eisenstein film that uses the greatest range of cinematic devices. Never again would he use superimpositions, flashy graphic wipes, and animated intertitles as he did in this film, choosing instead to rely on composition and cutting as his primary filmic tools. One might reasonably expect that for a theorist such as Eisenstein who believed that audiences respond emotionally to film style, such a plethora of stylistic devices might result in his most...

Coordinated Cuing The Emotion Marker

Narrative provides a series of diegetic goals and obstacles, and goal achievements and obstacles frequently provide the necessary mood-reinforcingpay-offs. We rejoice when the protagonist achieves a goal or subgoal we are sad, fearful, or anxious when a goal is frustrated. Goals and obstacles are highly foregrounded in the narrative, and so they create highly marked opportunities for moments that are significant both narratively and emotionally. Almost every narratively significant moment has...

Brief Prototypes Mixing Genre Microscripts

Genres are composed of narrative and iconographic patterns, but they also specify patterns of emotional address, providing the viewer with scripts to use in interpeting a genre film. How does a particular genre structure its use of emotion cues, mood, and emotion markers The most significant genre scripts with relation to emotion are not the broad expectations for the overall shape and form of a film, but genre microscripts, intertextual expectation sets for sequences and scenes. We approach a...

The Structure of the Emotion System

Cognitive research has traditionally concentrated on the simpler building blocks of cognition - processes such as memory, object recognition, and categorization that have relatively well-defined inputs and outputs. Visual recognition, for instance, works on information received from one sensory channel (the eyes). Unlike visual recognition, however, the emotion system receives information from several sources of input, ofwhich the eyes are only one. The fact that the emotions are flexible...

An Uncertain Start

Following the mood-cue approach, we should examine the opening sections of Casablanca to see how the film's narration cues the viewers to orient themselves toward the film. Eco has noted that Casablanca has what he calls an extraordinary long overture, that the film goes for twenty minutes before Ilsa walks into Rick's Cafe Americain. What purpose do these first twenty minutes serve Using Eco's words, how does this overture set us up for the symphonic work to follow 6 The factor most apparent...

The Partial Success of Early Eisensteins Emotional Appeal

As I noted in the desiderata in the introduction to this book, an approach to analyzing the emotional appeals of film narration should be able to explain not only how certain texts such as Stella Dallas successfully evoke emotion in audiences but also why certain texts are less successful in their emotional appeal. A useful methodology must not be blatantly prescriptive, emphasizing certain modes of narration and trying to fit alternative modes into that norm. Nonetheless, the fact remains that...

Freuds Neurophysiology of the Psyche

Freud began his career as a neurologist, seeking to explain behavior in neu-rophysiological terms, and this early mode of viewing the world strongly shaped his subsequent career. Some have argued that Freud may best be seen as a biologist8 who sought scientific explanations for mental phenomena, which were not traditionally considered to be part of biology's concern. Trained in the natural sciences, Freud sought to bring the irrational into the hard light of rationalism. His early writings...

Emotional Transitions in Renoirs A Day in the Country and The Lower Depths

When people are fearful or angry or joyous, they tend to remain in that state because the emotion system sets up a processing loop. Our mood encourages us to revisit the emotional stimulus repeatedly, each time gaining a fresh dose of mood-sustaining emotion. This looping tends to continue until it becomes worn out (overly familiarized) or until the stimulus is fundamentally reevaluated or removed. Even when we have worked to eliminate the stimulus (running...

Establishing the Mood

Stella Dallas begins with a relatively sparsely informative concentration of emotion cues. After the opening credits that introduce the main musical theme, the initial scenes are primarily concerned with setting up relationships between characters and establishing Stella as the protagonist. We observe the teasing, combative relationship between Stella and her brother Charlie through watching them fight in the front yard and in the kitchen, and we recognize that this could be interpreted through...

Theorists of Instincts and Drives

Considering how large Metz's figure looms over discussions of cinematic pleasure, it is initially surprising that he does not refine Freud's understanding of emotion when he imports psychoanalytic concepts into film theory. However, one must remember that Metz is primarily a semiotician, not a psychoanalyst. He chooses psychoanalysis as a mechanism for explaining cinematic pleasures because he perceives it to be compatible with semiotics linguistics and psychoanalysis are both sciences of the...

Superior Knowledge

As Stella Dallas progresses, it uses variations on the same patterns of emotion cuing on display in the moonlit walk scene. The film's emotional power depends on the film giving superior emotional knowledge to the audience and limited knowledge to individual characters. One of the most important ways this is done is through the staging of the action. For example, Laurel and Stella face the same direction while chopping in the kitchen, allowing us and not Laurel to read Stella's jealous...

Nostalgia and Uncertainty in Casablanca

When I teach my introduction to film criticism course, I sometimes let my students choose to analyze one of a select list of classical Hollywood films as their midterm project. If an individual student wants to examine a particular film that is not on the list, I usually grant permission for him or her to do so if I am familiar with the text . There is only one film that I have consistently forbidden my introductory students to analyze Casablanca. When students ask, Why not I usually tell them...

The Joy Luck Club and the Limits of the Emotion System

The mood-cue approach seems to favor films that try to maintain a consistent emotional tone. Yes, filmmakers can shift tones effectively if they cue an audience to expect such a change as A Day in the Country demonstrates , but navigating such a shift can be tricky cf. The Lower Depths . It seems easier to take advantage of the emotion system's continuity. Once you establish a mood, you just have to keep pouring on a steady stream of congruent emotion cues, and you've got it made, it would...

Notes

For more information about Eisenstein's prescient intuitions about the nature of emotion, see Greg M. Smith, Movie Moods The Emotion System and Film Structure Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin Madison, 1998 , chapter 3. 2. David Bordwell, Narration in the Fiction Film Madison University of Wisconsin Press, 1985 Noel Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart New York Routledge, 1990 Gregory Currie, Image and Mind Film, Philosophy, and Cognitive Science Cambridge...

The Central Assertion The Interaction between Mood and Emotion

I argue that the primary emotive effect of film is to create mood. Generating brief, intense emotions often requires an orienting state that asks us to interpret our surroundings in an emotional fashion. If we are in such an emotionally orienting state, we are much more likely to experience such emotion, according to my theory. Film structures seek to increase the film's chances of evoking emotion by first creating a predisposition toward experiencing emotion a mood. Films rely on being able to...

Film Structure And The Emotion System

Films evoke broad moods and cue particular emotions that can be widely shared as well as individually experienced. Although the experience of emotion is central to the movie viewing, film studies have neglected to focus attention on the emotions, relying instead on vague psychoanalytic concepts of desire. Film Structure and the Emotion System synthesizes recent research on emotion in cognitive psychology and neurology in an effort to provide a more nuanced understanding of how film evokes...

Feeling for Stella Dallas

King Vidor's Stella Dallas 1937 provoked one of psychoanalytic feminist film criticism's most extensive dialogues. Considering how strong an emotional appeal this melodrama makes, it is remarkable that emotions are rarely mentioned in the two key articles in this exchange E. Ann Kaplan's The Case of the Missing Mother Maternal Issues in Vidor's Stella Dallas and Linda Williams's 'Something Else Besides a Mother ' Stella Dallas and the Maternal Melodrama.1 Kaplan says little about emotion except...

Torben Grodal The Psychology of Flow

The film scholar who has most recently proposed an explanation of filmic emotions based on cognitive psychology research is Torben Grodal. Grodal's book Moving Pictures A New Theory of Film Genres, Feelings, and Cognitions 14 begins by investigating an enormous issue the status of fictional representation itself. He provides a striking explanation for the philosophical conundrum of how we can respond emotionally to representations that are not true or real in a strict sense. Using cognitive...

Juxtaposing Emotions

A Day in the Country also intermingles components of various genres. Not only does the film contain separate romantic and melancholic sections, but the romantic section integrates both comic and romantic material. How is the comic material intertwined in a way that does not jeopardize the basic romantic orientation Andre Bazin notes that this juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy is characteristic of Renoir's best work. Examining how Renoir handled the comic material in A Day in the Country...

Music

The competent viewer proceeds through Stella Dallas under the orientation of mood, alert for details needed to create anticipatory hypotheses. According to the model, this is not enough to sustain the mood. Occasionally the text must coordinate its emotion cues into denser configurations, giving a burst of emotion that will bolster the general emotional orientation toward the text. After the initial orientation provided by the moonlit walk scene, Stella Dallas provides a string of scenes with...

Metz and Mulvey Setting the Terms

Contemporary psychoanalytic film theory is primarily concerned with spec-tatorship, investigating how the cinema positions us as subjects. According to such theory, the cinema recreates many of the conditions in which we first recognized ourselves as individual, unified persons. As children looking at a mirror, we discover a unified image of our bodies. This recognition allows us to constitute an I, an ego that can both be a position for perceiving others a subject and an object for others to...

Noel Carroll The Philosophy of Objects

The foremost figure in the philosophy of filmic emotions is Noel Carroll. He has applied insights from cognitive philosophy to a broad range of film topics, including point of view, the power of movies, music, suspense, humor, and horror the topic he has examined most closely . Although Carroll clearly is proceeding in a piecemeal fashion that eschews grand overarching theories explaining everything about film,1 he returns again and again to central questions of how films evoke emotions across...

Stranger than Raiders

Audiences can perceive differences between more and less emotionally informative texts, although they may not be consciously aware of how the text's emotion cues are structured. This perceived difference can form a basis for audience tastes, with some viewers preferring highly informative texts that clearly dictate a text's emotional appeal and others favoring less densely informative texts that seem less emotionally prescriptive. Although the density of emotional information varies across a...

Ed Tan The Psychology of Interest and Action

The mood-cue approach places most of its faith in the work done in the other cognitivist camp cognitive psychology. Ed Tan in Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film Film as an Emotion Machine10 shares my faith in the empirical work of cognitive psychologists. Instead of attempting to synthesize a range of psychological research into emotion, however, he chooses the work of a single psychologist Nico Frijda as the basis of his account of filmic emotions. One can hardly fault Tan for his...