—American FilmEmploying Freudian psychoanalysis, Christian Metz explores the nature of cinematic spectatorship and looks at the operations of meaning in. Employing Freudian psychoanalysis, Christian Metz explores the nature of cinematic spectatorship and looks at the operations of meaning in the film text. Its perceptual transparency renders it an absent signifier. Metz relates the concept to Lacan’s imaginary—the cinematic signifier is theorized as inducing.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Metz attempts, through the use of psychoanalysis, to discover an original grounding event that would systematically explain the nature of the film spectator.

Although Baudry drew some ideas from the thought of psychoanalysis, Metz goes much further in incorporating psychoanalytic notions into his theory of film spectatorship.

Metz agrees with Baudry that there are always certain structures that go into the kmaginary and pleasure of the cinematic spectator. Both writers agree that the spectator is constructed and positioned by the cinematic apparatus.

For Baudry it was the cinematic apparatus as a technical instrument, for Metz it is the more general notion of the cinematic institution.

This christoan of individual and institution is evident when Metz speaks of a deep kinship between the psychic situation of the signifir and the financial and industrial mechanisms of the cinema.

One of the primary psychic structures involved in cinematic spectatorship is the process of denial or disavowal. Metz believes that the film spectator exists in a state of hallucination and regression; the spectator believes, on chrostian level, that the events and characters on the screen are real even though they are not.

The film viewer suspends chridtian or her disbelief even though he or she also knows that it is only a movie.


The imaginary signifier – Christian Metz – Google Books

For Metz, this splitting of belief into two contradictory states was based on a more primal disavowal, more specifically the disavowal associated dignifier fetishism and castration anxiety in the child.

According to Freud, the mechanism of disavowal is the mode of defense whereby the subject refuses to acknowledge the reality of a traumatic event or perception.

In the adult, Freud believed, a fetishism, such as the sexual need for a particular object like a shoe, is a way of denying the anxiety produced by the thought of the castration of the mother by substituting an object for the castrated phallus. As Metz states in The Imaginary Signifier: For Metz, fundamental to the film-viewing situation is the continual back and forth splitting of consciousness and belief based on this primary fetishistic disavowal. It is fetishistic because it allows simultaneous elaboration of two imaginaru meanings and experiences.

The cinematic experience is made possible by and recapitulates for the film spectator the earlier unconscious experience. Another important structure of the spectator for Metz is identification as primary cinematic identification.

Metz considers this type of identification primary because it makes all other identifications, such as identifications with characters, emotions, and events, possible.

This primary identification is constructed and directed by the camera and its intermediate relay the projector. For Metz, and for Baudry, the spectator identifies not so much with what is represented, that is the content of the film, but with what creates the film; the cinematic apparatus. Around six to eighteen months, when the child perceives its image in the mirror, it mistakes or misrecognizes this unified, coherent image for itself. A self-image that is superior or idealized because of its apparent coherency and unity; the actual child is really quite uncoordinated and fragmentary in its movements and abilities.

The child then identifies with this image and finds, according to Lacan, satisfaction in its unity, a unity which the child cannot experience in its own body. The child not only identifies with this image of itself but begins to perceive itself through the otherness of this image, i.


imaginary signifier

What ties this process to the cinema for Metz is that it takes place with visual images; the child sees itself as an image which is distanced and objectified and identifies with it. For Metz there is a primary similarity signifjer the infant in front of the mirror and the spectator sitting in front of the screen.

Both are identifying with and fascinated by images and furthermore images which are ideals. The early process of the mirror phase through which the child constructs an inaginary by identifying and absorbing an image in a mirror underpins the later experience of the film spectator that identifies with the idealized images of the projector on the screen. For Lacan the beginning of the constitution of the subject in the mirror stage occurs because it is a self-image the infant perceives in the mirror; Metz observes that in the act of watching a film we are profoundly absent from the images on the screen.

Although we feel as though our perception is ubiquitous within the world of the film, a surveillance of all things within it, we can never see ourselves directly within this world. Remember me on this computer.

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