Film Studies

The academic study of film as a cultural form. It includes specialisms such as film semiotics, audience studies, genre studies, and studies of film production. The cultural diversity of film produces other specialisms, across boundaries of cultural taste (from popular cinema to independent art-house film); regional boundaries, with specialisms in the cinema of different countries and regions (eg Hindi film, Chinese cinema, Japanese animé); and historical boundaries (eg Italian neo-realist cinema, German expressionist cinema, Soviet constructivist cinema). Film Studies is interesting in terms of multimodality as film is self-evidently a complex multimodal form. The addition of sound to silent film prompted the Russian film-maker Eisenstein’s notion of ‘vertical montage’ (the meaning created by the combination of sound and image tracks), perhaps the first ‘multimodal’ theory of film. Film semiotics in the second half of the twentieth century was concerned to theorise the central modes of filming and editing.  Social semiotic  and multimodal theories have elaborated analytical frameworks attending to the work of modes in the moving image to produce rhythmic effects (van Leeuwen, 1985) and to produce narrative (Bateman and Schmidt, 2012). The latter presents a comprehensive analytical system developing the film semiotics of Christian Metz within a social semiotic framework, combined with a view of film as a kind of multimodal document. The concept of the moving image as the ‘kineikonic mode’ was produced by Burn & Parker, (2001) to account for ways in which the orchestrating modes of filming and editing integrate with the other contributory modes common in film (eg dramatic action, speech, music).

See ‘kineikonic’ and ‘moving image’.

Editor: Andrew Burn
Reviewer: John Bateman

Key References:

van Leeuwen, T (1985) ‘Rhythmic Structure of the Film Text’, in van Dijk (ed), Discourse and Communication, Berlin: de Gruyter

Bateman, J and Schmidt, H (2012) Multimodal Film Analysis: How Films Mean. London: Routledge

Burn A & Parker D (2001), ‘Making your Mark: Digital Inscription, Animation, and a New Visual Semiotic’, Education, Communication & Information, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp 155-179