The Imaginary Signifier

Post image of The Imaginary Signifier

Christian Metz is very hard to read.  I feel as though he talks in circles and I have to reread almost every other paragraph to understand what he is saying.  Metz discusses identification and the mirror.   Cinema has been described as a “synthesis of all the arts”.  Which I agree with because of the many branches cinema has: theater, art, music, photography, etc.  However, cinema in itself is a perceptual entity.  Unlike theater, film is pre-recorded.  We aren’t present with the actors on the screen.  Metz describes what we see as being the “shadow”.  However, I am confused.  We aren’t present with photography nor are we with art.  It is the creation of the person that we are left with.  Just because it happens to be a physical form and not a projection, it doesn’t make the latter more perceptual.  I believe all art is perceptual.   Certain photos or art has been made way before many of us were born.  We are not participants as we would be with theater: temporally and spatially.

Metz goes on to describe the experience of cinema as being a predisposition because we are already familiar with our own image in the mirror.  He speaks about ego and goes into some psychoanalysis in a sense.  We then identify with the camera because we are the spectator.  The camera moves as we were to move.  A pan is equivalent to us following action with the turn of our necks.  Tracking shots are equivalent to our shift in movement whether it were to be forward or backwards.

The question I have is what does he mean by signifier?  I understand Metz is using this word from a psychoanalytic perspective but I am unclear as to who or what the signifier is.  This is where he lost me.

He then says cinema is a like a chain of mirrors and not a reduplication of images.  I found this interesting because I have learned that film is a physical imprint of a person.  I understand the mechanism of a camera has a mirror in it but it is not a reduplication? Does anyone agree or disagree?

Metz discusses Freud and voyeurism.  Freud says in comparison to sadism, voyeurism always keeps the “object” away.  Because the actor is not present when the spectator is watching their recorded performance it is voyeurism.

What is Metz getting at with Fetishes and the cinema?  He speaks of Freud’s old “castration” psychoanalysis.  Then towards the end of his argument he speaks of fetishism with technique, a fetish with cinema with fear that it will be lost.  Isn’t that close to nostalgia?

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Posted by christina421   @   15 April 2010

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