The Third Meaning Rouses the Brain

The Movies and Reality depicts a dialogue, spurred by a film, between eye and brain in which the former is jarred enough from an image to rouse the latter from its typical somnambulist state.  The eye and brain leave their typically mechanical state of merely seeing and reacting and bring thought into the mix.  A film for Woolf is art strongly in the manner of Shklovsky’s notion: that of a technique to make the familiar something new or more than it is/appears.  When the brain and the eye see together “the King, the boat, the horse…have taken on a quality which does not belong to the simple photograph of real life” (87).  A gestalt, a pattern that is of greater impact than its parts taken individually, is film’s potential.

Woolf feels that this pattern falls apart when film apes other modes/genres of art (perhaps) particularly literature.  The wholehearted assumption of the literary by the filmic produces a text that is comprised of “words of one syllable written…in the scrawl of an illiterate schoolboy” (88).  So, appropriation of literary tropes, direct transformations of textual metaphors to visual, are barely intelligible, insufficient, and immature.

What then gives a film the potential to be something more than captured images of something that’s happened?  Woolf refers to a “residue of visual emotion” that is “abstract…which calls for the very slightest help from words or music to make itself intelligible, yet justly uses them subserviently…” (90).  This abstract residue is reminiscent of Barthes’ third meaning–the element of a film that isn’t a direct visual representation from the page of a script.  I don’t believe Barthes referenced Woolf in his essay but it would be interesting to know to what degree her ideas of a film’s potential influenced his ability to see a ‘third meaning’ hidden within the minutia of a movie’s mise en scène.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in 03 Arnheim, Balázs, Woolf. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Third Meaning Rouses the Brain

  1. Good observation about the connection to Barthes’s essay. My favorite part for Woolf’s essay, which I’ll talk about tomorrow, is that weird tadpole shadow that scares her more than the movie itself. I wonder, though, if Barthes would insist on the same kind of mind/body duality as Woolf does?

Comments are closed.