Nº5 2020 (2)

Moving through Geometric Compositions: The Spectator’s Experience of Film Space

Farshad Zahedi y Francisco J. Jiménez Alcarria (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

On an intersection between film phenomenology and psychogeography, many authors—among them, Giuliana Bruno, Anne Friedberg, Tom Gunning and Juhani Pallasmaa—created new theoretical approaches to cinema as a spatial experience. They considered film viewing as a sensorial experience of not only perceiving the cinematic space, but also inhabiting it. As Giuliana Bruno argues, in a similar way to the architectonic spatial mobilities, the film’s framing and editing techniques make the spectator’s body virtually adapt to the film’s anatomical space. This process necessarily creates emotional—and undoubtedly conscious—approaches to the film diegesis. 

Drawing upon these mentioned theoretical frameworks, in our audiovisual essay, we explore some filmic geometric compositions to examine how by mediation of framing and editing techniques, the spectator virtually moves into/and by the film space. This (e)motional quality of film is also architectonic: the geometric perimeters of architecture make the viewer adapt and perceive the anatomy of space. According to some neuroscience findings, the human brain reacts in a similar way when it receives corporeal or virtual mobilities’ signals. This process of perception ends into the emergence of emotions, and emotions are behind our decisions. Hence the video essay’s first topic: similarly to architecture, geometric compositions generate emotions by mediation of (filmic) motions. 

Our case studies consist of three films with remarkable topographical aesthetics. We will analyze a selection of scenes generated by different compositional strategies and geo-historical grounds. The spectator virtually floats into the scene to perceive the spatio-corporeal landscapes from different angles and distances. According to cognitive theory, this accessibility is far distant from our day-to-day experience contacting spaces, places, and bodies. However, its emotional effect—as if it were a psychogeographic cartography—is quite similar to our everyday experience. Therefore, the compositional access to the film space arguably offers the spectator a no-human ubiquitous ability that paradoxically drives her/him to human emotional perceptions. That turns film into an art of entertainment but, at the same time, it also becomes a dispositive of staging the uncanny. 

While two of our case studies compose the space in horizontal geometries, our last example adds an outstanding verticality to this composition. Read sometimes as a simulacrum of the viewpoint of an absolute power, this verticality connects to our posthuman fears of being under severe control of a pervert entity—of Big Data—that possesses overwhelming notions of knowledge/power. This point drives us to our last conclusion: film maps out space geometrically as well. The filmic cognitive and emotional map would also be—as conventional maps are—a source of knowledge, power, exploration, expansion and control, but, at the same time, it is a symptom of what Derek Gregory called elsewhere “the cartographic anxieties” about the unmappable limits of representability.  

Works cited

  • Bruno, Guiliana (2003). Atlas of Emotions: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film. New York: Verso.
  • Cresswell, Tim and Deborah Dixon, eds. (2002) Engaging film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity. London: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Gregory, Derek (1994). Geographical Imaginations. Cambridge MA: Blackwell.

Bibliography

  • Bordwell, David (1996) “Convention, Construction and Cinematic Vision” en David Bordwell and Noel Carroll (eds.), Post-Theory-Reconstructing Film Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 87-107.
  • Bruno, Giuliana (2007) Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  • Coverley, Merlin (2006) Psychogeography. London: Pocket Essentials.
  • Eisenstein, Sergei M., Bois, Yve-Alain and Glenny, Michael (1989) “Montage and architecture.” Assemblage 10, 111-131.
  • Ellard, Collin (2015) Places of the Heart. The Psychogeography of Everyday Life. New York: Bellevue Literary Press.
  • Friedberg, Anne (2004) The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Gunning, Tom (2010) “Landscape and The Fantasy of Moving Pictures: Early Cinema’s Phantom Ride” en Graham Haper and Jonathan Rayner (eds.), Cinema and Landscape. Bristol: Intellect, 31-70
  • Henderson, Laura Clare Mereki (2017) “How cinema surrounds us: the psychology of psychogeography in the works of Sofia Coppola.” PhD. diss., University of Melbourne.
  • Jameson, Fredric (1988) “Cognitive Mapping” en Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. London: Macmillan Education, 347-357.
  • Lant, Antonia (1995) “Haptical Cinema.” October 74, 45-73.
  • Lynch, Kevin (1960) The Image of the City. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  • Marks, Laura (2000) The skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1982) Phenomenology of Perception. London: Rutledge.
  • Pallasmaa, Juhani (2007) The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema. trans. Michael Wynne-Ellis. Helsinki: Rakennustieto.
  • Schimanski, Johan and Wolfe, Stephen (2017) Border Aesthetics: Concepts and Intersections. New York: Berghahn.
  • Sobchack, Vivian (1992) The Address of the Eye: A phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Zhou, Tony and Ramos, Taylor (2015) “Akira Kurosawa-Composing movement.” Every Frame a Painting, YouTube video, 8:24, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doaQC-S8de8&t=6s 
  • Zhou, Tony and Ramos, Taylor (2015) “The Bad Sleep Well (1960) – The Geometry of a Scene.” Every Frame a Painting, YouTube video, 3:10, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=186&v=jGc-K7giqKM&feature=emb_logo
  • Žižek, Slavoj (2001) The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory. London: BFI publishing.

On an intersection between film phenomenology and psychogeography, many authors—among them, Giuliana Bruno, Anne Friedberg, Tom Gunning and Juhani Pallasmaa—created new theoretical approaches to cinema as a spatial experience. They considered film viewing as a sensorial experience of not only perceiving the cinematic space, but also inhabiting it. As Giuliana Bruno argues, in a similar way to the architectonic spatial mobilities, the film’s framing and editing techniques make the spectator’s body virtually adapt to the film’s anatomical space. This process necessarily creates emotional—and undoubtedly conscious—approaches to the film diegesis. 

Drawing upon these mentioned theoretical frameworks, in our audiovisual essay, we explore some filmic geometric compositions to examine how by mediation of framing and editing techniques, the spectator virtually moves into/and by the film space. This (e)motional quality of film is also architectonic: the geometric perimeters of architecture make the viewer adapt and perceive the anatomy of space. According to some neuroscience findings, the human brain reacts in a similar way when it receives corporeal or virtual mobilities’ signals. This process of perception ends into the emergence of emotions, and emotions are behind our decisions. Hence the video essay’s first topic: similarly to architecture, geometric compositions generate emotions by mediation of (filmic) motions. 

Our case studies consist of three films with remarkable topographical aesthetics. We will analyze a selection of scenes generated by different compositional strategies and geo-historical grounds. The spectator virtually floats into the scene to perceive the spatio-corporeal landscapes from different angles and distances. According to cognitive theory, this accessibility is far distant from our day-to-day experience contacting spaces, places, and bodies. However, its emotional effect—as if it were a psychogeographic cartography—is quite similar to our everyday experience. Therefore, the compositional access to the film space arguably offers the spectator a no-human ubiquitous ability that paradoxically drives her/him to human emotional perceptions. That turns film into an art of entertainment but, at the same time, it also becomes a dispositive of staging the uncanny. 

While two of our case studies compose the space in horizontal geometries, our last example adds an outstanding verticality to this composition. Read sometimes as a simulacrum of the viewpoint of an absolute power, this verticality connects to our posthuman fears of being under severe control of a pervert entity—of Big Data—that possesses overwhelming notions of knowledge/power. This point drives us to our last conclusion: film maps out space geometrically as well. The filmic cognitive and emotional map would also be—as conventional maps are—a source of knowledge, power, exploration, expansion and control, but, at the same time, it is a symptom of what Derek Gregory called elsewhere “the cartographic anxieties” about the unmappable limits of representability.  

Works cited

  • Bruno, Guiliana (2003). Atlas of Emotions: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film. New York: Verso.
  • Cresswell, Tim and Deborah Dixon, eds. (2002) Engaging film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity. London: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Gregory, Derek (1994). Geographical Imaginations. Cambridge MA: Blackwell.

Bibliography

  • Bordwell, David (1996) “Convention, Construction and Cinematic Vision” en David Bordwell and Noel Carroll (eds.), Post-Theory-Reconstructing Film Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 87-107.
  • Bruno, Giuliana (2007) Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  • Coverley, Merlin (2006) Psychogeography. London: Pocket Essentials.
  • Eisenstein, Sergei M., Bois, Yve-Alain and Glenny, Michael (1989) “Montage and architecture.” Assemblage 10, 111-131.
  • Ellard, Collin (2015) Places of the Heart. The Psychogeography of Everyday Life. New York: Bellevue Literary Press.
  • Friedberg, Anne (2004) The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Gunning, Tom (2010) “Landscape and The Fantasy of Moving Pictures: Early Cinema’s Phantom Ride” en Graham Haper and Jonathan Rayner (eds.), Cinema and Landscape. Bristol: Intellect, 31-70
  • Henderson, Laura Clare Mereki (2017) “How cinema surrounds us: the psychology of psychogeography in the works of Sofia Coppola.” PhD. diss., University of Melbourne.
  • Jameson, Fredric (1988) “Cognitive Mapping” en Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. London: Macmillan Education, 347-357.
  • Lant, Antonia (1995) “Haptical Cinema.” October 74, 45-73.
  • Lynch, Kevin (1960) The Image of the City. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  • Marks, Laura (2000) The skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1982) Phenomenology of Perception. London: Rutledge.
  • Pallasmaa, Juhani (2007) The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema. trans. Michael Wynne-Ellis. Helsinki: Rakennustieto.
  • Schimanski, Johan and Wolfe, Stephen (2017) Border Aesthetics: Concepts and Intersections. New York: Berghahn.
  • Sobchack, Vivian (1992) The Address of the Eye: A phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Zhou, Tony and Ramos, Taylor (2015) “Akira Kurosawa-Composing movement.” Every Frame a Painting, YouTube video, 8:24, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doaQC-S8de8&t=6s 
  • Zhou, Tony and Ramos, Taylor (2015) “The Bad Sleep Well (1960) – The Geometry of a Scene.” Every Frame a Painting, YouTube video, 3:10, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=186&v=jGc-K7giqKM&feature=emb_logo
  • Žižek, Slavoj (2001) The Fright of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory. London: BFI publishing.

How to cite this article: Zahedi, F. and Jiménez-Alcarria, F. (2020) Moving through Geometric Compositions: The Spectator’s Experience of Film Space / Movimiento a través de composiciones geométricas: La experiencia espectatorial del espacio fílmico. Tecmerin. Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales, 5(2). ISSN: ISSN: 2659-4269

Other videoessays in this issue:

Leviathan
Adrià Guardiola Rius (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Facce della stessa medaglia- Sides of the same coin
Adrià Guardiola Rius (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Ways of Coming Home. Affective Cartographies, Memory and Visuality
Tayri Paz García (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) y Jochen Vivallo (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)