Film Theory: Motif, Symbolic

Film Theory: Motif


Un unobtrusive technique, object, image, or thematic idea, systematically repeated throughout the film.


An element in film that is repeated in a significant way


Bicycle: The Last Emperor

Rifle; Winchester 73

Color Red: The Sixth Sense; Kieslowski’s Red (trilogy)

Bird: Psycho

The Symbolic

Citizen Kane:

Robert Carringer: The little glass globe (not Rosebud) is the film’s central symbol, a mediating symbol of inner and outer reality, of subjective and objective, the totality of Kane as a force, as a man whose life and work are both empires and private worlds.

The shattering of the globe (not the appearance of Rosebud) is the film’s main symbolic “event.”

The globe is seen at Kane’s death, at the beginning of the film.

Blue Velvet:

At the end, a robin in the kitchen window symbolizes the return of love and light to the world (per Sandy). But the bug in its beak is a clear signifier of the darkness (to balance the light).

(Lynch used an artificial robin)

Open City:

The torture scene, in which the Nazi SS officer applies a blowtorch to body of communist partisan. The crucifixion allusion is deliberate, though the character is non-believer (Giannetti)