Film Theory: Semiotics

Research in progress, Nov 1, 2022

Film Theory: Semiotics

Film as a signifier/signified system

The analysis of coding, decoding, and recoding processes and practices.

Concern with the systematic classification of types of codes used in cinema?

Giannetti, 481

The study of how movies signify?

The manner in which information is signified is linkedĀ  with what’s being signified?

Language of cinema, like all discourse (verbal and nonverbal) is symbolic, a complex network of signs that viewers decipher instinctively while experiencing a movie.

Rejection of shot as basic unit of construction and adoption of the sign as minimal unit of signification

A single shot contains dozens of signs-hierarchy of counterpoised meanings

Classification of signs

It allows flexibility, complexity and depth in analysis; they are tools of analysis

They do not tell us about the value of signed codes within film

Polysemy: A particular signifier always has more than one meaning.

Meanings are produced not referentially (by pointing to specific objects), but by one sign’s difference from another.

One sign may have different, even contradictory connotations (smoking)

One sign can enter a sequence of other signs (the syntagmatic relation).

One sign can always be replaced by another (in what is called paradigmatic relation).


How different individuals and different groups (in terms of class, status or power) develop their own readings and uses for cultural products

Marboro Man

The tobacco industry uses it to sell cigarettes

The medical profession uses it to promote health issues

The feminists reject it as “insensitive mode of masculinity.”

Individual men may use it as role model, or fashion icon