Film Theory: Cinematic Apparatus


This concept refers to the cinema in its many dimensions ‑ economic, technical, psychological. and ideological.

Embedded in a particular social and institutional context, the cinema works to suppress discourse. to permit only certain “speakers.” only a certain “speech.”

What critics call the enonciation of the cinema (its processes of saying) cannot be distinguished from the enonce (what is said).

Jean‑Louis Baudry has argued that the meaning (ideology) that is produced by the cinematic mechanism (projection) depends not only on the content of the images but also on the “material procedures by which an image of continuity, dependent on the persistence of vision, is restored from  discontinuous elements” (Jean‑Louis Baudry (1974‑5)

“Ideological effects of  the basic cinematographic apparatus,” Film Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 2, p. 42).

Other critics have focused on the position of the spectator as that of: creating the film as s/he watches it. The meaning established in the interaction :between viewer and screen image involves a particular type of pleasure that : arises from the cinema’s dependence on the psychoanalytic mechanisms of fetishism and voyeurism (see definitions 7, 8 below).


While for Marx ideology referred to the ideological components of all bourgeois institutions and modes of production, recent film critics have rather followed Althusser for whom ideology is a series of representations and images, reflecting the conceptions of “reality” that any society assumes. Ideology thus no longer refers to beliefs people consciously hold but to the myths that a society lives by. as if these myths referred to some natural, unproblematic “reality.”

(For an interesting discussion of ideology, see Bill Nichols (1981) Ideology and the Image, Bloomington, Ind., Indiana University Press, pp. 1‑4.)



This concept indicates the “constructed” nature of the image (see definition 10 below), which Hollywood mechanisms strive to conceal.

The dominant Hollywood style. realism (an apparent imitation of the social world we live in), hides the fact that a film IS constructed, and perpetuates the illusion that spectators are being shown what is “natural.”

The half‑aware “forgetting” that the spectator engages in allows the pleasurable mechanisms of voyeurism and fetishism to flow freely.



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