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Film Theory and Language

Nicole Ponsford | Thursday August 23, 2012

Categories: GCSE, A Level, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Film Language, Theory, Film Theory

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Apparatus Film Theory

‘Apparatus’ is another word for the means in which a specific production is created. In the case of film / cinema, the film projector and the screen. Apparatus Theory is a model of spectatorship and institutions. It argues that cinema is ideological (based on ideas) because the films are created to represent reality. This means that because film is created to illustrate different ideas, everything has meaning - from the camerawork to the editing. It argues that ideology is not imposed on cinema, but is part of its nature (through the viewer) and it shapes how we think. Apparatus theory was dominant in the 1970s (following the 1960s where psychoanalytical theories and debates were very popular) and is derived from a combination of Marxist theory, semiotics and psychoanalysis. In film theory, the idea is that representation must include the mechanics of film, for example the camera and editing. The production of meaning in a film text, the way a text constructs a viewing subject and the mechanics of making a film all affect the representation of the subject. This theory is that the central position of the spectator/ viewer within the perspective of the text is also ideological - it is a reproduced reality and the experience of cinema influences the viewer on a deep level.

This problematic theory is best explored in Jean-Louis Baudry’s work. Firstly, the idea that inactive viewers (the common people, or Marx’s ‘proletariat’) are unable to differentiate between the world of film / illusion and the real world is seen in the Hypodermic Needle Theory (see FilmEdu’s Understanding Audience). Also that viewers of film misidentify their identities with those on the screen (the characters), which makes them sensitive to ideological positioning.

Apparatus Film Theorists

  • Jean-Louis Baudry (1970) ‘The Ideological Effects of the Cinematographic Apparatus’ and (1975) ‘The Apparatus:...

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