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Popular Film & Emotional Response: How Film Produces Emotional Responses

jclarke | Monday November 11, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

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All films manipulate audiences and this is one fundamental reasons why we choose to watch a film. It is because we want to experience a change in our emotional condition - we may want to be provoked into laughter, tension, sadness, fear or happiness.

One of the key issues underpinning our exploration of film and the experience of an emotional response to it is the understanding that emotions can be argued to be culturally formed. Chris Barker writes “Emotions are not simply matters of individual interpretation of experience but inevitably a part of the wider cultural repertoire of discussion, explanation and resources and maps of meaning available to members of cultures.? (1) In terms of the two films that we’ll refer to here (Moulin Rouge and ET: The Extra Terrestrial) both films encapsulate ideas around the representation of childhood, romantic love, loneliness and the pursuit of a goal. These are aspects of the films’ macro-level thematic points but our interest is how they are realized at both macro and micro-level in terms of our emotional responses, moment-to- moment, are prompted and guided by the ways in which shots, ‘units’ of sound, scenes and sequences are constructed through the interplay between sound and image.

It’s appropriate here to suggest something about the range of ways that films manipulate our emotions: just think about the tension of the shower scene in Psycho (1962), the abstraction of the avant-garde effects short Mothlight (1963), the comedy of Anchorman (2004) and the melancholy of Wuthering Heights (2011). The titles named here are intentionally diverse. They are representative of extremely different subjects and treatments but it’s an attempt to suggest the breadth of emotional experience that film can offer. Indeed, it’s important to make the point that the emotional value of things changes over time. For example, it may have felt like realistic acting to an...

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