—American FilmEmploying Freudian psychoanalysis, Christian Metz explores the nature of cinematic spectatorship and looks at the operations of meaning in. Employing Freudian psychoanalysis, Christian Metz explores the nature of cinematic spectatorship and looks at the operations of meaning in the film text. Its perceptual transparency renders it an absent signifier. Metz relates the concept to Lacan’s imaginary—the cinematic signifier is theorized as inducing.

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The Imaginary Signifier

With this, we return to the three desires that the cinema fulfills that other works of art do not, and which have already slgnifier previously discussed.

Yet in order to be enjoyed, these fictive elements must be disavowed and instead fetishized as real. Ssignifier film viewer suspends his or her disbelief even though he or chrisstian also knows that it is only a chrisfian. The imaginary signifier Christian Metz Snippet view – It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Jean Rouch and the camera eyewitness. Jean-Louis Baudry, for example, had previously written psychoanalytical film theory in regards to dream states and the cinematic apparatus. According to Metz, the spectator comes to identify with the camera himself. Or it satisfies, as Metz describes, the passion for perceiving. The cinematic institution is comprised of both the cinema industry the mechanical reduplication of images in a series recorded in a fictional time and place for capitalistic gainand within the mental machinery of the audience the desire to consume films.

Music is perceived and enjoyed from a distance between those making the music and those perceiving it. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link.

imaginary signifier

Metz then explicates upon a third machine: It is the film as a whole that is now constituted as siginfier signifier. He needs to retain it to be questioned. The cinematic experience is made possible by and recapitulates for the film spectator the earlier unconscious experience. In the adult, Freud believed, a fetishism, such as the sexual need for a particular object like a shoe, is a way of denying the anxiety produced by the thought of the castration of the mother by substituting an object for the castrated phallus.

Additionally, what is finally the most satisfying, to me at signifiet, is how Metz hinges his theories on questions.


For Metz there is a primary similarity between the infant in front of the mirror and the spectator sitting in front of the screen. Although Baudry drew some ideas from the thought of psychoanalysis, Metz goes much further in incorporating psychoanalytic notions into his theory of film spectatorship. The early process of the mirror phase through which the child constructs an ego by identifying and absorbing an image in a mirror underpins imaginarj later experience of the film spectator that identifies with the idealized images of the projector on the screen.

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The first characteristic being that film consists of fictional narratives that depend upon the primary and industrial-technological imaginary of photography sighifier phonography.

For Metz, and for Baudry, the spectator identifies not so much with what is represented, that is the content of the film, but with what creates the film; the cinematic apparatus. The child not only identifies with this image of itself but begins to perceive itself through the otherness of this image, i. The image you see when you watch a film does not exist in the time and place that the image is being scene.

Most users should sign in with their email address. Having outlined his conception of the cinema and his conception of what his place is within the cinematic institution, Metz asks himself a question.

By incorporating the earlier elements of this first section, the reader comes to a deeper understanding of what drives Metz and how he came to his conclusions, which will signififr expounded upon within the later vhristian of the book. What ties this process to the cinema for Metz is that it takes place with visual images; the child sees imaginwry as an image which is distanced and objectified and identifies with it.

Wignifier to this book Excitable Speech: Both are identifying with and fascinated by images and furthermore images which are ideals. Therefore we perceive the imaginary. The child then identifies with this image and finds, according to Lacan, satisfaction in its unity, a unity which the child cannot experience in its own body. While Metz only briefly mentions that camera movement can shake us out of the reality wherein it is the spectator making the film, this leaves no room for the filmmaker themselves.


Freudian psychoanalysis, first written upon by Sigmund Freud and later contributed to by Jacque Lacan and Melanie Klein, had been applied to cinema theory previous to Metz. The spectator knows that the images that they see before them are not real.

One of the primary psychic structures involved in cinematic spectatorship is the process of signivier or disavowal. Abstract and avant-garde films have no script, so a script-based psychoanalysis would not apply.

Christian Metz and Freudian Psychoanalysis. This article is also available signifieer rental through DeepDyve. So, the spectator identifies with something else during the projection of a film. This is what Metz identifies as his approach to psychoanalytic film theory. StraussNorman K. Sign In or Create an Account. For Baudry it was the cinematic apparatus as a technical instrument, for Metz it is the more general notion of the cinematic institution.

The mirror that is the cinema imaginxry the cinema screen lies within a sort of duality. Both writers agree that the spectator is constructed and positioned by the cinematic apparatus.

The imaginary signifier – Christian Metz – Google Books

When you visit the theater, the events take place directly in front of you within a real location and temporality. What is especially fascinating and ultimately satisfying to the reader is how Metz explicates upon his understanding and his conception of the cinema. For example, The Interpretation of Dreams is listed as a metapsychological and theoretical work, while Totem and Taboo is shown as an example of studies with an anthropological or socio-historical aim. These are questions that he admits freely to not having immediate answers to.

Only through the use of uncommon camera angles and movements are we suddenly jarred into realizing our own presence-absence within the filmic image. The second desire fulfilled by the cinema is the desire to desire.

Film historians, critics, and theorists, according to Metz, operate as a third machine within the cinematic institution. By applying Freudian psychoanalysis to the film going experience, Metz illustrates how a film satisfies three important desires: