Thomas Elsaesser's Film Theory Analysis

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Among our most intrinsic human characteristics, we strive to express ourselves both creatively and socially. Combining these two traits creates an artistic interaction between an audience and a medium. Cinema, arguably the most visually astounding form of art, not only stimulates visually, but subjects viewers to haptic and acoustic experiences as well. The film scholar, Thomas Elsaesser, makes various points in his book “Film Theory” describing several ways in which we can experience the film as a spectator. A particular type of metaphor that stood out to me that Elsaesser mentioned was cinema as a visual experience, more precisely cinema as eye or as a look and gaze. All of Elsaesser’s ideas can be related to and exemplified in the mystery/thriller …show more content…
It is arguably one of the most important things we experience when viewing a film, without it we would just be looking at a black screen with just sound. But, films can be seen as more than just a visual experience but rather as a look or gaze. For example, Elsaesser explains that, “If we regard the eye as an interface between spectator and film, we can distinguish among several configurations that shape the look and the activity of seeing in many different ways” (84). Our perception can be altered or extended when we think of viewing cinema in this way, since “the cinematic lens serves as a mechanical extension of human perception” (96). In other words, we can see things clearer through the help of the camera. Through the use of “gaze”, as explained by Elsaesser, “it controls the visual field from “another scene” and enters the domain of the visible at best as a phantasm because, in a psychoanalytic sense, it belongs to the realm of real, which is to say, it functions as force that is consistently outside any form of representation” (102). Specifically, the gaze is a power that the viewers are given in which they can look upon the characters. The exploration of viewing cinema as a look or gaze can help us identify with a film and better understand what is …show more content…
The sequence begins from Marion’s point of view. As she is pulling into the Bates Motel, she is looking around and we are aligned with her search/journey by identifying with her “looking around”. Marion finally walks inside to check in and she meets Norman Bates. He comes off as polite and hospitable and Marion think’s nothing of it. Marion then gets settled into her room and overhears Norman and his mother yelling from their house. Marion looks through the curtains and can hear everything they are saying each other. In the next sequence, Norman invites Marion to have lunch in his parlor filled with stuffed birds. Many of the stuffed birds are frozen in flight indicating the action of capture and the bird’s all seeing point of view on its prey, which can be compared to how Norman views Marion as we see in the next scene. Norman also comments on the way she eats by saying, “You, eat like a bird”, which is coincidental since they are in a room surrounded by birds, and reinforces the fact that Norman has an “eagle-eye” view on Marion. This is one of Hitchcock’s many examples about cinema as eye through look and gaze throughout the entire

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