SAC 272- Response Paper #1

SAC 272- Response Paper #1 - 1 Sasha Wang Classical Film...

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1 Sasha Wang Classical Film Theory SAC 272- Winter 2008 Daniel Herbert Response Paper #1 Munsterberg, Gunning, and Lindsay: The Spectator Vachel Lindsay, Hugo Munsterberg, and Tom Gunning all agree that the spectators play a vital role in furthering the artistic merit of a photoplay through individual cognitions. The audience members are sophisticated in a sense where they are able to communicate with, or respond to, the content and technology of the film. Gunning and Munsterberg both concur that the spectator wants to live vicariously through the photoplay and experience things that are not opportune in his own life. According to Munsterberg, the spectator does not want to be a meager bystander, but be able to invest cognitively in the photoplay through emotions, imagination, and memory whereas space, time, and causality are not factors. Gunning claims that the spectator wants to be “led astray” by his curiosity and see the unattractive, but is never fully satisfied. Lindsay, on the other hand, considers the spectator a decoder of the photoplay’s motion language; the spectator simply reads the continuous hieroglyphics of the motion picture just like a piece of literature. He is able to decode both the literal and symbolic ideas, which Lindsay calls the “signified.” These different understandings of film viewers beg the question: can all three of these theorists’ claims simultaneously apply to all audience members or are they each describing a specific type of spectator? Are they even accurate in the first place? One can solve this dilemma by analyzing the relationship between the spectator and the photoplay in scenes from the
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2 following classical films: The Cheat ( De Mille 1915), Steamboat Bill Jr. (Keaton, 1928), and One A.M . (Chaplin, 1916). One of the most intense scenes in The Cheat is when Edith Hardy sneaks out of the house in the evening to go pay off Haka Arakau, the Burmese Ivory King. They had previously made a deal that if he gave her $10,000 to give to the Red Cross, she would sleep with him. But now that her husband has given her $10,000, she no longer needs Arakau’s money and wants to end the deal.
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