Looking at Motion Pictures

Richard Allen

in Film Theory and Philosophy

Published in print December 1997 | ISBN: 9780198159216
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191673566 | DOI:
Looking at Motion Pictures

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This chapter discusses the central question, ‘What do you see when you look at a motion picture?’. The answer depends on the understanding of the activity itself. The philosophical understanding of what seeing is has been dominated by casual theories of perception. When seeing is conceived in a certain way, pictorial perception generates a paradox. There are four kinds of theories in perceiving motion pictures: illusion, transparency, imagination, and recognition. Illusion theories were highly influential in the film theories during the 1970s and early 1980s. It sought to explain the special power of movies to shape the imagination while transparency theories were associated with the realist tradition of film theory. Transparency theorists claim that the unique properties of the photographic image allow us to see the object when we look at a motion picture. Imagination and recognition theories use the cognitive approach to understanding the motion picture.

Keywords: motion picture; theories of perception; illusion theories; transparency theories; imagination theories; recognition theories; cognitive approach

Chapter.  9552 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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