Week Nine: Psychoanalysis

In his book The Imaginary Signifier Christian Metz draws on the work of spectatorship theorists such as Jean-Louis Baudry and expands the notion of the “cinematic apparatus” to cover a more general view of the “imaginary signifier.” Metz attempts, through the use of psychoanalysis, to discover an original grounding event that would explain the nature of the film spectator. Although Baudry drew some ideas from the thought of psychoanalysis, Metz goes much further in incorporating psychoanalytic notions into his theory of film spectatorship.

According to Metz, the film screen serves as a mirror through which the spectator can identify himself or herself as a coherent and omnipotent ego. The sense of power that spectatorship provides derives from the spectator’s primary identification with the camera itself. Though the spectator is in fact a passive viewer of the action on the screen, identification with the camera provides the spectator with an illusion of power over the screen images.

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