Stylized Moments -- Turning Film Style Into Meaning

by Bill McBride/Illinois State University.

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This book teaches students how to concretely discover meaning in film by decoding the simple, but often invisible, stylistic choices made by directors and the rest of the creative collaborators of cinema. Readers are instructed in the language of film and introduced to interpretive strategies so that all films begin to speak in more meaningful ways, and in turn, viewers' responses become more articulate and persuasive. The logic operating in this book states that interpreters can produce a convincing reading of a film by targeting for analysis particular "stylized moments" (camera placement and movement, lighting, spatial relationships, editing, soundtrack, etc. all which bear meaning), whereby the director has gently or not so gently nudged the audience with these stylized cinematic gestures that, when decoded, unlock significance. After these moments have been identified and analyzed in isolation, the interpretive results are integrated into the film's entire system of signs in order to reach conclusions with extraordinary explanatory power about the film as a whole. This structuralist approach to film claims that each stylized moment carries meaning based on the generally accepted conventions of mainstream moviemaking language and that, like beginning with the imbedded code of a tiny sample of DNA, the entire organism, or film, can be convincingly and thoroughly explicated.
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