Rendering Emotion: Expanding Current Theories of the Representation and Arousal of Emotion in Film

mag. phil. Robert Blanchet
Referentin: Prof. Dr. Margrit Tröhler

Replacing earlier accounts of cinematic identification current models of emotional viewer engagement in the cinema still focus on the fictional character as the primary source of the spectator’s feelings. Audience reactions, these models hold, may either be generated by way of an empathetic simulation of the affective states of the character or by sympathetically relating to the character in a given situation. What has been largely unexplored in these theories however are the means by which films may also target the viewer directly through the use of devices like audiovisual style, the expressive and atmospheric qualities of the image, music, and other narrative techniques such as surprise, shock, disgust, astonishment, erotic stimulation, humour or even boredom. These devices may be used independently of what a fictional character is feeling and thus produce an incongruent relationship between spectator and character emotion. The filmmaker may use these techniques also, though, to give the viewer experiences and impressions that parallel what the character is going through. By developing a theory for such non-mimetic and mimetic «rendering» strategies of emotion, I also hope to overcome some of the explanatory difficulties the empathy-sympathy model encounters when put under scrutiny.