Sunday, 31 October 2010

Communication & Semiotics

This week's lecture focused on the subject of Semiotics which is defined as 'The study of signs and symbols, what they mean and how they are used.' This is a topic which I have never studied before, but one which I find very interesting, particularly when related to media. 

Whether you like it or not, we as humans are ALL semioticians. It's not something which requires a certificate or a three year stretch at university, it is something that we are all born with the ability to do. Many body language experts agree that between 60 and 70 percent of communication is non-verbal, which means that reading and interpreting posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements is something which we all have inherently within us. The media is able to use this idea to its advantage, as not everything has to be spelt out entirely for the viewer; a lot of what is seen on screen has to be interpreted by the audience in order for the plot to be fully understood. A good example of this is Tom Hank's performance in 'Forrest Gump' one of my all-time favourite films. Hanks doesn't actually have that many lines to deliver in the film, yet the audience is able to completely understand how he is feeling through interpreting his body language and facial expressions.

In this scene, Jenny tells Forrest that he has a son and Hanks' reaction is perfect. Without saying anything, he takes a few steps backwards and places his hand on his hip, the whole time avoiding making eye contact with Jenny. Small movements such as the way that he clenches his teeth tell us that he is anxious and unsure of how to react whilst still being totally shocked. These are all concious decisions that Hanks has made in order to portray the character's feelings. If we were to watch the film without the sound we would still be able to work out that Jenny has just delivered some shocking news because of Forrest's reaction, something which is made possible by our ability to read and interpret signals. It's not what is said, it is what ISN'T said that is important.

When explaining this idea of 'connotation' of a character,  Ivan showed pictures of Remy, the Rat from the 2007 Pixar animation 'Ratatouille' which got me thinking about the way in which Pixar are so good at looking into a character in order for the audience to really become involved with the storyline. I did a bit of research on how they develop these characters and found some interesting videos. I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent but I found it interesting so it's going on the blog. 

1 comment:

  1. this was a really interesting and informative blog. You're so right about the way in which we understand more about the spectrum of human emotions through what we see. Actions definitely speak louder than words