Vocabulary of cinema

The term cinema vocabulary refers to the means used by filmmakers to convey their message. It is not a lexicon on the cinema, for that, to see

  • Film technique and grammar
  • Wikipedia: Project / Cinema

Just as the writer has words to express his thoughts, the director has a “vocabulary”. On the other hand, we must understand that cinema is not a language, in the sense that we must not believe that an element of cinematographic language necessarily has the same meaning in all contexts. On the other hand, certain recurrent practices have created certain conventions. The use of the term “vocabulary” is thus rather metaphorical.

Ideas, concepts, can be transmitted to the viewer by:

  • the picture : the image itself presents a situation, an action (movement) or made experience emotions;
  • the text on the screen:
    • intertitles: cartoons between shots used mainly in silent cinema,
    • superimposed titles, eg location in space and time ( Washington DC type , April 15 ), explanatory text (often used in introduction), subtitle, generic, …
    • poster on a wall, graffiti, sign, signpost, sign
    • close-up on a written sheet: letter, newspaper, document, …
  • the word :
    • words spoken by the characters, monologue, dialogue
    • inner voice , expression of the thought of a character, thought that it does not express verbally in the fiction
    • voice off : voice of a narrator outside to the action;
  • music : music that characters can hear in fiction ( diegetic music ), or “added” music, not part of fiction ( extra-diegetic music ).

Vocabulary and analysis

The fact of speaking of “vocabulary” makes it possible to make many parallels with literature, another narrative process, and to transpose in particular the lexicon of literature, like the figures of speech (for example ellipses ).

The fact of having these words from the literary analysis allows to express concepts and thus allows to refine the analysis of a film. For example, we can talk about the lexical field of view of Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes : accumulation of elements relating to the gaze

    • graphic elements: presence of cameras, eye painted on the wall ( logo of a television channel), stone of the ring coming out of the wall (symbolization of the single eye, the lens of the camera );
    • narrative, dramatic elements: the plot is based on the difference of points of view; one of the characters breaks his glasses;
    • film elements: use at times of subjective camera , shooting by video surveillance cameras ;

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