Where does film exist? Part 2: Letting the metaphor speak (metaphorically)


Elsaesser and Hagener question whether it is possible for film to exist independently of spectators (Elsaesser and Hagner, 2010). Clearly, if the creator has made the film then a physical form exists whether or not anyone elects to view it. This is the skeleton and flesh of the film that I outlined in my previous post. But what is a film?

Like all art, film is an incomplete attempt to represent in the physical world an idea or story in the mind of the creator (Wallace, 2017). By the time it reaches DVD the film is already a failure in this regard, for how can one accurately recreate the mind? It is a film, but not exactly what was envisioned.

Then there is a second mind that comes into play, that of the spectator. In my previous post, I referred to the spectator as the skin of the film/body metaphor because the experiences of the individual inform their experience of a film and as no two people have the exact same experience, nor do any two people experience a film in the same way. These differing experiences of film can be argued to create for each spectator a film that is ever so slightly different from that of any other spectator. In essence, they are watching a different film.

It may be apparent from my inclusion of the spectator as a part of the film, but I submit that without the spectator the film does not fully exist. In the physical sense, it has form regardless of skin/spectator, but like the human body, without the skin/spectator it is not fully what it is meant to be. Film requires spectators to be complete.

In summary, films exist to be seen and in being seen they complete their purpose as films. However, as no two persons are alike in spectatorship and because a film relies on this spectatorship as part of its existence, each person can be said to watch a different film than everybody else, even if they are ostensibly viewing the exact same footage.



Elsaesser, T & Hagener, M 2010, Film Theory: an introduction through the senses, ‘Cinema as brain’, Routledge, New York.

Wallace, C., 2017, ‘Confronting Collapse’, lecture, CRA3SHF, La Trobe University, delivered 28 May.


About frenzysista

Hannah has often been informed that she is intelligent and has the potential to achieve great things. She generally agrees that the potential could be there but is also a terrible procrastinator and lazy to boot. She currently resides in Victoria and lavishes about 38% of her attention on studying the mystical thing that is the creative arts. The other 62% of her time is divided unevenly between celebrating her fandoms online, sleeping, learning how not to talk to people and saving the world. Oh, and writing. Definitely that thing. In other words, you're reading the thoughts of one highly opinionated, entirely sleep deprived fangirl-y adult
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