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Emotional response through inner conflict

Within cinema, we seek to find alignment in the subjective nature of film. We are often onlookers to character’s lives, and thus their decisions, emotions, and social interactions. In this way, we are often emotionally invested into how we subjectively view a character’s life, but from an onlookers’ standpoint. However, while we believe we are objectively watching the unfolding of a narrative, we are swayed by the choices of the director, cinematographer, editor, and sound designer into perceiving their fictional world in a certain manner and, therefore, evoking a certain emotional response.

Perception and emotional responses in films coincide with each other; in Lindsey Fiorelli’s 2016 essay ‘What movies show: realism, perception and truth in film.’, Fiorelli describes that film’s “perceptual content and representational content entwine insofar as we perceive a film’s fictional world.” and that “they have an epistemic directness—they present their fictional truths immediately […] we are directly presented with sights and sounds and can perceive the objects, people, and places depicted in the same sort of way we perceive things in the world.” Here, Fiorelli explains how we cannot perceive a fictional world within a film without directly correlating it to our own experiences; how we perceive expressed and implied content cannot be separated in our personal viewing experience. In short, we cannot distinguish between the physical presence of what we are shown, and the emotional response we produce in response to these visuals.

Internal conflict within film is often a taboo topic- not only is it hard to present a personal emotional struggle to a seemingly unknowing audience, but it is also extremely hard to further emotionally invest this audience to feel empathetic and therefore sympathise with the character shown on screen. One film that perfectly captures the themes of isolation and internal conflict is Martin Scorsese’s 2010 film Shutter Island, in which Teddy has to deal with the loss of his wife, while also dealing with the inner conflict of not knowing if what he perceives is narrative or reality. Teddy faces the hardships in his life while trying to carry out his job of investigating the disappearance of a murderer at a hospital; Scorsese perfectly grabs his audience’s attention by sharing Teddy’s dreams about his wife and the ever-changing world and allowing them to see the world from his view. This, in turn, allows for a deeper insight into Teddy’s internal conflict and deteriorating mental state; this gives another layer to the film and allows for spectators to emotionally connect with Teddy in a way that they do not do with other characters.

I think that internal conflict and the idea of subjectivity is a very interesting topic to cover while exploring film; although it is hard to express internal conflict within filmmaking, it is not impossible. I think, when done right, it can add emotional dimension to a film that other films cannot capture. As well as this, the notion of subjectivity is quite interesting debate; whether the pre-context of the viewer affects their viewing experience, or if the decisions made by the director and their surrounding crew affects the viewing experience of the spectator.


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