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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-10172012-200229

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Problemi dell'analisi del testo di finzione audiovisivo: verifica e sviluppo di un modello analitico e interpretativo con strumenti digitali
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof.ssa Lischi, Alessandra
  • analisi del film
  • informatica
  • narratologia
  • semiologia
  • software
Graduation session start date
Problems of fiction film analysis: testing and development of an analytical and interpretive model with digital tools.

At the centre of fiction film analysis one encounters multiple complexities which stem from the nature of audio-visual language and from its specific combinatorial faculties, that “pluricodicity” that has no equivalent in other representative arts and narratives, and which also renders narration itself particularly ambiguous and problematic. In this sense, the analysis of the configuration of time constitutes in our judgment not only one of the principle ways of understanding film text, but also, following the lead of Paul Ricoeur, to comprehending human experience. The study of time in cinematic narrative is inextricably linked to the study of the filmic enunciation instances: the utilization of technical procedures or narrative techniques that represent temporality through the discards and displacements of chronological time, lead to the revelation of the instance that holds the narrative together, thus making discourse take precedence over story, affirming in such a way the temporal autonomy of the enunciation over the enunciated. The proposition is therefore to study several configurations of time in relation to the activity of the enunciation instance to show the origin of the discourse from which the text is articulated. These explicit elements, or indicative traces, are caught up in the temporal organization of events (in the relationship between the fabula-time and the story-time) in the deixis (the presence of pronouns and adverbs which refer to the presence, the location, the temporal dimension and the modality of the enunciation), in the use of tenses (employed by narrators and narrative voices), in the choice and the articulation of shooting and editing techniques (point of view analysis), and finally in the management/combination of the various matters of expression (the pluricodicity mentioned earlier). Analysis and the analyst are responsible for untangling the interplay of the different time streams and for bringing to a head the many marks of the enunciation scattered throughout the text, in order to identify the mode or modes of production of meaning in the film.
Thus, to study the configuration of time inevitably means to stop time: being able to grasp (both mentally and concretely) the temporal structure of the work of art demands the use of practical tools which permit one “to act” on the work, to exercise its own gaze upon the work, and the theoretical models suitable to describe its functioning, bearing in mind that these tools and models should always be adapted to the specific case study. The object of the present research is therefore the study of the filmic representation of time as manifestation of the enunciation within two films which are exemplary from this point of view. Toto le héros by Jaco van Dormael (France-Belgium-Germany, 1990) and Il caso di Mattei by Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1972) offer a summa of the reflections and the interpretive problems connected to the study of the configuration of time in fictional audiovisual narrative. They are in fact examples of metatext which integrate the process of storytelling (the first) and filmmaking (the second) within them, developing a particular reflection on narration through a complex manipulation of the temporal structure. In the attempt to render the textual analysis and microanalysis of film more comprehensive, and to find a concrete confirmation of the questions raised, one possibility is to use a digital tool capable of assisting the analist in the practice and verification of a method of analysis as rigorous, articulate and "objective" as possible. The digital instrument should then not only manage and intersect the numerous data that emerge from the different planes of observation quickly and scientifically (at the level of units segmentation and at the level of stratification, and the survey of the occurrences and isotopies), but also render the analysis verifiable "in the field" and repeatable, making the data accessible and comparable for future analysis.
Accordingly, we intend to verify the usefulness of digital analysis in expediting certain practices (such as the automatic segmentation of units), in the organization and management of complex data such as those relating to the configuration of time adapted to the methodology used by the analyst, and possibly in promoting new practices and new methods (not solely statistical which is normally the main application of this kind of tools). The project was initially conceived for a pre-existing tool, the DCP (Digital Cinema Project) of the University of Pisa, a film analysis software which through the insertion of data allows analysis of textual film through a grid of predefined parameters; thereafter, because of the challenges which will be discussed in the third chapter, we tested other programmes that have proved more adaptable to the needs of ongoing research, making a comparison between different applications from the perspective of analysis in general and in-depth study of the configuration of time. This cross-sectional study of software has resulted in a collaboration with the LIRIS laboratory of computer engineering at the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, a very sophisticated software (Advene) which LIRIS has developed for the annotation and analysis of audiovisual streams, described in third and fifth chapter.
The five chapters in which the present work is structured therefore constitute a path towards the different "objects" that we set out to study: on the one hand, the theoretical study of the configuration of time in fictional audiovisual narrative (through the analysis of two films), and on the other hand a reflection on the methods and tools of analysis, a constant examination which, as many filmologists state, is integral to the work of film analysis.
The first chapter introduces the problems of textual analysis within a framework that traces the milestones marking the birth of the discipline, the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches that have characterized the conceptual and practical "nodes" that have always constituted matters of debate. This historical-theoretical framework has therefore allowed us to identify the fundamentals of the discipline and the terms of debate in confrontation with the latest directions of study, which have forged new areas of research and new terms. The discussion here has also served to introduce more general issues related to the practice of film analysis connected to our research, from the choice of the method to the choice of instruments, from the problems related to the communication of the analysis to teaching, issues that are taken up and developed in subsequent chapters.
The second chapter deals with a survey parallel to the preceding chapter, focusing instead on the tools and techniques used for film analysis, from the origins of cinema to the present. The chapter retraces the steps of a fascinating journey that involved theorists and directors looking for more precise tools with which to conduct and communicate the analysis of literary texts and films through grids, patterns, number systems, and media both specific and non-specific. This second "journey" has allowed us to outline some key features of the old media useful for comparison with novelties introduced by the new media (in particular the advent of the computer and hypertext, and the concepts of reticular text and active reading).
The third chapter analyzes the changes that digitization has introduced in the human sciences (digital archives and software), and gets to the heart of research by comparing four software for audiovisual annotation and analysis, illustrating the concept, main functions, possible applications, and the strengths and weaknesses relating to the theoretical and practical issues that emerged along the way.
The last two chapters describe our practice with the software, which has focused primarily on issues related to the segmentation of the units, to the organisation, annotation and research of the identified analytical categories, and visualization of results. These chapters offer a critical examination of the theoretical and methodological framework discussed in the first two chapters, highlighting the roads taken, the choices made, route changes, and finally the development of the most appropriate tool. Preparatory to approaching the software was the job of manual analysis, which constituted the fundamental theoretical and practical substratum on which we have structured not only the analysis itself, but above all our deliberations over the tools of analysis, with the goal of comparing the two means (manual vs. digital) and to identify new research perspectives.
In the conclusion we outline the results of the operation, engaging with a broader framework of audiovisual teaching to highlight possible future developments and collaborations, with a view to a potentially new era of film analysis. Indeed, the research proposes, among other things, to bring to light the current problems of analysis and new perspectives related to the use of digital tools, registering a "gap" in this area of research, as mentioned even by Lev Manovich when lamenting the lack of studies on the tools that many use today, tools that have brought new reception practices (however in this last field of study there is a significant theoretical interest). It seems to us that these tools need to be understood and analyzed, but that we should address the issue of reception practices introduced by New Media also from the perspective of the reception by theorists and researchers. The researcher / analyst is in this sense a "user model" capable of inscribing her own operational and analytical path directly on the film and of communicating this to a wider audience of users-viewers.
Our path is one example of a study of narration and time achieved with the aid of a digital tool; there are, of course, other avenues of research. We have tried to be as clear as possible by offering multiple illustrations of the instruments presented (sometimes simply by verbal descriptions) and by alternating practical explanations and critical reviews with charts, diagrams, and screenshots of the various applications. The last chapter is in this sense an attempt to conduct a written analysis accompanied by a series of screenshots that show the work with the software instead of “paper” diagrams and tables (as we did in the fourth chapter). The Appendixes contain a series of devices that show the analytical work on paper necessary to understanding the fourth and fifth chapters (Appendixes 1 and 2) and a summary table of the four software taken into consideration (Appendix 3).