Christian Metz is best known for applying Saussurean theories of semiology to film analysis. In the 1970s, he used Sigmund Freud's psychology and Jacques Lacan's mirror theory to explain the popularity of cinema. In this final book, Metz uses the concept of enunciation to articulate how films "speak" and explore where this communication occurs, offering critical direction for theorists who struggle with the phenomena of new media.
If a film frame contains another frame, which frame do we emphasize? And should we consider this staging an impersonal act of enunciation? Consulting a range of genres and national trends, Metz builds a novel theory around the placement and subjectivity of screens within screens, which pulls in—and forces him to reassess—his work on authorship, film language, and the position of the spectator. Metz again takes up the linguistic and theoretical work of Benveniste, Genette, Casetti, and Bordwell, drawing surprising conclusions that presage current writings on digital media. Metz's analysis enriches work on cybernetic emergence, self-assembly, self-reference, hypertext, and texts that self-produce in such a way that the human element disappears. A critical introduction by Cormac Deane bolsters the connection between Metz's findings and nascent digital-media theory, emphasizing Metz's keen awareness of the methodological and philosophical concerns we wrestle with today.
Twenty-two years after the 1993 death of French film theorist Metz (Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema), his final monograph finds its way Stateside in this splendid new translation. Informed by the field of narratology, Metz examines "enunciation" in cinema: the means by which a film "speaks" outside of its story and acting. For Metz, enunciation is a process occurring between two poles. First is the source of enunciation, which is the "utterance" of film: the projected work itself. Metz lists "markers of enunciation" that indicate to viewers that they are watching a constructed work, including voice-over, framing that indicates subjectivity or objectivity, and on-screen text. The second pole is the target of enunciation: the spectator taking in both the film's narrative and the implicit story about how the film creates meaning, the latter being the story told by enunciation. On occasion the work reads like a very thorough literature review, which might be alienating to a reader not already steeped in the subject, but Metz shines through, avoiding jargon, using richly illustrative examples, and writing with a persuasive voice. In a landscape where nearly everyone has the means to become an enunciator, the book remains relevant as questions of enunciation have transcended film, and it merits inclusion in studies of new media.