Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is Visual Metaphor Possible? - Kiyokazu Nishimura 09/09/09

Can a visual metaphor function diegetically (as part of a narrative)?

"...filmic metaphor requires 'a motif completely alien to the rest of the film' which invades the fabric of the text without the pretext of any natural linking only because of its resemblance to another element. It is therefore 'a more disruptive operation' for the diegetic world."
- Nishimura quoting Christian Metz

Can visual metaphor work as a universal language?

"...it is not impossible for us to infer and inquire into the intention of the author, and to read a metaphor into the image. It is, however, just a linguistic behavior of our own motivated by the experience of seeing a film."
- Nishimura

Nishimura, Kiyokazu. "Is Visual Metaphor Possible." JTLA (Journal of the Faculty of Letters,

The University of Tokyo, Aesthetics) Vol. 29/30 (2004/05): 61-71.

This article was far heavier on the semiotics than I had hoped and really only delved into its central question in the last few pages. I found the article while searching for some work by Noel Carroll, an art philosopher that has more poetically considered the use of metaphor in the cinema. While this article was a rigorous read, I did find some use in considering the differences between analogy, metonymy, synecdoche, etc. but ultimately, I think I am not overly concerned with the exact definition of the metaphor or whether a particular image is technically a metaphor or actually an analogy. I am far more interested in the flavors, textures and uses of visual metaphor (comparison of any sort, to seriously broaden the boundaries of definition) in the medium of film and video.

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