Altered States: Character and Emotional Response in the Cinema

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Murray Smith Summary In “Altered States: Character and Emotional Response in the Cinema” by Murray Smith, he touches on the importance of identification and the levels of engagement. He separates the levels of engagement into 3 sections. These three sections are: Recognition, alignment, and allegiance. First he explains the importance of recognition. Recognition describes the spectator’s construction of character, the perception of a set of textual elements, in film typically cohering around the image of a body, as an individuated and continuous human agent. This just is how it sounds. It is the recognition of characters in a film and how they play the part with the textual evidence. Recognition receives little attention when regarding to the levels of engagement because it is rather obvious and almost automatic when watching a film. Second Smith describes alignment. Alignment is the access to a character’s actions and emotions. This is where we sympathize and try to understand how they feel and what they know. This is probably the most easiest to understand. Two functions can be used to analyze alignment: Spatial attachment and subjective access. Smith states that spatial attachment is the concern of capacity of the narration to restrict itself to the actions of a single character. Subjective access describes the degree of subjectivity to each character and how it can change from character to character. The third level of engagement is allegiance. Smith notes that this is the most important form of emotional engagement. This is where we feel for a character. This is the stage where we can finally connect with the character emotionally and ethically. In this step we are closest to what is commonly known by identification. We deal with tools that help us identify characters such as nation, age, ethnicity, and gender. This level of engagement really depends

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