Cinema and Film theory

David Macey (2000: 252) informs us that the French film theorist Christian Metz, in his later work, expands on the distinction that he made between film and cinema. He defines cinema as the extra-filmic apparatus of an industry, but also all the psychological forces that make an audience wish to watch a film.

The cinema, thus, includes cinematic writing and history. It is the sum total of discourses about cinema as well as the actual institutions. As Metz begins to incorporate Jacques Lacan’s notion of a scopic drive, or urge to look, into his analysis, the imaginary dimension of film comes to the fore through¬†analyses of processes of identification with characters and with the camera itself, an approach which can be articulated with the concern for point of view, perspective and focalisation.

Rather than simply a psychic unconscious, films are seen to articulate an ideological ‘unconscious’. Films are thus doubly articulated with the life-world: through the apparatus of cinema, which requires a desire to engage with the institutions of the cinema; and through the imaginary of the film, by means which both a psychic unconscious and an ideological unconscious are articulated.


Macey, D. (2000). The Penguin dictionary of critical theory. London, UK: Penguin Books.

edited 27 June, 2017 by Allan Parsons

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