The cognitivist approach to film in the light of systemic-functional theory: a changing of the guards?
For several years now, David Bordwell and
others in the cognitivist film approach have been criticising
the rule of »Grand Theory«, i.e. psychoanalytic and culturalist
film theory. They claim that the cognitivist approach is
better qualified to study film. In this article, however,
it is claimed that the systemic-functional approach is a
better alternative. In their reaction to »Grand Theory«,
the cognitivists reject any general theory of film, and favour
empirical research. This reaction is too extreme. In the
systemic-functional theory, the combination of a top-down
and a bottom-up approach is considered necessary for theorising.
In this article, the foundations of systemic-functional analysis
of film are defended, i.e. the claim that film is a semiotic
system. On the basis of this argument, the cognitive approach
is criticised. It is hoped that the present article may start
a dialectical discussion between the cognitivist and the
systemic-functional approach, to determine which is the better
alternative to »Grand Theory«. Cognitivists complain of Grand
Theory’s proponents’s »strategic silence« when it comes to
the more recent development in linguistics. This article
suggests that the cognitivists’s silence when it comes to
the systemic-functional contributions might be equally strategic.
Sofie De Grauwe