115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Cognitive Approach to Viewing Intercultural Film Adaptation

Aili Zheng, Willamette University

Intercultural films elicit a variety of responses in the spectator. With the parameters of cognitive science in mind, I will consider recent films involving Germany, China and Japan.

Proposal: 

Film adaptation has a long and persistent history of being discussed in terms of fidelity. Is the film true to the source text, to its origins? Much as a stage production is part of an event that also includes spectators as participants, literary texts yield a variety of interpretations. Robert Stam convincingly questioned the assumption of an "extractable 'essence'" and—given the production constraints of filmmaking—suggested that "fidelity in adaptation is literally impossible." One could generalize and argue that indeed any film amounts to a creative interpretation that in its diegesis involves the social constructions of a cultural reality. Films located in foreign environments particularly face the challenge of engaging specific cultural codes, public spaces, performativities and attributes of life style. They are unavoidably underdetermined.

 

But there are additional complexities to consider. For the spectator viewing a film, indeed as for any visual experience, perception is assumed to be transparent: the visual contact with reality seems immediate and direct. Research indicates, however, that only fragments of the distal world are ever experienced. To generate coherent internal representations, this information is interpreted and processed in a complex act of visual cognition.

 

Intercultural films with unfamiliar diegesis elicit a variety of responses in the spectator. With the parameters of cognitive science in mind, I will consider recent films involving Germany, China and Japan.

 

Topic Area: