The Politics of form

A conceptual introduction to ‘Screen theory’

Authored by: Warren Buckland

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415717397
eBook ISBN: 9781315678863
Adobe ISBN: 9781317392460


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The ‘Screen theorists’ of the 1970s (those associated with the journal Screen: Stephen Heath, Colin MacCabe, Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen, amongst others) employed Saussurean semiotics, Lacanian psychoanalysis and especially Althusserian Marxism to develop a materialist knowledge of the ideology perpetuated by mainstream cinema. One key idea behind the Marxist theory of ideology is that ideology conceals the contradictions of capitalism, such as the irresolvable conflicts of inequality that exist between different social classes: “ideology has the precise function of hiding the real contradictions and of reconstituting on an imaginary level a relatively coherent discourse which serves as the horizon of agents’ experience” (Nicos Poulantzas, quoted in Larrain 1979: 46). Screen theorists analysed this ideological process of concealment in mainstream cinema by examining the way the imaginary impression of a coherent filmic discourse is produced.

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