Film Heterogeneity and Categorical Transgression: From Metz to Derrida
This paper investigates how the heterogeneity of the film medium affects the traditional categorical distinctions with regards to the ways of expression. It chooses a semiotic-epistemological point of view. It begins by tracing the philosophical background of the classification of the arts and the ways of expression, from Plato to Kant and Hegel. It then describes the shift away from essences as introduced by the semiotic theory, paying particular attention to Louis Hjelmslev’s concept of ‘substance of expression’. It compares it to its interpretation by Christian Metz, in his notion of the five tracks of the film medium. Finally, it presents the tendency of trespassing definitional borderlines, towards a generalized synaesthesia, which has been a practice of the avant-garde art since the beginning of 20th century and was later conceptualized by the philosophy of Jacques Derrida. Given its intrinsic tansmediality, the film medium is particularly fertile as a means of investigating the possible relations between different ways of expression, while the practice of filmmaking enacts the rebus-quality that potentially characterizes human expression in general. Moreover, film medium’s heterogeneity enriches and extends Hjelmslev’s concept of ‘substance of expression’. It seems that cinema functions in many ways as a transgression of traditional categorical distinctions.