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Writing on film as art through Ricoeur's Hermeneutics

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Despite the broad interest in film as an essential aspect of contemporary life, there is no generally accepted and theoretically rigorous method for film analysis suited to a broad range of scholars. The rich tradition of hermeneutics provides such a method. Using Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutical theory to interpret film requires a structure anchored in five key themes. These five themes are (1) explanation and understanding, (2) symbol, (3) metaphor, (4) narrative and (5) imagination. These five themes permit us to understand how a text or film communicates and builds meaning. Each of Ricoeur's five themes offers a specific way to understand the text, in this case, the film. All five themes work together to demonstrate the text or the work as a communicative and artistic whole, a single unit of several interlocked parts. This article will examine the five themes to show how they function together, establishing their role in interpretation. As an example, I apply Ricoeur's hermeneutics to Clint Eastwood's (1992) Western Unforgiven.

Keywords: explanation; hermeneutics; metaphor; narrative; symbol; understanding

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Melbourne.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice is the official organ of the Writing Purposefully in Art and Design (Writing PAD) network. It offers art and design institutions an arena in which to explore and develop the notion of thinking through writing as a parallel to visual discourse in art and design practice. The journal aims to extend the debates to all national and international higher educational art and design institutions.
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