Embodied Crosstalk and Psycho–technological Spaces: applying embodied image schema theory to the audiovisual language of Enemy (dir. Villeneuve, 2013)

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Embodied image schema theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; 1999) posits that the forms of familiar bodily gestures and interactions inform relationships within our conceptual and metaphorical systems. It has been applied in various domains, from linguistic metaphor to visual arts (Johnson, 2007) and common practice music theory (Brower, 2000). However, although the language of the film soundtrack is frequently described in gestural terms, embodied image schema theory has not been extensively applied in this field. In seeking to apply this theory to cinematic models, Villeneuve’s Enemy (2013) presents a potentially interesting and representative exemplar. The soundtrack’s omnipresent musical construction is drawn from a palette of sonic–musical gestures which are restated in a variety of timbral guises and across a range of diegetic and audiovisual contexts, even encroaching upon the film’s dialogue. The frequent exaggeration of technological sounds, from the hums of computers and fluorescent lights to the percussive march–like insistence of mobile phones is mirrored across the anacrusis–like gestures of the score, resulting in an audiovisual/multi-modal integration that directs the viewer’s sense of psychological/affective tension and definitions of personal, emotional and technologically–dominated spaces. Of equal relevance is the diversity of approaches, from singularly pitch–dominated/timbrally homogenous gestures, integrated sonic–musical scores in which timbral structures dominate, and the composed amplification of certain diegetic sounds. The perspectival spaces of the soundtrack are also unstable and oscillating, with external and internal/psychological world vying for attention; the soundtrack’s crosstalk succeeds in reinforcing the film’s uncanny hyperrealism. In doing so, the sonic language forms the glue that provides contingent order to the ‘undecipherable chaos’ to which the film aspires. More generally, the application of image schema theory to cinema may help us to better interrogate contemporary sound–design–dominated soundtracks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherBall State University
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
EventCinesonika 5: International Soundtrack Conference and Festival - Ball State University, Indiana, USA
Duration: 1 Oct 2017 → …


ConferenceCinesonika 5: International Soundtrack Conference and Festival
Period1/10/17 → …

Bibliographical note

A version of this paper was presented at the Music and Visual Cultures International Conference, Maynooth University, Ireland, 21st–23rd July.
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  • cinema
  • soundtrack
  • audiovisual
  • embodiment
  • embodied cognition
  • music cognition


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