Leong 1 Crystal Leong TVF 460 Norton 12/03/08 Semtiotics Semiotics (or semiology) is a look at how language functions, analyzes it, and

interprets its meaning as a whole system through the use of signs and significations. Semiotics includes a wide array of study ranging from topics involving people like cultural semiotics or social semiotics to topics involving art like musical semiotics or cinematic semiotics (Ryder). French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure was the first to identify language as a sign system that includes a signifier and the signified (Wikipedia). A signifier can be a written word, a sound, or an image. The signified is the idea behind the signifier. A signifier by itself holds no meaning; the signified by itself is just an idea with no representation; but together they create a sign. If a ring around a man’s left ring finger, the ring is the signifier and the signified is the married man. Together they send a sign that the man wearing the ring is married. There are three types of signs known as icon, index and symbol. An icon is something that physically resembles what it represents (Port) – like a picture of the signified. An index is not the person but something that has an existential bond with the person (Regan) – something so significant to the person that it becomes associated with him. A symbol is an arbitrary sign that has been assigned meaning. For example, a police badge is just a piece of shiny metal, but we recognize it as a symbol of authority because of what it represents. Saussure emphasized that meaning arises from the differences between signifiers – syntagmatic and paradigmatic meanings

Charles Foster Kane. He holds a snow globe and utters the word. in the 1992 Chinese film Raise the Red Lantern. red lanterns were raised on one of the four sides of a large estate. and gives a lengthy overview of his life’s highlights. Each night a set of red lanterns was raised in one of the sides of the estate. In cinematic semiotics syntagmatic meaning is the information learned within the context of the film that makes meaning. but breaking it down with semiotics makes it a little more exciting. The red lanterns meant that the master was to spend the night with whomever lived in the side of the estate the lanterns were raised. In the next scene a newsreel announces the death of former newspaper mogul. In film school. The house in the snow globe is an iconic signifier of his childhood home. This includes any meaning that can be interpreted by the audience using universal or cultural references.Leong 2 (Chandler). This first scene means nothing to an audience new to the film. Paradigmatic meaning is the information that is brought from outside the movie (common knowledge) that makes meaning in the movie. “Rosebud” before dropping it as he suddenly lays limp dead on his bed. The word “Rosebud” is an indexical signifier which associates the word to his childhood sled. Citizen Kane. When the producer displays his . Charles Foster Kane. but as it progresses we learn of its importance through syntagmatic meaning. Inside is the silhouette the man we later recognize as the main character. cold and eerie estate called Xanadu. the study of Citizen Kane can become rather redundant. For example. Red lanterns mean nothing to the audience until they watch the film and learn what the red lanterns mean within its context. Citizen Kane opens at the gates of a massive. The old classic. In each side of the estate resided one of the four wives of the master. is a film filled with semiotics. The newsreel is playing in a small screening room full of reporters. every night.

The flashback shows a young Charles being sent away by his mother to be under the guard of Mr. Thompson leaves Xanadu and the camera shows a large room filled with paintings. As the flashback continues it shows Charles growing up.” Giving up. arrogant. Susan. In the end. to find the meaning behind Kane’s last word.Leong 3 unhappiness with the reel. He has so many of them that they have become connected to him as a compulsive hobby of sorts. Mr. Thompson then speaks to Kane’s old friends. is kept and a flashback reveals Kane’s childhood as he reads these memoirs. Thompson goes to the bank where the memoirs of Kane’s former guardian. Jerry Thompson. now a drunken singer at a bar. After this. Thatcher from childhood to adulthood. cold. Walter Parks Thatcher. Thatcher. A . statues and a collection of material things all stored away. Bernstein. no one knows the answer to Thompson’s original question: the meaning of “Rosebud. desperate for attention. An indexical signifier can be a statue. At the end of the room workers are burning Kane’s possessions and in the fire is Charles’ old childhood sled with the name Rosebud painted on it. consistently butting heads with Mr. seeking fulfillment in material things and incapable of giving love. so he could have a better life. Jedediah Leland and speaks to Susan one more time. “Rosebud. Kane travels everywhere to collect so many expensive statues that he is left with a slew of them filling up a large room in his estate. her banker. An iconic signifier in this film is the memorable film still of Kane standing in front of a gigantic poster of himself as he runs for New York state governor. but when she is uncooperative a waiter tells Thompson that he once asked her about Rosebud after Kane died but she knew nothing about it. he sends out reporter. Each interview gave a flashback of their own memories of Kane which in his later years revealed him to be selfish.” Thompson first goes to see Kane’s ex-wife.

Another symbolic signifier is of course. Our visual of Rosebud burning in the very end makes syntagmatic meaning as we finally connect the word “Rosebud” with the sled that he played with as a boy when he was at home with his family. The snow globe symbolizes the simplicity and peacefulness of home encased and treasured as a memory. During the childhood flashback. . Rosebud. This action showed Charles’ resistance to the adult life he was to live with Thatcher and an insistence to remain home continuing his innocent childhood. carefree childhood at home with his mother and father. The large room full of Kane’s material possessions represents a largely powerful man trying to fulfill his needs with the satisfaction of spending money but it later shows paradigmatic meaning that materials do not fill what only love can. Charles is delightfully playing in the snow with his sled before he had any knowledge of being taken away from his home. When he is to leave with Thatcher.Leong 4 symbolic signifier is the snow globe in the opening scene of the film. the sled. The shattering of the snow globe represents the memory of his past home shattered as he died in the home that did not make him nearly as happy. Rosebud symbolizes a time of innocence for Charles – his enjoyable. Charles angrily shoves the sled into Thatcher. His inability to love made people incapable of loving him.

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