Film and the Imagined Image

Sarah Cooper

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A study of how films prompt spectators to create images in the mind

From documentary to art-house cinema – and from an abundance of onscreen images to their complete absence – films that experiment variously with narration, voice-over and soundscapes do not only engage viewers’ thoughts and senses. They also make an appeal to visualise more than is perceptible on screen.

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Part I: Dual Vision

1. Seeing Pictures

2. Feeling Pictures

Part II: Making Mental Motion Pictures

3. Layering

4. Volumising

5. Supplementing

6. Reshaping

7. Erasing

Conclusion: Broadening Out





Film and the Imagined Image is an impressive and meticulous study of the ways in which film prompts the spectator to form mental images. An extremely innovative work that fleshes out an under-theorised line of inquiry into the spectatorship of film [...] an immensely astute and thorough exploration of the ‘how’ of mental imagery in the process of watching film.

Aldo Kempen, Studies in European Cinema

In this elegantly argued book, Cooper interrogates the ways in which movies use the viewer's image bank of memories, dreams, and associations to co-create the film that appears on the screen. Beautifully written, with numerous examples from a wide range of films, this is an engaging but challenging book.

G. A. Foster, CHOICE
Cooper dives into an exploration of how cinematic narration can prompt spectators to form pictures in their minds beyond what is shown on screen. This monograph achieves remarkable clarity in its central idea that the activity of imagining is bound inextricably to perception and that the mental visual images formed by the audience both depend on and are independent from the images on screen.
Giulia Rho, Film-Philosophy

[...] Cooper permeates our imaginations and provides us with not only a voice of kinship in our filmic imaginings but also a set of concepts that help us to understand how we generate other images when we experience images on screen. [...] Cooper achieves something remarkably rare in an academic monograph: she helps us understand why we see other images in our minds when we look at the images on a screen. This book speaks directly to your imagination and your personal experience of viewing and imagining, in an intimate and reciprocal relationship, and actively propels the reader into a newly nuanced realm of understanding.

Lucy Bolton, Queen Mary University of London, Projections 15.3

It is rare to come across a book which combines rigorous scholarship with love for film as powerfully as this; rarer still to read a book which changes the way you watch, think about, and enjoy cinema. This is a remarkable, unforgettable work which places imagination at the heart of our experience of film.

Professor Colin Davis, Royal Holloway, University of London
Sarah Cooper is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. Her books include The Soul of Film Theory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Chris Marker (Manchester University Press, 2008), and Selfless Cinema? Ethics and French Documentary (2006).

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