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The Maltese Falcon - Essay Example

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The Maltese Falcon

They are then sent home. If something should happen to one of the packages, so that it ruptures inside the "mule," then that person dies. If the "mule" tries to flee once he or she enters the country, the handler will pursue the mule to get the profit back, and to keep the mule from telling what has happened. After the process, the "mules" are shipped back home, with a good amount of cash for the dangerous trip. The poster shows Maria kneeling beneath the outstretched hand of a man, who is holding a packet of heroin out to her. The posture, however, makes it resemble a communicant receiving the wafer of Communion from a priest. The juxtaposition of sacrament with such a poisonous line of work gives the viewer a troubling impression; one might assume that the filmmaker hopes the impression would be sufficiently troubling, or at least interesting, to lure viewers in.
The common trend in semiotic analysis of film has been to look at what symbolic objects mean. What, for example, is the dual meaning behind the small bag of heroin proffered by the priest Structuralists have stopped asking a wealth of other questions that could well provide an intriguing range of responses (Wadia). A question that the structuralists would not ask, for example, would be why the context of Communion was chosen as a representation for the drug suppliers Why not make the situation look more like violent coercion Why not make the idea of the "mule" a symbolic part of the scene While some of the answers may be similar to those raised by the first question, it could also be that these questions would raise additional questions about the relationship between religion and coercion, the power that the drug lords have over life in certain parts of the world, among other notions.
The idea behind a newer form of criticism comes from Roland Barthes, one of the seminal names in all of structuralist and semiotic thought. In his essay "Change the Object Itself," he shows how tired he is of the ways in which semiotics has become an institution rather than a breath of fresh air. Semiotics has changed from a truly deconstructive force to a "discourse, stock of phrases, catechistic declaration" (Barthes, p. 166). In other words, even the idea of "deconstruction" itself has come to signify a certain set of assumptions beyond, or even completely different from, in some instances, the intention of the thinker. Rather than take apart existing myths and replace them with new ones, Barthes, writes, the semiotic idea is "to fissure the very representation of meaningnot to change or purify the symbols but to challenge the symbolic itself" (p. 167). In the particular instance of film, the cinematic image is constantly re-appropriated by the various agendas of its viewers: Marxism, feminism, postcolonialism - to the point where each film can come to serve as a grand epic for any number of groups who can find the proper imagery and symbolism in the story (Wadia). This makes the Barthesian opposition to a fixed set of meanings inside discrete systems of signification an intriguing part of film theory.
However, given the visceral symbolisms so often attached to the visual image, the task of challenging the very idea of symbolism is problematic. Barthes writes of a "third meaning" that can exist even in ...Show more


Ever since the advent of the film industry, movie posters have been an easy way for producers to inject a visceral image into the mind of the passerby, with the idea that the image would be sufficiently gripping to get enough passersby into the theater seats to make the movie profitable…
Author : cora03
The Maltese Falcon essay example
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