One particular emotion that film and television can elicit is empathy: the ability to share the emotions of another person, to imaginatively put yourself in their shoes.
Screen media can tap into our capacity for empathy through a variety of techniques: for example, music can express a character’s emotional state; an actor can wordlessly convey their character’s emotions through facial expressions or gestures; a screenplay may use voice-over narration to give the audience privileged access to a character’s internal thoughts; or the director may externalise a character’s emotions through their choices of lighting and camera shots (eg. handheld ‘shaky’ camera work that mimics the character’s agitated emotional state).
The significance of this empathetic relationship between the character on screen and the viewer lies in its ability to help us see the world from a perspective that may be different from our own.
In this way, empathy provides insight and
can lead to greater understanding.
by Dr Fincina Hopgood
School of Culture and Communication
The University of Melbourne