University of Oulu

Kindness of strangers : a semiotic analysis of Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre

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Author: Fatemi, Sepehr1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Pages: 70
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : S. Fatemi, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-06-05
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Reviewer: Järvelä, Maria-Liisa
Sääskilahti, Minna
The narrative of Le Havre (2011) by Aki Kaurismäki can defamiliarize our understanding of illegal immigration in Europe. While much of the refugee debate in the media makes reference to statistics and politicians’ comments, Le Havre shows a man named Marcel when he tries to assist an underage asylum seeker, running through Europe, in reuniting with his mother in England. The impact of the film on the viewer can be considered to be in sympathy with Marcel’s cause. This research was an attempt to closely analyse this film by using social semiotics. Social semiotics would enable the viewer to talk back and question the ways in which social reality is represented, rather than only be overwhelmed by what it is. The research questions were designed in order to decide if cinema has been exploited to favour one ideology or whether the mechanisms involved in the presentation of the narrative in Le Havre have avoided political propaganda and remained faithful to realism. The study involved an initial discussion of key concepts in film studies, including those of realism, auteur, mise en scene, etc. Later, the film was objectively looked at and means of representation of filmic narrative was systematically analysed. The focus of the study was on filmic techniques and their impact on the audience’s meaning making processes. In this way, the film was initially divided into its 89 scenes. Then each scene was firstly discussed with regards to what it represents. Then, of all the scenes, those which contain an element that may attract a semiotician were detected, and the ways in which that content is shown to the audience were discussed. In arguing the potential impact of a cinematic tool on the viewer, relevant literature on visual and cinematic methods were used as reference. A careful analysis of scenes with an orientation element in them revealed that the director has been relatively faithful to realist approaches to film making. Little use of techniques was found in the film that cross the borders of simplicity in the representation of the narrative. In conclusion, Le Havre, overall, is a film that gives the viewer the choice to depend less on filmic tools but more on his/her own reading in the meaning-making of the artefact.
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