Perception of Text and Cinema Through the Semiotics Theory

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The short film entitled “Love is a gift” was originally made by filmmaker Phil Beastall in 2014 depicting a young man who is shown counting down the days until Christmas ; a time associated with anticipation, gifts and joy. In this essay I will be evaluating the deployment of acts and objects which function as signs and symbols,the way in which text is presented and how so Individuals perceive text through a theory called semiotics.

The Advert starts off by playing a combined tune of angelic bells and piano keys, casting a festive spell on viewers with the knowledge that Christmas music brings nostalgia, for most a sense of happiness and unity. It is clear that Phil Beastall used this knowledge to his advantage and when he wanted to evoke a type of emotion he did exactly that.

Immediately viewers are introduced to the main character; a humble, single man living on his own.. The Christmas tree is presented through an extreme close up shot as the signifier of isolation. The 30 year old man begins to decorate his Christmas tree, a task that would usually include a collective of family members each allocated a role however this man like many people doesn’t appear to have that. A large family unit is more often than not portrayed to viewers in majority of the Christmas films for example “This Christmas”; a drama centred on the Whitefield family who although show signs of strains when secrets are revealed remain a close tight knit bond. Beastall built up the relationship between Chris and the audience very intricately in this instance particularly for single men living alone at this time.

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As the man continues counting down the days until the 25th, the subtle piano music continues also. It is once the big day arrives there is a gradual transition from the festive tune to a woman’s voice, that woman is Chris’ mother. At this point viewers learn the character’s name; suggesting the unimportance of it; because his situation is so relatable there are many people like Chris’, in many ways it’s insignificant that we know his name. The fact that a bond can be built without knowing the character completely is a technique that Beastall has used just through his use of media techniques, this links to the theory that featuring real people in real situations evokes a genuine emotional response a huge difference from flashy ads with celebrities and special effects.

The Christmas gift is seen to be the focus for a few moments as the camera zooms close, it’s the only present under the tree which is intriguing we want to know what it is, who it’s from. Such an small element yet so significant. The symbolic meaning of Christmas trees originates from the religious pagan and Christian religion where the colour green represents life, and stamina needed to endure the winter month. The tree is a metaphor for Chris’ life. Although in life people come and go the gift of love is what is more important than any material gift and this is the extremely important message that is being relayed, also the mental effort that Chris is able to sustain throughout the Christmas period every year shows great gratitude and merely inspires the audience to appreciate life and their loved ones. It is obvious that there is a present located under the tree a place people would automatically link the two objects together. The relation between the two and the occurrence is presented as Chris reveals the gift in question, it is in fact a box of Sony Walkman cassette tapes full of recordings left to the man by his late mother to listen to on Christmas day; at this moment viewers now understand how such a priceless gift can have a huge effect.

The tape plays out with echoing words; “Merry Christmas poppet. Another year has passed. I wanted to start this one by saying something I haven't said yet, which is thank you. Thank you for taking the time to remember me”, this left viewers heartfelt after intently listening to the emotional voice.”my last tape” as we hear these words we are shown the tapes from previous years. Chris’ mother’s words then begin to fade a tear then rolls down his cheek its clear it has hit him, the last time he will receive a tape hearing that comforting voice. The cinematography plays a huge role in how viewers perceive this text. The correct camera angles and techniques are necessary to demonstrate different aspects of the film setting, characters and themes that the film producer is trying to create for viewers. The significance of Camera angles is key for this advert as the location of the camera positions the viewer to understand the character shaping meaning in this visual text. The eye level angle is used throughout the transitioning scenes.

Lighting is used to capture the emotion and reflect that in many scenes the most important one when Chris has opened his gift and tears appear to roll down his cheek, this moment of innocence and vulnerability is captured with natural room lighting beaming off Chris face. From my own research on this text I found that 32 year old videographer Phil Beastall uploaded his work on Twitter in response to John Lewis’ high budget advert of £7 million they had been showcasing for Christmas 2018. In comparison to the john Lewis, Beastall had a grand total of just £50 teaching companies how to really tug on the publics heart strings by communicating to them through familiarity.

Individually people will view text differently an persons subject position influences the response they have on how something is portrayed in the media, in this instance a young male in their 30’s from south England might relate and sympathise with the character more so than a teenager living at home with his family of 10 in America for example. How texts within the media are presented depends on how we view them based on Social constructionism the theory that human development is socially situated and knowledge is constructed through an individual’s interaction with others.

The ability to create emotion and reaction is somewhat difficult especially when trying to sell me a product, Phil Beastall film maker of love is a gift displayed a variety of techniques and has successfully showcased John Lewis’ Sony cassette tape set without forcefully selling to viewers something many companies struggle to do without extreme special effects and fancy costumes. The way in which we communicate is important and this is reflected through out. Ultimately the audience learnt the profound difference a gift of no expense can have on someone’s life.

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