On the concept of the deceptive trailer: Trailer as paratext and multimodal model of film

  • Martin Oja Department of Semiotics University of Tartu Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
Keywords: film trailers, semiotic models, dominant, multimodality, paratext, deceptive marketing


The goal of the article is to contribute to the basic framework of the semiotic study of film trailers, approaching the trailer as a model of film. Discussing the signifying relations between the trailer and the film, I clarify mechanisms through which meta- or paratexts model their source texts and shape their reception. As examples, two cases in which trailers appear to be deceptive about the film’s genre are closely looked upon as the multimodal construction of the trailers of Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s Birdman and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives is analysed. Following Lisa Kernan and Keith Johnston, the film’s genre is seen as the central type of information communicated by the trailer. In this context, genre is understood as dominant in the sense of Roman Jakobson. I propose dominant as the crucial concept: examining incoherences between the dominants of the film and its trailer makes it possible to conduct a closer analysis of the misleading model-making and to predict possible disappointment in the viewing experience.


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