Trope (cinema)

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A "Mexican standoff" is a common film trope.

In cinema, a trope is what The Art Direction Handbook for Film defines as "a universally identified image imbued with several layers of contextual meaning creating a new visual metaphor".[1] It is an element of film semiology and connects between denotation and connotation. Films reproduce tropes of other arts and also make tropes of their own.[2] George Bluestone wrote in Novels Into Film that in producing adaptations, film tropes are "enormously limited" compared to literary tropes. Bluestone said, "[A literary trope] is a way... of packed symbolic thinking which is specific to imaginative rather than to visual activity... [when] converted into a literal image, the metaphor would seem absurd."[3]

A common thematic trope is the rise and fall of a mobster in a classic gangster film. The film genre also often features the sartorial trope of a rising gangster buying new clothes.[4]


  1. ^ Rizzo, Michael (2014). The Art Direction Handbook for Film (2nd ed.). Focal Press. p. 513. ISBN 978-0-415-84279-2. 
  2. ^ Monaco, James (1981). How to Read a Film: The Art, Technology, Language, History, and Theory of Film and Media. Oxford University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-19-502802-7. 
  3. ^ Bluestone, George (1957). Novels Into Film. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-8018-7386-7. 
  4. ^ McDonald, Tamar Jeffers. Hollywood Catwalk: Exploring Costume and Transformation in American Film. I.B. Tauris. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84885-040-8. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ehrat, Johannes (2005). Cinema and Semiotic: Pierce and Film Aesthetics, Narration, and Representation. Toronto Studies in Semiotics and Communication (2nd ed.). University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-3912-5.