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Metaphor Through Sequence

by Jeremy Butler

One method for generating metaphors is through a sequence of images—much as Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein theorized 90 years ago. By bringing two or more images together in sequence, a filmmaker can imply that one image should be compared with the other and that there are similarities between them. A staunch socialist and revolutionary, Eisenstein advocated the use of visual metaphor or, as he called it, intellectual montage, for political causes. In the instance of his film Strike, he intercut shots of heroic striking workers being beaten by police with shots of a bull being slaughtered (see The metaphoric meaning is clear: strikers are cattle. And, further, it graphically argues that a gross injustice is being done.

Advertisers have usurped Eisenstein’s principle to sell commodities. This commercial for an Italian car, the Fiat 500 Arbarth, contains a visual metaphor to communicate the idea that the car is equivalent to a sexually attractive woman. It achieves this with no verbal cues--or, at least, very few in English. An attractive woman flirts aggressively with a man on the street, speaking only Italian. The commercial cuts from a shot of her pulling him toward her to a close-up of him preparing to kiss her. The next shot is where the metaphor is introduced as we see a wider shot of the man, his lips still puckered, but the woman has been replaced by the Fiat 500 Arbarth. Nothing in the dialogue explicitly states that the car's allure is equivalent to the woman's sexual allure. The connection between the two is accomplished solely through the order of the images.

After a few more shots of the car, English narration begins, "The Fiat 500 Abarth. You'll never forget the first time you see one." Text appears to reinforce this message and the commercial ends with a close of the man, framed by the window of the car. There is no other narration or dialogue. The message has to be carried exclusively by the images and their sequence.


Metaphor in TV Commercials: Fiat 500 Abarth

A commercial for the Fiat 550 Abarth uses metaphoric sex to sell cars.

from Fiat 500 Abarth Commercial (2012)
Creator: Fiat
Posted by Jeremy Butler