Recursive reflections: Types, modes, and forms of cinematic reflexivity

Dan Yacavone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter casts a critical eye on various classifications of reflexivity that have been proposed by film and media scholars over a number of decades. These center on the reflexive content of films, their self-referential communicative structures and functions, and intended effects of reflexiveness on spectators. In this context it differentiates between (self-)reflexivity and related terms/concepts—metafiction; metacinema, mise en abîme, allusion and intertextuality, self-conscious style and narration—from a twenty-first century standpoint; and outlines an alternative classification of reflexive forms in celluloid and digital cinema. The latter are distinct from specific reflexive devices (e.g., the film within the film, direct address, display of the cinematographic “apparatus”) and general modes (e.g., political, formal, ludic). As illustrated through concrete examples, the five transmedial forms posited—environmental; trans-art and intermedial; generic; creator-centered; performance-based—typically occur in complex combinations. Their identification, and the new conception of cinematic reflexivity this typology represents, aids in the analysis and interpretation of reflexive and metacinematic films and styles.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMetacinema
Subtitle of host publicationThe Form and Content of Filmic Reference and Reflexivity
EditorsDavid LaRocca
Place of PublicationNew York;Oxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)9780190095345, 9780190095352
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


  • reflexivity
  • film theory
  • Christian Metz
  • David Bordwell
  • metalepsis
  • film and philosophy
  • media studies
  • film criticism
  • film semiotics
  • myse en abyme
  • self-reflexivity
  • metacinema
  • metafiction
  • self-conscious narration
  • intertextuality
  • intermediality
  • affect


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