Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Iconography Associated with the Thriller Genre

As part of our allocated roles within our group, another of my tasks was to research into iconography associated with the thriller genre. Iconography simply means symbolic representations, which often has a conventional meaning attached to an image or object. Thrillers are easy to analyse because they often have various pieces of iconography associated with them. Iconography is very important as it is part of the mise-en-scene and therefore helps to construct certain messages for the audience.


Knives are a typical symbol associated with a thriller as they have connotations of blood, death, pain and brutality. A typical representation of this would be in the famous knife scene from Hitchcock's film 'Psycho'. Knives are often used to show that somebody is going to get killed and thus it acts a common device to keep the audience engaged.


Silhouettes and shadows are what give a thriller the enigma and mystery for the audience. Shadows are a common piece of iconography associated with the thriller genre because they build up fear in the audience, by instigating that the protagonist is being watch by a human being or some kind of animal/monster. The protagonist is often oblivious to this but can often sense that something isn't right, which leads them on their journey. They often induce thoughts of fear and darkness for the audience as well as giving them clues and they ask questions out of suspense. A character with a silhouette is most likely to be the antagonist, which usually isn't revealed until the end of the film.

Confined spaces:

The use of confined spaces in a thriller also makes the audience feels as though they are too trapped. Being in a confined space often leads the protagonist to start breathing heavily and panting to inform how they are trapped and cannot escape, or it often leads to the start of their struggle as they try to break free.


Woods are locations often used for thrillers. This is because they create a sense of being lost as the characters find themselves tyring to figure out how to escape. Woods are often isolated too, which creates a sense of vulnerability and it seems inevitable that the characters will ever find any help. There may be one house in the woods which often turns out to be the antagonist.

Running water:

Running water is often a symbol of death  as it suggests the draining of life or it is often associated with blood  dripping and suggests that the characters are in danger.

Street lamps:

Street lights at night are often used in thrillers to keep the emphasis and focus on the protagonist and the fact that there is almost complete darkness surrounding them, apart from the spotlight from the lamp. This further accentuates the fact that the protagonist is alone in the dark and creates fear for the audience as they do not know what might be underlying in the darkness and therefore a tense atmosphere is created.

Bars on windows and fences:

Bars on windows are used to show imprisonment and isolation, which links to the conventional thriller.  Fences consisting of razor barbed wire also suggest that the characters are imprisoned and have no way of getting out which shows how they are detached from the outside world and therefore conforms to the convention of isolation in thrillers.


Psychological thrillers often take place in a city which brings all of the drama closer to home. This often gives a sense of reality for the audience.

After conducting all of this research, I made a collage to present my findings:

(you can click on the image to enlarge it)

No comments:

Post a Comment