Chapter 6. Emotion and empathy in Martin Scorsese’s <i>Goodfellas</i>

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This chapter examines how the emotion fear is generated through the linguistic, paralinguistic and kinesic actions of multiple characters in the &#8220;funny guy&#8221; scene from Martin Scorsese&#8217;s 1990 film Goodfellas. The scene in question takes place in The Bamboo Lounge restaurant-bar and features Tommy, a mafioso, relating a humorous story to his compatriots. Henry, a friend of Tommy&#8217;s, laughs and compliments Tommy on his story. Tommy reacts surprisingly badly to this and begins to behave in a threatening manner. Henry displays a number of traits that suggest he is frightened by Tommy&#8217;s outburst and afraid of what it might lead to. We use insights from im/politeness theory, theories of characterisation and work on multimodal stylistics in order to account for how we recognise Henry&#8217;s fear in this scene. We claim that the interplay between linguistic and non-linguistic elements is essential for conveying Henry&#8217;s fear and invoking this emotion in the viewing audience. Our analysis reveals the necessity of analysing both the linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of film, and we propose this as a methodological necessity for future work in Film Studies, Cultural Studies and some branches of Stylistics.


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