Disrupted PECMA Flows

A Cognitive Approach to the Experience of Narrative Complexity in Film

in Projections
Restricted access

Over the past two decades, Hollywood cinema has seen the proliferation of disruptive narrative techniques that were previously thought to be exclusive to the realms of (post)modern literature and art cinema. Most scholarly contributions on contemporary complex cinema have been classifications, attempting to position these films relative to the “classical” mode of narration. This article sidesteps these efforts at categorization and, by offering a cognitive approach to cinematic narrative complexity, aims to provide an overview of the mental processes that complex films elicit in their viewers. Using Torben Grodal’s PECMA flow model, we theorize how the experience of complexity arises out of a confrontation with plot devices that disrupt the embodied viewing process by breaching or subverting familiar narrative conventions. In conclusion, we suggest five different scenarios—all following from different PECMA flow disruptions—and describe how one of them can affect the experience of complex (post)classical cinema.


The Journal for Movies and Mind