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.