Puzzle films like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) present challenges not only for viewers, but also for scientists seeking to understand brain functions such as memory formation, because these films deliberately scramble the temporal and spatial contexts that viewers normally rely on to create mental narratives and to form episodic memories. The strategic shuffling of multiple plotlines and chronologies in Arrival ultimately builds to an illusion of clairvoyance in the viewer, the imaged sensation of being able to see into the future, alongside the protagonist, Louise Banks. In order to create this “special effect” within viewers’ memories—a false memory of the narrative’s future—Villeneuve seeds the film with key pieces of information that viewers must hold in memory before ultimately solving the puzzle at the end and enjoying a special form of catharsis in the process.
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Episodic Memory and Mnemonic Aids in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival
Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski
Value-Maximizing Interpretations of Withnail and I
In this article, I want to consider two interpretations of the film Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987), one according to which the title character is a rogue and the other according to which he is a lover. I argue that both interpretations are supported by the text and note that, insofar as an intentionalist approach to interpretation is adopted, the interpretation according to which Withnail is a rogue is correct. Nevertheless, I argue that it is a better film—both morally and aesthetically—on the latter interpretation and, hence, that if one adopts a value-maximizing approach to interpretation, one ought to accept this interpretation. Finally, I argue that insofar as viewers are interested in getting other people to admire the film, they ought to adopt the value-maximizing approach and, as a result, endorse the interpretation according to which Withnail is a lover.
Sermin Ildirar and Louise Ewing
Researchers have recently suggested that historically mixed findings in studies of the Kuleshov effect (a classic film editing–related phenomenon whereby meaning is extracted from the interaction of sequential camera shots) might reflect differences in the relative sophistication of early versus modern cinema audiences. Relative to experienced audiences, first-time film viewers might be less predisposed and/or able to forge the required conceptual and perceptual links between the edited shots in order to demonstrate the effect. This article recreates the conditions that traditionally elicit this effect (whereby a neutral face comes to be perceived as expressive after being juxtaposed with independent images: a bowl of soup, a gravestone, a child playing) to directly compare “continuity” perception in first-time and more experienced film viewers. Results confirm the presence of the Kuleshov effect for experienced viewers (explicitly only in the sadness condition) but not the first-time viewers, who failed to perceive continuity between the shots.
The first thing I would like to do in my capacity as the new editor of Projections is to warmly thank the outgoing editor, Stephen Prince, for his outstanding stewardship of the journal over the past six years. Already a success when Stephen took over in 2012, Projections has only improved since then. It has been a great pleasure for me to work with Stephen as one of the associate editors over the past few years, and I am delighted that Stephen will remain involved with the journal in some capacity, since he has recently been elected the new president of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI).
A Cognitive Approach to the Experience of Narrative Complexity in Film
Veerle Ros and Miklós Kiss
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.
Eisenstein’s Attractions, Mirror Neurons, and Contemporary Action Cinema
This article investigates the concept of cinematic attractions through an analysis of current research on mirror neurons. It suggests that when developing his conception of attractions, Sergei Eisenstein isolated the effect of visceral spectatorship, which today’s science associates with mirror neurons. The involuntary nature of some of Eisenstein’s attractions helps to dissociate them from Tom Gunning’s later conception of the cinema of attractions. Whereas Gunning’s attractions targeted viewers’ conscious engagement, Eisenstein’s attractions tapped into preconscious and automatic responses. Moreover, while Gunning contrasted the cinema of attractions with the cinema of narrative integration, Eisenstein’s attractions were compatible with narrative. Eisenstein’s attractions were a closer precursor to the contemporary impact aesthetic than Gunning’s cinema of spectacle and display, and the concept of attractions, returned to its original sense and paired with the literature on mirroring, may better explain the functions and effects of contemporary action cinema.
Brenden Rooney, Hanna Kubicka, Carl Plantinga, James Kendrick and Johannes Riis
Jeffrey M. Zacks, Flicker: Your Brain on Movies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 360 pp., $29.95 (hardback). ISBN: 978-0-19998-287-5.
Margrethe Bruun Vaage, The Antihero in American Television (New York: Routledge, 2016), xx + 206 pp., $148 (hardback). ISBN: 978-1-13888-597-4.
Robert Sinnerbrink, Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience through Film (London: Routledge, 2016), x + 216 pp., $49.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-13882- 616-8, $145 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-13882-615-1.
Henry Bacon, The Fascination of Film Violence (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), vii + 227 pp., $95 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-137-47644-9.
Aaron Taylor, ed., Theorizing Film Acting (London: Routledge, 2012), 316 pp., $145 (hardback), ISBN: 978-0-41550-951-0.
Gender Nonconformity in Middle-Grade Fiction
In this article I use four middle-grade novels to query the relationship between gendered forms of childhood and gender nonconformity in tweens. For the young characters in these novels, objects and spaces of gender enfranchisement— including gendered forms of childhood—are often out of reach. Using conceptual tools such as the orientation of objects, queer futures, and the transgender gaze, this work examines the ways in which these novels narrate their main characters’ yearning for things that will make their gender identities legible, and how they, as agentic subjects, attempt to take revenge on the rules and structures of gender normativity.
A Bikoist Challenge To Professor Xolela Mangcu
Professor Xolela Mangcu argues in his article ‘Whites Can Be Black’ that Steve Biko’s philosophy of Black Consciousness would support the thesis that white people can become black. In this article I argue that this thesis is incongruent with the articulation of Black Consciousness in Biko’s book of collected writings, I Write What I Like. I show that, for Biko, Black Consciousness is possible only in the context of a non-white person’s experience of white racism that is not only a material experience but also a psychological experience based on the racist claim that there is a hierarchy of race. I contend that a correct analysis of Biko’s writings would show that white people self-identifying as Politically Black are acting from bad faith that results from a flight from the responsibility that accompanies their facticity.
Gregory Doran’s Henriad
This article studies ‘King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings’, the RSC’s recent four-play Henriad directed by Gregory Doran and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in April 2016. In keeping with Doran’s directorial style, the cycle was conspicuously lean on concept, offering few moments of design-driven staging and instead spotlighting character and ensemble acting. The cycle thus presents an opportunity for exploring some of the claims of character criticism, which has recently made something of a comeback in Shakespeare studies. Combining the perspectives of performance theorists, theatre practitioners and literary scholars, character criticism describes dramatic character as a phenomenon constituted through the cooperation of text and body. Thinking about Doran’s Henriad in these terms not only highlights the achievements and flaws of ‘King and Country’ but discloses Shakespeare’s diverse mechanisms for constructing theatrical kings.