Evolution has equipped us with the ability to conceive of people and their actions in hypothetical, purely fictional, and fantastic scenarios. The way we conceive of real people, the way we make sense of fictional character, and the way we process needs and desires related to other people in our fantasies are all interconnected with one another. These are all instances of blending, often based on rather minimal direct information but supported by shared character-related schemata and mental simulation, the latter typically eliciting a degree of partial identification. The structural relationships and interconnectedness between these three processes can be examined in terms of the formalist notion of motivation.
According to constructivist theory a film cues us to apply a variety of schemata in mentally constructing a narrative and the diegetic world in which it takes place. But to what extent and with what degree of precision do we mentally construct time, space, causality, and the characters when we watch a film? We are not aware of the real world and our immediate environment much in excess of what our interests, needs, and desires are in any given situation. Similarly, we do not conceive of a complete fictional world when watching a film. Rather, a film cues us to fill in to the extent and with a precision that is relevant to our attempts at making sense of what is happening, often as focalized in terms of character interest. The cueing takes place through an interplay of what Thompson (1988) has defined as the realistic and the aesthetic background construction. This article outlines how this interplay functions to override apparent discrepancies in the material on the one hand, and to produce a variety of aesthetic effects on the other hand. Von Trier's Antichrist serves as an example of how the partial blocking of the filling in function can serve intriguing aesthetic purposes.
Bioculturalist approach can be fruitfully employed to explain why fictional violence is such an integral part of both our art and entertainment. In any cultural context aggression related biological traits are controlled and shaped in order to ensure both the internal order and the security of a community. William Flesch has argued that his process is guided by the tendency to admire altruistic punishers, who without self-interest assume the task of punishing evildoers. Spectators of such actions tend to react to it emotionally, both spontaneously and via reflection, thus giving the experience both an emotional and a meta-emotional aspect. This plays an important role in relating to the ways in which resorting to violence is justified in mainstream films. This scenario has a strong emotional appeal, even if the spectator would deplore such means in real life contexts. This discrepancy emerges even more strongly in the revenge scenario, which in a fictional context can appear satisfying and empowering despite the moral qualms the spectator might have concerning the ethics of revenge. Because of the deeply ingrained cult of individuality and doubts about the efficacy of government in maintaining law and order, these narrative patterns have developed especially strongly within American popular culture. However, judging by the worldwide success of such films, their appeal is nonetheless quite universal.