It has been an accepted precept in film theory that specific stylistic features do not express specific content. Nevertheless, it is possible to find many examples in the history of film in which stylistic features do express specific content: for instance, the circular camera movement is used repeatedly to convey the feeling of a man and a woman falling in love. This raises the question of why producers and directors choose certain stylistic features to narrate certain categories of content. Through the analysis of several short film and TV clips, this article explores whether or not there are perceptual aspects related to specific stylistic features that enable them to be used for delimited narrational purposes. The article further attempts to reopen this particular stylistic debate by exploring the embodied aspects of visual perception in relation to specific stylistic features such as the circular camera movement.
These comments concern Bordwell’s explicit and implicit claims about cinematic authorship in his 1985 Narration in the Fiction Film. Distinctions are drawn between causal and attributionist conceptions of authorship, and between actualist and fictionalist views about the spectator’s attitude toward authorship. A key question concerns the autonomy or independence of a viewer’s competent uptake of story and narration, as opposed to its dependence on knowledge of authorship or authorial design. The example of cinematic quotation in Resnais’s Mon oncle d’Amérique is used to illustrate the pertinence of the latter option.
András Bálint Kovács
Narrative understanding supposes the viewer's mental activity of constructing causal links, an activity biased by emotions and other mental or psychological circumstances, making the causal links we construct while watching the film sometimes quite different from those the viewers obtain as a consequence of a thorough logical analysis of a narrative. This article argues that this is not the difference between “misunderstanding” and “adequate understanding,” but rather the fact that the viewers cannot discount emotional bias when talking about narrative causality. Because most films are made to be seen and understood after one viewing, they are meant to be understood through emotionally biased causal inference rather than by the pure analytical mind. In order to understand how emotionally biased causal thinking works, it is necessary to conduct empirical research with real audiences. Theories of narrative understanding can only be corroborated by such empirical research.
Charlotte Sun Jensen
This article investigates the film trailer in a cognitive film analytic perspective. More specifically, the focus is on how it circumvents its ontological tension between both giving and holding back its product—the film—at the same time. The hypothesis is that trailers that follow a classic genre convention seek to sell their products by condensing a range of genre traits, which arouses a specific, intense emotional experience. Most particularly, the trailer chooses to activate the main genre of the film and the corresponding range of emotions by reducing and reordering its often complex narrative. On this basis, compared to the film, the trailer may be viewed as an alternative narrative.
Book Review of Todd Berliner, Hollywood Incoherent: Narration in Seventies Cinema (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)
This article considers the writing of Dorothy Edwards (1903–1934). The uniquely strange narrative worlds of Edwards’ fictions have hitherto evaded systematic and coherent analysis. The article considers evidence from Edwards’ letters and from her works Rhapsody (1927) and Winter Sonata (1928) in order to suggest that the storyworlds are fundamentally conditioned, on the levels of both theme and narration, by Edwards’ experiences as a sufferer from depression. The article concludes with a consideration of the centrality of walking as an activity that has the potential to maintain both the existence of the storyworlds and also the mental health of both characters and author.
Narration in Comics
The modest landmark of the fifth edition of European Comic Art (ECA) entitles us to a mini-retrospective: thus far, we have devoted the journal to explorations of comic art as: innovatory medium in relation to form and subject matter (1.1); expression of national identities (1.2); associated with the development of caricature (2.1); part of a text/image current that underwent significant development in the nineteenth century (2.2). We now move on, in 3.1, to consider the internal workings of comics as an art form, and in particular the question of narration, by means of both theoretical overview and detailed examination of works that display the narrative resources of the medium in striking ways. From their earliest days, comics have been an inexhaustible source of narrative invention, as a deceptively simple mechanism – based on discontinuous frames and on interplay between text and image – has been manipulated to dazzling creative effect. The virtuosity and metanarrative awareness of practitioners, from Rodolphe Töpffer to Marc-Antoine Mathieu, have challenged critics to find theoretical discourses capable of accounting for the complexity and subtlety of comics as a narrative art form. This issue of ECA aims to take the debate forward.
Moving Media Language from a Picture Book to a Short Film
The transformation of a picture book into a film is a special case of film adaptation because this process involves inherently intermedial qualities. In media literacy terms, when viewers look at a picture book that has been made into a film, they familiarize themselves with the story's imagery and plot, which makes it easier for them to comprehend the techniques employed by the film to create meaning. The Oscar-winning short film The Lost Thing is exemplary of this, as it narrates the same story as the original picture book, dealing with social as well as existential issues. This comparative analysis focuses on the two di erent narrations of this story with regard to the literacy skills required to comprehend them.
Joseph P. Magliano and James A. Clinton
Contemporary theories of narrative comprehension assume that people build mental models for narrative experiences that are structured around situational relationships such as time, space, and causality. The dominance of this perspective in cognitive psychology arguably emerged in the mid-1990s. Bordwell’s Narration in the Fiction Film is remarkable in how well it dovetails with contemporary theory and the fact that it was written at least ten years before this theoretical perspective became dominant in the psychological literature on narrative comprehension. In this paper, we discuss the relationship and influence of Bordwell’s masterpiece of research focusing on the comprehension of narrative film.
Greg M. Smith
This article argues that an emphasis on how spectators piece together documentary structure is more useful than nonfiction film theory's focus on epistemology and categorization. By examining individual texts such as The Aristocrats, critics can develop a set of devices that provide a better explanation of documentary comprehension at the local level. As an example, this article shows how a spectatorial position as an insider in the comedy world and the device of the "conversational turn" help us both segment the documentary flow and unify it.