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Plots - Unreliable Narrator and Concept of Defamiliarization

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Again, Genette’s concept of unreliable narrator; unreliable narrator, his function is to reveal an interesting gap between appearance and reality and to show how human beings distort or conceal the latter. Several instances of unreliable narrator especially in contemporary cinema. So, narrative is a kind of a confession, but it is riddled with devious self-justification and special pleading; unreliable narrator. Now, this is a very good example of unreliable narrator. Again we go back to Kevin Spacey’s character in The Usual Suspect. Now, the entire story is told to us in flashback by Kevin Spacey, at the end of the movie when he walks off scot free, we realize that indeed he was the killer and we all get trapped by him, because the so many things; again semiotics at work. He is a cripple, what could he do, so that is the idea. And then when he walks away and walks straight, we realize that we have been taken in. And can you think of more examples? Fight club is a very good example; fight club, is he an unreliable narrator or I felt it is a very strong example of homo-diegetic narration, he cannot, he betrays his organization that is another thing; he is not fooling the audience where the unreliable narrator fools the audience and sets certain kind of puzzles with the audience or the reader, readers are not able to decipher .Perhaps, Memento could be good example of unreliable narrator. Student: Sixth Sense. Sixth Sense an excellent example of puzzle cinema and unreliable narrator, So, Genette also talks about the concept of focalization and perspective; whose point of view, through whose perspective do we watch a movie. We have already seen characterization. We have already seen his concept of time, order, frequency, duration. Now order of a narrative; of course the prime example is Pulp Fiction, but Memento is also another interesting take on, how filmmakers play around with the concept of order. Anyone here, who has not seen Memento? If you have not yet, please, I, I know Christopher Nolan is a pattern here in the, in this institute, but do watch Memento all over again. Now, what does the character do? We have been talking about character and American theoretician and novelist Henry James has written an any numbers of articles and essays on how important character is.In fact, according to Henry James, character is much more important thanthe story because the plot is character, that is what he says and character is plot.So, how do we build up a character? How does a director build up a character?And this is what Francois Jost has to say about building up of a character.“To distinguish between the relationships between how the camera shows the hero or theheroine and how the hero or the heroine is supposed to be seen; this is the buildup thatyou give, any director give to a hero or a heroine, to a character.How he is supposed to be seen;when it sees things from the position of the character, this is 'internal ocularisation'.So concept of ocularisation and focalization, they are very important in understanding narratives.When the opposite occur, whereby it sees things from the position of some other person, itbecomes external ocularisation” Now, here we are asked to see things fromthe hero’s point of view. I am very sure you know what Die Hard is all about, and thestill says it all, we are supposed to. And what are we suppose to understand by these pictures?The camera is telling us to look at the hero from a certain perspectives. What perspective is it?What is he wearing? What is the hair like? What is the look in his eye?What is he carrying with him? What kind of a hero is he? He is the one man army, heis the one man army and most heroes are supposed to be one man army, otherwise we have anotherplot like Seven where the villain is totally or completely in charge.So, again a movie like, this is just an example why Die Hard is such an interesting study of character,plot too and it is highly entertaining movie but character; it plays on the idea of thelone ranger, all American hero and that is what the still tells us.He is the lone hero.No, no, I am not talking about a specific lone ranger, hero as the lone ranger, you know someone.For example, John Wayne, most of the time he may have a supporter but it isnot that important, after all he is the one man army. Hero is basically a loner and thestory unfolds through his point of view. His masculinity is always fore-grounded.And if you look at the still, you will understand that he is an out and out macho, all powerful hero.So it is not, yesterday we were talking about Kevin Spacey and his ambiguous masculinity,sexuality; I wanted to play husband, but could not, here you have no such dilemmas.Let me take you back to Aristotle and his poetics, 4th century B.C. text; where he says,that plot or a narrative is a whole that has the beginning, middle and end.I am sure all of us here are familiar with this; plot should have a beginning, middle and an end,and that is how all stories are constructed.Viktor Shklovsky in ‘Art as Technique’a 1917 work says, that a story or a narrative can tell you about events in two different ways.One could be very a straight forward and a very literal representation; for examplewhich is called in other words, the denotation, a literal representation.To connote as we have already seen; is the symbolism attached to that,the symbolic representation of the same object.In a narrative according to Shklovsky, is the connotative code or elementwhich is more important because; it gives a poetic color and lends an imagination,a creative quality to the narrative, we are more interested in the symbolic representation of,so that is what he says. And this is the concept that I have been talking about, defamiliarization.The idea is where the ordinary is made extraordinary, not always by magical realism; a very popularliterary technique especially by Latina American writers. We are not talking about magic happeninghere, ordinary becoming extraordinary. But it is the perspective that lends that touchwhere ordinary is making to look extraordinary, the notion of seeing things through new eyes.So, we have a movie like Lost in Translation. Have you watched the movie?How many of you do not know Lost in Translation? Do not know?Please watch the movie; Bill Murray’s, directedby Sophia Coppola, Francis Coppola’s daughter. So, Lost in Translation, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson;where an American comes to which country, Japan, and looks at the new countrythrough an entirely new perspective.Roman Holiday, again the same story.How does the ordinary become extraordinary in Roman Holiday?Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck; Tara, do you know the movie?Shwetha, do you know the movie? How does ordinary become extraordinary?She is the princess who has been living in this ivory tower, that kind of a very protected life,always surrounded by bodyguards and her courtiers. One day she just decides to give herself a holidayand takes off. She is all by herself, and here she meets Gregory Peck an American journalist living in Rome.She thinks that he is not aware of her identity, so she can play the normal girl.He knows who she really is, but he goes along with her plans however naive they seem.So she looks at, so taking a scooter ride with the hero is an extraordinary event.Going to the barber and getting herself a new hair cut is an extraordinary event, whichfor any other person would not be. So, watch ‘Roman Holiday’, William Wyler, WilliamWyler is an important director for all of us, William Wyler’s ‘Roman Holiday’.And the comedy in Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier’s The Prince and the show girl,arises from the fact, that she is a showgirl; a very beautiful but very common place girl, youknow Marilyn would excellent playing such roles.And how she behaves when she is, shecomes in contact with some, someone of royal descent as played by Lawrence.So, everything becomes funny there because she looks at the ways of the court,the royalty through her perspective.So, that lends a touch of magic, something extraordinary happening.Now, we come to Vladimir Propp and his morphology of the folk tale, 1928 text.And this is something again, which you should be interested in.These are the characters he categorizes as; you have a villain, every story has a villain.You have a helper, helpercould be any helper you know villains’, heroines’ or the hero’s’, we are notinterested but there is always the helper, someone to assist; Lone ranger, has an assistant.A donor or a magician, someone who has the capacity, who has the capacity to change,to bring magic in the proceedings.Invariably female in distress.A messenger or dispatcher.You have a hero who is the real hero and you also have occasionally; occasionally you canalso have a false hero, someone who every one thinks could be a hero but finally turnsout, that he really was not. ‘Batman’ ‘The Dark Knight’, so who is the heroand who is the false hero?Student: Harvey Dent.Harvey Dent is a false hero and that point he ismade extremely clear; by the end of the Dark Knight and the beginning of the Dark Knight Rises.This is another, the key, the most seminal work on you know; this is almost like a Bibleof all is screenwriters, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).Again, he draws on a lot from mythology and literature.And Campbell’s book is dividedinto three key parts, which you can apply to some of the films you watch and we tryto do that all the time, every movie and we try to do this. The other day we were watchingwith some of my scholars, movie called Inception, yeah, and we thought, how does this fit inwith the concept of Campbell’s, the hero with the 1000 faces.So, three parts; departure,hero departs from his comforts zone,his initiation into the rituals, whatever those rituals might be,and he returns. His return or perhaps he never returns, he is caught somewhere butin the end; Inception is not very clear about.George Lucas in Star Wars takes Joseph Campbell’sbook as the template and if you look at Star Wars it has all the elements; it has all theseelements which you know, you talk about or like the way Propp describes hero, donor,dispatcher, magician, false hero, villain, helpers, damsel in distress.The Batman series is also about hero’s departure,especially Batman Begins, departure, initiation and his return.The Lord of the Rings, of course is the classic example, and the Matrix.I would like to draw your attention to this movie and watch this,and tell me how it subscribes to the idea of hero’s departure, initiation and return.So, we were talking about Vladimir Propp and morphology of folk tale.Do you think it satisfies,the movie satisfy some of the or all, rather all of the characteristic?Mention some.See this the way you apply theories to cinema. When you watch Lord of the Rings in futureplease think of Vladimir Propp, do not forget him, please think of Joseph Campbell becauseyou are doing this course, otherwise I would not make such demand on you.So, tell me, who do you find by way of characterization?Come on give me answers.Student 1: Aragon’s character begins with departure, initiation and returns.Student 2: We are talking about Vladimir Propp right?Yes, departure, initiation, return, yes there is one element but thatis also in Frodo that is also Frodo. Whose journey is it? Frodo’s journey.Lord of the Rings is an out-and-out Frodo’s journey.Then what happens to Aragorn?He is a very important, very charismatic character; I mean it is Viggo Mortensen, it does notget better than that. So, we can, we cannot just say dismiss him off, we cannot say thatViggo Mortensen is not important but he is the helper here. So very important character,an important heroic matured character, he is the helper here.Do you have a magician?You have, yes. Do you have a villain?Student: Sauron.we have. We also have an anti-hero kind of a character.Student: GollumYes, yes. So, Lord of the Rings is again completely dependenton Joseph Campbell’s and Vladimir Propp’s template.Absolutely, all these hero movies,all especially movies, which deal with the journey of the hero and his spiritual awakening,his salvation, life lessons learned, remember that sentence; you know, remember, that lifelessons learnt at the end of the journey, when it happens is always the hero bildungsromanhero’s journey, coming of age, something has been learnt.So, thank you very much, we will continue tomorrow.
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