The Sense of Film Narration

The Sense of Film Narration

The Sense of Film Narration

The Sense of Film Narration


How can a film engage a viewer's senses? How do directors combine images and sounds to create a sensuous quality in their films? What can the use of sensuous film aesthetics contribute to a film's story? The Sense of Film Narration examines films that combine different types of images and sounds in a way that brings out their sensuous qualities in an especially vivid manner. It demonstrates that a film's sensuous qualities can be intimately connected to its storytelling processes. Through close textual analysis of films such as Amores Perros, Double Take, Toy Story 2, Palindromes and Magnolia, this book highlights how films can make viewers particularly aware of their senses in order to help them understand the events, behaviours and attitudes within a film's fictional world. An insightful and thought-provoking read, The Sense of Film Narration brings a fresh perspective to film aesthetics which will be welcomed by film students and scholars.


The cover image of this book is extracted from Double Take (Grimonprez, 2009), a film that, as I will explore in Chapter 3, features a complex juxtaposition of different kinds of images: archive news recordings pitched against excerpts from Alfred Hitchcock’s feature films; original digital footage presented in grainy monochrome that cedes to specially shot images which are marked by lustrous colour; a series of coffee commercials from different eras that chart visual developments in television advertising.

The hybrid nature of Double Take’s image system and the playful character of its visual combinations constitute an aesthetic that is at some distance from the seamlessness associated with many forms of mainstream cinema.

In keeping with a number of artists’ films that rework the televisual and/ or cinematic archives, the experience Double Take offers the viewer is one involving a self-conscious apprehension of the formal distinctions between different types of images, and of the methods used to join them together: the seams are deliberately highlighted rather than obfuscated.

In the flaunting of its seams, the cover image is symptomatic of this aesthetic. The shot features Hitchcock passing himself on the street and this impossible event is manufactured by compositing together two of the director’s cameo performances from his own films. The Hitchcock further back in the frame was first seen in Stage Fright (1950) while the more youthful figure in front made his debut in Foreign Correspondent (1940). The image bears the marks of collage in a variety of ways. The Stage Fright Hitchcock appears as an oversized cut-out figure behind the shoulder of his Foreign Correspondent alter ego rather than as a character represented through a naturalistic sense of perspective. The focus of the shot operates on a principle of alternation rather than taking the much more common option of either creating an evenly focused space (through the use of deep focus) or clearly separating foreground from background (through the use of shallow focus): Foreign Correspondent Hitch, closest to the camera, is slightly out of focus; Stage Fright Hitch behind him is the element within the frame in clearest focus; the woman in middle distance is the most indistinct figure, with the bus at the very back of the frame somewhat clearer than her. Described in this way . . .

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