Many independent films getting mainstream release and some big budget Hollywood films are using non-linear narratives in service of stories about time travel and movement between alternate realities
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The surge of mainstream films comprising complex narratives has been one of the most fascinating developments that have occurred in the film industry in the past decade. Consider Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry, Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino, or Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu, for instance.
Each of these technocrats is analyzed by David (1987) who observes that they tend to ask much more from their audiences by employing certain narratives. This is much more than the Hollywood film productions, which critically and commercially became more successful. Another film with controversy is Memento (2000) by Christopher Nolan. Although designed as a small budget film, Memento has managed to draw fame as a highly narrative film structure.
This set of trends has aroused eyebrows from scholars in the early 20th Century prompting them to raise unique set of questions. These are questions of categorization: Do these art films cross over into the main stream, or do they represent something else? If so, what do they represent? Do these films represent variations on a theme or a new form of cinema?
Since its inception, film has always been seen as part of cultural activity with the capacity to transcend culture. The mode of fascination it creates is readily accessible and engages the audience in ways independent of their linguistics.
Throughout the years, Hill and Gibson noted that the world’s culture and history have comprised much of the film with its purpose varying from entertainment tool to a campaign tool that raises awareness of certain issues in society (Buckland 2009). The catch phrase in the movie industry seems to be ‘indie films’ at the moment due to numerous changes in technology.
It is difficult to classify films such as Memento (2000) by Christopher Nolan or Eternal Sunshine (Laass 2008). Though a small-budget narrative, Memento is a highly narrative structure that is both confusing and quite radical.
It is an independent film with its radicalism which is focused on one of the Hollywood’s most useful action-film tropes that are based on the rape-revenge narrative. This structure has been an idolized means of justifying the American violence from the reign of John Ford’s westerns to the recent George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ (Bordwell 2006).
It is used in the film with an objective of closely aligning the audience with a serial killer. This serial killer, with personal conviction, wilfully deceives himself aiming at committing a cold-blooded murder. Memento involves the audience into a dubious activity of its character by turning the “the narrative of rape-revenge upside down”. It seems closer to the counter-cinema of Jean-Luc Godard upon critical analysis.
This is more than the Hollywood genre Cinema, yet the producers spend close to twenty-five million US dollars at the US box office alone (Bordwell 2006). In addition, Bordwell argues that Mementos appeal has been due to its continuous and excessive redundancy (2006). It tends to adhere to a key classical Hollywood style conventions. This is seen in the way it resolves the enigmas it raises.
Another piece of art by Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is considered to be also challenging. Unlike the writers, analysts like Spike Jonze (2002) note that Kaufman’s work is directly involved into the development of the Hollywood fiction, breaking away from the mainstream movies (as cited in Bordwell, 2006).
Jonze notes that such a presentation finally ends up lapsing into Hollywood style known as the farcical parody (Bordwell, 2006). The structure that Eternal Sunshine presents to its audience is a romantic structure involving a classical boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, and boy-gets-girl (Jess-Cook, 2010). It offers the viewers a conventional happy ending that is expected from a romantic movie.
Since the inception of various movie styles, the audience has always maintained positive minds expecting the movie to end up in their favour. The most fascinating movie is the Eternal Sunshine whose happy ending makes the optimistic audience feel rather uncomfortable.
This destroys the “thematic core of the genre itself: the idea that these two lovers are made for each other and that they will, as a result, live happily ever after” (Michel de Certeau, 1984). Both films tend to “subvert the possible ideological and structural norms of the Americans’ mainstream cinema in which they operate within” (Bordwell, 1987).
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Ideologically, they violate the norms of their perspective genres, and structurally they violate the long standing continuity style. Violence is justified, as long as it is pursued through acceptable actions, while Eternal Sunshine rejects the “true love overcomes obstacles”, the notion of most romantic films.
They both do this by providing the resolution expected by the audience at the end of a play or movie. The question is again raised as follows: Where do these films fit in the discussions that have shaped film studies in the previous decades? What are these films?
Bordwell (2006) suggests the idea that these types of films are no more different than the classical Hollywood narrative. However, their complex structures make them different from Hollywood narrative. This further affirms the triumph and genius of the Hollywood system (Benjamin, 1999). In order to provide the argument, the critic must, of course, ignore such aspects of the film if those aspects do not fit in the classical narrative structure.
Bulkland (2009), by contrast, offers something that is less classical. In his collection of Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema, he presents a number of interesting perspectives on what is new in his collection to the audience.
Most of these producers have used editing or montage technology to create fake realities. Sketching the archaeology of the technologies of simulating has been used by theoreticians to distinguish between many kinds of montage presented by these artists, leading to digital composition. They use temporal montage to distinguish between two separate and consecutive moments in time or montage within a shot, which is aimed at separating forms that are contingent parts of a single image.
Film can overcome its indexical nature through a temporal montage. This would present a viewer with objects that have never existed at any point in life (Hollander, 1991). If we ever exemplify MTV in modern visual culture, it can be thought of a mannerist stage of cinema utilizing its perfected techniques of cinematography.
How do we give birth to a movie? Cameron shows us a man with a movie camera on the top of a moving automobile. Deleuse (2004) observes that this basic narrative concept has been developed into a camera moving in space, recording anything that passes its way, a quintessential modern way of movie making. Such developments require enormous budgets to ensure clarity and quality movie for the audience, as supported by Hatman and Werneke (1996).
Stewart (1998) points out that spatial montage is used to represent an alternative to the well-known temporal cinematic montage. It replaces its traditional sequential mode with a modern spatial one. Similar principles gave rise to computer programming that breaks down tasks into a series of elemental operation as provided by Manuela (2007).
It would be worth noting that the principle of variability is used to exemplify how changes in the media technologies are correlated with various changes in the social arena. In the current age, 21st Century, every citizen can develop his own lifestyle and well suiting ideology from a various available large, but finite number of alternatives. This would avoid forcing the audience from consuming unnecessary jargon from scrupulous producers.
Herz (1997) noted that making a choice involves moral responsibility from the audience. Therefore, the audience needs freedom to make choices through an interactive film making process. The audience should be given the freedom to make a character’s death persuasive and shapely, not disjunctive and blunt. The audience should also be left to think over the unthinkable without suffering. According to Laass (2008), these bring the need for alternative realities.
To define various concepts that tend to draw the boundary between human nature and technology in the twenty first century, Cameron equates nature with spatial distance between the observers and the observed (Laass, 2008). Benjamin (1999) sees technology breaking the distance barriers.
He makes us understand the long standing traditional effects of modern media technologies that cause the elimination of spatial distance, a component that is of an utmost importance to the writer as noted by Hollander (1991). This is what makes Cameron argue that temporary narrative, as noted above, is the mode in which the audience finds the contemporary cycle operating in form of complex narrative.
The film industry has grown beyond geographical boundaries. It is never just the landscape that one views when viewing good cinema. Analysts take in the metaphors and symbols that the landscapes stand for. On the one hand, the open spaces and comforting sight of the red mesas of the Memento bring positive feelings of the audience environment. It is a welcome sight that leaves the viewers without apprehension.
The paper also looks at the history of camera and movies. The explanation behind it starts from a man on an automobile recording what passed in front of him. Charlie Kaufman’s work is seen to be challenging despite having a romantic structure. It only leaves the analyst wondering about the subversive effects of the films on the ideological and structural norms of the America’s mainstream cinema.
The most notable technology that has been highlighted is the montage. This technology is used by the movie producers to create fake realities. It is from this development that Michel de Certeau brings out the possibility of individual fictionalizing of the movie. This technology gives him freedom to include what characters into the movie. Michel further notes that this is the way a narrative should be seen by another person. It has to be produced from an original script of mind.
Benjamin, W 1999, On some motives in Baudelaire, in Illuminations, Hannah Arendt, Schochen Books, New York.
Bordwell, D 1987, Classical Hollywood film, In Philip Rosen, Narrative, apparatus, ideology: A film theory reader, Columbia University Press, Columbia.
Bordwell, D 2006, The way Hollywood tells it, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Buckland, W. (ed.) 2009, Puzzle films: Complex storytelling in contemporary cinema, Blackwell Publishing, Malden.
Deleuse, G 2004, Cinema, University of Minessota Press, Minneapolis.
Hatman, J. and Werneke, J 1996, The VRML 2.0 handbook reading, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Mass.
Hertz, J. C 1997, Joystick Nation, Little, Brown and Company, Boston.
Hollander, A 1991, Moving pictures, Harvard University Press, Harvard.
Jess-Cook, C 2010, ‘Narrative and Mediatized Memory in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, Scope, Issue 8, University of Nottingham, (online journal).
Laass, E 2008, Broken taboos, subjective truths: Forms and functions of unreliable narration in contemporary American cinema, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier. New York.
Manuela, A 2007, Jeffrew shaw – a User’s manual, ZKM, Kalsuhe, Germany.
Michel de Certeau 1984, The practice of everyday life, trans. Steven Rendall Berkely, University of California Press.
Stewart, B 1998, The media lab, Penguin Books, New York.