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Beside “real” time in the theatre, two timelines occur when watching a film: the “narrative timeline” (how the story progresses from moment to moment) and the “recursive” timeline, by which is meant the audience’s absorption of motives, time-line manipulation, recursive understanding of previous scenes, etc.—the “work” that the audience does as it experiences the film. Because watching a film takes place in “our own time” (that actual time in the theatre), a cinema differs from, say, the novel from which was adapted,in that it can’t be “paused” or put down for a day or two (notwithstanding Netflix); consequently, the driving narrative—the most immediate and powerful “timeline”--gains precedence over, say, the character development, the language tricks, the cinematography, the special effects, etc. Film is the most manipulative of art forms in this respect, because the editor of the film can present the “facts” of the film in any order he/she wants, knowing that part of the experience of seeing a film is piecing the narrative back together. (It is interesting, too, that a film is not recorded in narrative order.) It could be said that what happens (the film’s narrative) is like a jigsaw picture--it is the putting the pieces together that is the pleasurable activity, not necessarily the pretty picture that results.
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