I had a nightmare with Fabula and Syuzhet

Our friend Bordwell and his extensive theoretical ramblings gets to me. It is very hard for me to follow his infinite list of terms. Now , I can breath and proceed with my post.

Einstein discovered to our happiness and disgrace the relativity of time and space, and film is the most effective medium to portray this. We can get an objective or/and subjective depiction of space. We can also experience the same event and space in different ways depending on how it is presented.   Sometimes like in Elephant or Sleep the space gives us nothing about the characters but confronts us with the fictional world and obliges us to observe it.

But how is this handling of time in film different to that of literature? What makes film a unique medium?

Let us not consider all films as film. Many films use space and time exactly like literature does. Bordwell points out righteously the difference between art cinema and Hollywood narrative. He states that Hollywood use of space usually cues the viewer to construct a fictional world. This is linked to what literature does. Like Bridgeman explains novel uses space to depict the perception of a character, this gives us an insight in the fictional world as perceived by the character. We contruct the fictional world according to the character’s or an objective PV, but we construct a fictional world with a set space and time. On the other hand, art cinema disappoints the viewer’s expectations and many times distorts space and time, until the viewer cannot create a fictional world. The element of surprise can be there in Hollywood narrative and in literature too, when we encounter unreliable narrators who give misleading information about the fictional world. However when space depicts the perspective of a character is still linked to the fictional world.

Different from literature, film gives birth to a completely new realm of space and time beyond that of the fictional world. In his analysis of The Spider’s Stratagem, Bordwell sketches how confused the viewer can be by the discontinuity of space and actions in the sequence where the woman is arranging the flowers. Let us not get him wrong this continuity is not discontiguity. But it is a continuity, which makes the viewer unsure of how to construct the fictional world. Is it a revelation of the charaters’ psyche? Bordwell argues no, it can’t be if we analyze camera angles. It is a portrayal of the relativity of space and time beyond the fabula.  This is what makes film a special medium. Film creates it’s own space and time without needing to reference the fabula, the fictional world, or the syuzhet

Obviously Bordwell gives more emphasis to distortions of space like that in Sunrise, when he describes the walking sequence. Here he argues that the self-conscious creation of space serves the narration.

I consider that the soul of film is its faculty to manipulate time and space beyond the fabula, with no intention of being subservient to the plot or the syuzhet but creating a statement about time and space in itself. Film is about movement and not necessarily about telling a story.

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