Bordwell & Prince: Post-Theory

There was only one point that I thought was necessary to share regarding Stephen Prince’s article on Psychoanalytic Theory which is that while I agree that psychoanalytic film theory does generalize, I do not think it was all too bad as a beginning theory that examined spectatorship. Think of feminism. Women are badly affected by classical cinema and it is important to generalize to show the severity of the issue. We have to see how people are affected collectively in order to start examining them individually. To start examining anything, we have to generalize and exaggerate which is what psychoanalytic film scholars did.

While reading David Bordwell’s article on contemporary film studies, I had the idea of placement in mind and whether the viewer is aware of it or not. He mentions a few times that viewers understand films and he uses the analogy of driving down the highway and seeing a man opening the trunk of a car and immediately assuming that the man is the driver of the car and is getting a tool from the trunk. We do not suspect anything else. He says that if we see that in a film, we would assume the same thing. This is where I asked myself if there is a difference in how we view real-life and film. Would we not be aware of placement in films? Should we not suspect some relevance of the man to the film’s story? Bordwell says that you would have to be an experienced movie-goer who has learned the stylistic and writing conventions of a certain genre. From that I realized that even though we are active viewers rather than passive, we are still encapsulated by film and therefore we treat it like anything that happens in our everyday lives.

One difference between life and films though is that films have the ability to seem objective with things like narration. Emphasis on seems. Narration can act like the voice of God sometimes and as Bordwell said, “every narration harbors secrets.” This is how the filmmaker leads us to believe certain things in certain moments. Like in Mildred Pierce, we begin the film believing Mildred is the killer then Bert and then Mildred but then again she is in love with Monte. In short, film is an illusion of objectivity that real life is not.



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