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August 1998, Week 4


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Dan Gribbin <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 23 Aug 1998 12:37:22 -0500
text/plain (33 lines)
Regarding the question of the relationship between unreliable narration in
a film vs. in a novel or short story, in both cases this phenomenon depends
upon the creation of an ironic destance between what the narrator tells us
and what we subsequently learn in one way or another.  The irony can be
concurrent with the narration in a film in the sense that what we are
seeing as we listen to the narrator can obviously contradict what the
narrator is saying.  This is a typical device in comedy and satire, of
course.  In more serious applications of the unreliable narrator, the irony
may depend simply upon our ignorance of certain "facts" at the time we
receive the narrative information, or it may depend upon actual deception
by the narrator.  "The Opposite of Sex" does seem to be a fertile field for
studying this question.  The added dimension in this case is that we learn
rather early in the film that the lead character and narrator is lying to
everyone.  That allows us to lend a more skeptical ear to what we hear from
her as the film progresses.  Still, some of her claims about very serious
matters take us in, it seems to me, even though we are aware of what a
manipulator she is.  I have a sense that a screen writer has to handle this
sort of thing very carefully to avoid losing the audience.  That would also
be true in a novel or short story, but a reader has the option of doubling
back a few pages without paying another admission charge to review the
early portion of the work.
  Dan Gribbin  ([log in to unmask])
  Professor of English
  Ferrum College
  Ferrum, Virginia  24088
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