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July 2003, Week 4


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 28 Jul 2003 14:23:16 -0500
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In COMING TO TERMS, Seymour Chatman proposed the terms "slant" and
"filter" as substitutes for "point of view."  (See Chapter 9)

"Slant" is "the narrator's attitudes and other mental nuances
appropriate to the report function of discourse" while "filter" refers
to "the much wider range of mental activity experienced by characters in
the story world--perceptions, cognitions, emotions . . . "  To
paraphrase and oversimplify, the former term deals with ideology and
belief while the latter refers to physical and mental perceptions.
Chatman would include the "seamless" style of Hollywood editing as a
function of narrative "slant" in film.  "Filter," though is a more
all-encompassing term than "point of view," which would be limited to
subjective shots or something like them.

Extrapolating from the example below, it would seem that the use of that
kind of an otherwise marginal filter character is a means of giving a
particular slant to the overall film narration.  In addition, I'd
recommend looking at David Bordwell's NARRATION IN THE FICTION FILM
(although he and Chatman quarrel about whether there can be a cinematic
"narrator" as such).  Chatman's take on Wayne Booth's concept of the
"unreliable narrator" in STORY AND DISCOURSE is also useful.

Another way of thinking about the subject might be to look at
revisionary works that have taken minor characters as the main ones in
Shakespeare or other authors.  ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD is
an obvious example.

Don Larsson

"Only connect"  --E.M. Forster
Donald F. Larsson
Department of English, AH 230
Minnesota State U, Mankato (56001)
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-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Friedman [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2003 8:27 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Point of view

        Please entertain a request for guidance from a new member of the
list.  For many years, I have considered myself a Shakespearean
performance critic, but recently my interest has shifted from
Shakespeare on stage to Shakespeare on the screen.  I am not as well
versed in film theory as I would like to be, and I find myself in need
of advice about where to go to read more about a particular aspect of
point of view in cinema.
        My current scholarly project examines two recent Shakespeare
films in which the director takes a minor character in the play and
expands that figure's part in the film to the extent that the audience,
in the words of one of the directors, "sees the action through his
eyes."  The director does not mean this comment literally (the film
employs point of view shots only sparingly), but rather, the director
seems to imply that the experience of the story is filtered through the
consciousness of this marginally involved character, who is frequently
shown watching and reacting silently to the events of the narrative.  I
would prefer to use accepted film terminology to refer to this figure,
if such terms exist, and I would also like to read as much as I can
about point of view in film that might relate to this situation.
        So far, my efforts at scanning bibliographies in textbooks and
critical works on film have not produced any titles that seem
promising.  Can anyone suggest any books or articles in which I might
find treatments of such a figure or the concept of point of view in
general?  Thanks in advance for your help.
Michael D. Friedman
University of Scranton
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