Graham Heys requests:
"Lately, I have been wriggling with the concept of an unreliable narrator.
Specifically what precisely constitutes one? In The Usual Suspects, Verbal
Kint is clearly an unreliable narrator, as his narrative is exposed as false
in the film; but does an unreliable narrator have to be foregrounded as
such? For example, in Melville's top gangster hat movie Le Doulos, Silien
(Jean-Paul Belmondo) gives an explanation of events which may be considered
to be highly dubious but which is nevertheless neither exposed nor countered
in the film. Do both of these narrators qualify as 'unreliable', despite
their differences? Can anyone point me towards other films or articles , , , "
This is a complex subject, which depends in part on how you define "narrator"
to begin with. Is the narrator only to be considered a character in the
film? What level of "telling" is involved in the unreliability? Is the
unreliability an act of deliberate deception, or is the narrator-character
unaware of his/her own self-deception? And so on.
Two positions on these issues are staked out by David Bordwell in NARRATION
IN THE FICTION FILM and by Seymour Chatman in STORY AND DISCOURSE and COMING
TO TERMS. Although I think their differences are ultimately grounded in
rhetorical figures, they carry on a partial debate with each other in these
At least they should give a good sense of the scope of the issue and, of
course, they refer to a number of films.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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