We study long form films here, because this mature and complex system depends on the very narrative dynamics we are looking for. One thing at work is how the form, and the accompanying dynamics handle how we take new pieces of information and adjust the way previous pieces of received and synthesized information are understood.
It is not always in the direction of making things more clear, like the Sixth Sense sort of structure where the end expressly reinvents what went before and gives it new meaning. Most often the new agents enrich what went before without reversing the meaning, creating new layers of meaning and introducing intriguing ambiguities. What constitutes an agent and how it affects its siblings is what we are all about.
Regardless, the fact remains that most long form narrative consists of a beginning where you engage the viewer and allow herself to be placed in the world; a middle where you make the viewer invest in what is happening; and an end.
Two Discrete Experiences
Sometimes the end is engineered in the knowledge that watching a film is two discrete experiences. One experience of course is when you are watching the film. You enter a dark space, perhaps with your lover in which you come as close to shared dreams as is possible. Your emotions and even your breathing gets synchronized with the crowd, all anonymous and most of whom you will never encounter again. This truly is one of the most mystical experiences available.
But there is also a second experience, the one that is recalled, beginning that moment when you walk out of the theater, forming thoughts about what just happened. Ideally, you will be entering a discussion with your partner, one based on familiar signals and nuance. At the very least, you tell yourself.
This second experience is where many films gain their power, because it depends on agents that you generate and keep cooking well after the couple hours in the dark. I think some filmmakers intuitively target this. It is of special interest to me because what interests me in this whole business is how films can fundamentally change you; this continuing narrative machinery is one way for you to carry the change into the rest of your life.
The Viewer's Commitment
This of course depends to some extent on the commitment you bring to the film. My belief is that life is best lived with deep risks so far as your inner narrative and passionate commitment to the narratives of the moment. Richard Alpert when he was still that person said this to me: hold on tightly, let go lightly. Not a bad nugget.
You should at least — at the very least — bring the same level of commitment to viewing that the collective artists brought to the making. The same is true of a fine meal, and that is not a bad metaphor.
We are doing more here than merely watching, so much more; we are watching the film, watching ourselves and sending out our own meta-narrative. So I am supposing you need to turn up the commitment knob to eleven as you proceed.
Some films that illustrate the idea…
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This strikes me as an expertly engineered project. They were the first to seed the internet with a story that built a viral expectation of the film. The film itself worked for me when viewing; I saw it when it was new in a theater and the effect of the video/film mix really worked for me as a sort of logic of discovery. But I was also affected by that last shot. It is from the video camera, which is significant. A character enters a basement and encounters her friend, apparently trapped. The whole thing lasts the most fleeting of instants and then you are out of the theater wondering about that last terrifying piece of information.
This isn’t a zinger in the old sense, where something just jumps out; this is a new piece of information that is designed to give you an additional horror to digest in your life outside the theater.
More on The Blair Witch Project “is”here.
- All Example Film Parentheticals will be annotation types. Annotations will be different depending on the section. The current strategy of prepopulating the text and relevant information is via Stamp. A KM macro would work too.
- The first pane is adapted from what Evgeny did. It is a TMDb summary at the top, a copy of the Simplenote email at the bottom that includes a link to the FMp page. I expect to be editing the summary to highlight what matters: that summary will include a story but also some other info.
- A new section may be added to link to the eidetic scrubber demo for that film.
Notes for this parenthetical are here:
This is a fictional documentary presented as discovered video and film of three teenagers who went into the woods in search of a legendary witch. One camera is a video camera initially documenting the documentary filmed by the more professional camera. There are a lot of hand-held artifacts that make the thing seem credible. A clever prerelease strategy promoted the legend and documentary as real.