As it happens the first two terms are applied by David Bordwell and his collaborators in their study of cinema, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , so that we may draw parallels between their respective evolutions. This was a period during which a system of representation was progressively established in Hollywood. This system aims to ensure a smooth narrative continuity:.
The number of possible narratives is unlimited. Historically, however, the cinema has tended to be dominated by a single mode of narrative form. The authors believe that by the classical system was fully developed and continued to reign over cinematic representation up to circa If, then, other systems of representation were to appear, the classical system would remain the reference from which the others would demarcate themselves.
Following the course of art history, after the classicism of the Renaissance, there is a mannerist and then a baroque period. These two terms have appeared, sometimes rather confusedly in film theory to qualify films made since Citizen Kane Orson Welles, They both emerge from the classical system of representation but mannerism is more of a sophisticated ending to the Renaissance than a new style, as Erwin Panofsky has described:.
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The style freezes, crystallizes, adorns itself of the smoothness and hardness of a glaze, while its movements, which tend to an excess of grace, are at the same time, constrained and stifled. The whole of the composition become a battlefield where contradictory forces confront each other, tangled up within an infinite tension.
The cinematic equivalent would be found in a sophisticated and reflexive cinema, for which formal variations over the classical system has become the goal. The baroque shares this dependence from the classical system but absorbs it into another view of the world and takes it into another realm of representation.
Any given work of art is always larger than the label trying to contain it. Thus the only interest in approaching a film as baroque is to suggest new possibilities that will enrich the experience of the film. It is to this end that this study will investigate the films of David Lynch as possibly resonant with a baroque aesthetic. David Lynch was born in in Missoula, Montana. He made his first short film, while studying in Philadelphia, Six Men Getting Sick , from a desire to see his figures move and for the sound, as told by Michel Chion:.
And, one day, something clicked, though he could not have known that this would be a definitive turning point. I was expecting a sound, or maybe the wind, to come out. I also wanted the edges to disappear.
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I wanted to get into the inside. It was spatial After a couple of shorts, The Alphabet , The Grandmother , and a first feature length film made with the help of the AFI, Eraserhead - which took five years in the making - David Lynch moved into major studio productions with The Elephant Man He had some difficult experiences notably with Dune where he found that the demands made by a large production did not fit his intuitive method of working. He managed to find a place within the studio system without altering his approach to filmmaking with Blue Velvet It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, like Dune , but on a much smaller budget thus giving him more freedom.
While the success of Twin Peaks gave him more independence, his later forays into television On the Air and Hotel Room , did not meet with the same success. If sound and movement have been the decisive factors influencing his shift to films, Lynch's cinema has an arresting visual quality giving a careful attention to textures and colors as well as the lighting of his scenes - often demanding technical prowess from his cinematographers.
The work of David Lynch may in certain respects qualify only too easily for a reductive understanding of baroque - the extravagant settings and the weird or excessive behaviours of its characters.
But the affinities go further and develop in unexpected directions. The films of David Lynch have often been submitted to a psychoanalytical interpretation for which many of their aspects lend themselves rather easily. Semiotic and psychoanalytical analyses of films can often fail by an excess of interpretation, thus pin-pointing the meaning of images as if it was a text to be read and emptying them of their complexity.
On the other hand a textual analysis is at risk of remaining too formal, as remarked by the authors of Aesthetics of Film :. By setting out to return to the primacy of the signifier, textual analysis reveals its concern not to leap immediately to an interpretative reading. This study will keep to a formal approach to Lynch's films but will try to avoid a purely descriptive analysis.
The classical Hollywood cinema will be the contrasting partner of a possible baroque cinema. The first chapter, Narrative Continuities, will transpose the linear rendering of the form of the Renaissance to a linear progression of the narrative in classical films. It will suggest the possibility of a non-linear continuity in the sequence of actions in time and space. The second chapter, The Shot of Ambiguity, is concerned with the conception of the shot. It will draw parallels between the classical composition by planes and the development of editing in the classical system.
The composition in depth of the baroque could find its translation into movements of camera and a more active depth of field. It will develop the question of point-of-view and the subjectivity of the image. The third chapter, The Montage of Confusion, based on the notion of closed and open form, will be concerned with the montage of the film.
The containment of the classical form is found in the montage of the classical film leaving nothing without resolution and thus controlling meaning. The open form will bring a form of montage which will multiply possibilities and leaves the spectator make his own interpretation. The multiplicity and unity of the fourth principle, which concern the relative independence of the elements of composition, will deal with the organisation of the elements of the film in the fourth chapter, The Texture of Film. In the classical film the parts of a film are hierarchically organised according to their relevance to the narrative.
The baroque unity could emerge from the absence of such distinction making an object or a particular texture as important to the overall structure than a scene of action. This will develop into a consideration of textures as a formative element. The last principle concerns the treatment of light and darkness, clearness and unclearness.
This concern with light easily transposes to the different types of lighting used in films. This will lead to the consideration of the realistic, expressionist or moralistic content of light and darkness in the fifth chapter, The Dark Depths. Each chapter does not so much examine a new aspect of the work considered than it proposes a new perspective on an aspect already approached. Repetitions and cross-over are bound to occur, but each part should have its own proceeding thus bringing new developments to attention.
A few words should be said about the choice of presentation. This work uses a large number of quotes which are divided into two categories. They structure - and resonate with - the main text, but they are not integrated into it.
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This choice was made to avoid an unfruitful mix of too many discourses; the questions of baroque and aesthetics are thus kept close but do not interfere with those of film theory and the cinema of David Lynch. The second set of quotes, being part of the text, are conventionally used, however if they are given a pre-eminent part, it is in an attempt to keep the diversity in the expression of the different ideas. The quotes are used as voices resounding in harmony or dissonance with each other. Everything depends on how far a preponderating significance is assigned to or withdrawn from the edges, whether they must be read as line or not.
In the one case, the line means a track moving evenly round the form, to which the spectator can confidently entrust himself; in the other, the picture is dominated by lights and shadows, not exactly indeterminate, yet without stress on the boundaries. Only here and there does a bit of palpable outline emerge: it has ceased to exist as a uniformly sure guide through the sum of the form. This first chapter will look into the development of and the form taken by the relationship between narrative and cinema and how one form, the classical narrative, has come to dominate the feature length film.
Films have come to be associated with fictional narratives. This led to the situation described here by Christian Metz:. So narrative cinema is not just a genre in the possible cinematic expressions, it is the dominant form of the medium. The possibilities offered by the narrative form are multiple, but as Bordwell and Thompson remarked in Film Art: An Introduction , one form has prevailed over others, that of classical cinema.
Typically, a narrative begins with one situation; a series of changes occurs according to a pattern of cause and effect; finally, a new situation arises that brings about the end of the narrative. Thus are identified three aspects of narrative: causality, time and space. The narrative relies on the stability of these traits to ensure its continuity. The time and space of the narrative are subjected to the logic of the action.
The events are organized in the chronological order offering the clearest understanding of their causality: such as flashbacks or flash-forwards according to need. However, the classical narrative will usually be careful to give the necessary clues to enable the spectator to reorganize the events into a linear chronological order. The same rules apply for space, if space is presented in fragments on the screen to highlight the most important actions; it is nevertheless narratively maintained in its continuity.
If, for instance, a character has to cross a long distance between two shots, a narrative clue will indicate to the viewer that some time has elapsed enabling the character to effect his move. Thus, in a classical narrative, if the plot introduces disruptions in cause and effect, time or space, it ultimately refers back to a linear continuity. Each effect has its cause, the time sequence is restored and the space is Euclidian. Bordwell and Thompson conclude:. Finally, most classical narrative films display strong degrees of closure at the end. Leaving no loose ends unresolved, these films seek to end their causal chains with a final effect.
We usually learn the fate of each character, the answer to each mystery, and the outcome of each conflict. Filmic narrativity, by becoming stable through convention and repetition over innumerable films, has gradually shaped itself into forms that are more or less fixed, but certainly not immutable. In the Renaissance every architectural member was simply and purely stated, while in the baroque, members were multiplied.
This resulted in an illusion of movement, a suggestion that the form had first to move into its allotted position. The critical discourse accompanying the new cinema of the s often remarked upon its departure from narrativity to explain its novelty.
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That in the past the cinema was entirely narrative and no longer is so today, or is so at least to a much lesser extent. I believe on the contrary that the modern film is more narrative, and more satisfyingly so, and that the main contribution of the new cinema is to have enriched the filmic narrative.
Metz pursued the same approach elsewhere when discussing the conditions for a change of the narrative form:. The originality of creative artists consists, here as elsewhere, in tricking the code, or at least in using it ingenuously, rather than attacking it directly or in violating it-and still less in ignoring it. Thus, it is within the narrative cinema itself that new forms of cinema developed, in using the existing code as a springboard, they have presented the viewer with the representation of a less clear-cut world than the classical cinema.
In , Orson Welles made Citizen Kane , which epitomizes many changes within the cinematic form.
Another film articulated around an unfathomable character, is Joseph Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa It tells the story of Maria Vargas from the point of view of the different people involved. But the film tells more about the narrators than about Maria, she is the blind spot of the film as if the radiance of her beauty was warding off any possible comprehension. The first scene of the film reflects its whole structure; in a Spanish cabaret, a producer and his director wait to see Maria Vargas dance. When she does, the camera moves over the faces of the spectators and their various reactions, from ecstasy to jealousy, but the viewer of the film is left to his or her imagination.
These two films are examples of narratives that cannot rely on the characters traits to play a causal role to further the action, because the characters have no fixed traits. The undecidability of the character personality shapes the narrative: endlessly revolving around a blind spot. Some filmmakers have taken a more subjective approach to time, not necessarily referred to a linear chronology.
Raoul Ruiz did not attempt to explain the events recounted for those who had not read the book, rather he plunged the viewer into the stream of memories and fantasies of the narrator. The chronology of the events is remodelled around the perceptions of the protagonist, as if time had become a malleable substance to be shaped by his stream of consciousness.