Does cinema inherently lack the ability to have a first person point of view? Does it create a distance between audience and character?
In MacFarlane’s essay, he discusses film’s inability to have the “continuing nature of the novelistic first-person narration,” and, when speaking of how film maintain’s that level of subjectivity, says, “one no longer has the sense of everything’s being filtered through the consciousness of the protagonist-speaksr: even in a film such as David Lean’s Great Expectations, which goes to unusual lengths to retina the novel’s ‘first-person’ approach, the grotesques who people Pip’s world are no long presented to the viewer as an individual’s subjective impressions.”
This is something I’ve noticed before, and grappled with in my mind. What is the extent to which film can portray how the world looks to an individual’s eyes? It’s easy to do with things like altered states of mind, or any other context in which there are blatant visual distortions. But there are more subtle things that can be done with text. Diction is artfully used to give a sense of the narrator – you can only see that world through the language of the person whose eyes you are looking through.
In film, you are there, seeing it with them; in a sense, it’s cutting out the middle man. Is there always going to be a bit more distance between an audience and an on-screen character as opposed to reader and book-character, due to these differences.
Perhaps film is, by nature, omniscient. As MacFarlane says on page 17, “The camera… becomes the narrator by, for instance, focusing on such aspects of miss-en-scene as the way actors look, move, gesture, or are costumed… in these ways the camera may catch a ‘truth’ which comments on and qualifies what the characters actually say.” No matter how much you distort something visually, you, generally speaking, can’t make the audience think the same way as the character.
Before that, he says that things which “enable use, through the writer’s tone, to evaluate a character’s speech, seem less immediately amenable to the camera’s eyes.” That tone could be seen as that “middle man,” our only way of understanding a world. In a book, the world is conveyed to us, but in a movie, the world is simply shown to us.
Of course, there are movies that, through more mental manipulation, can affect how audiences think. It just comes down to have fundamental core differences from literature.