Is the spectator the narrator of the film?
At the end of Branigan’s Chapter 3, “Narration,” he mentions that some theorists have conveyed “that the spectator is the narrator” of films (85). The fact that he calls this a “rather startling belief” (85) seems to hint that he feels that this does not account for those other sources of narration in films, e.g. the camera, film projector, characters, editors, directors, anonymous voice-overs, musical soundtrack, paratexts, etc. These of course all provide viewers with crucial elements of the story, without which the story could not materialize, but are they narrators? Branigan’s comments in the section, “Forgetting and Remembering,” are striking with regard to this question. He writes:
“As a spectator engages the procedures which yield a story world, something extraordinary occurs: his or her memory of the actual images, words, and sound is erased by the acts of comprehension that they require. Comprehension proceeds by cancelling and discarding data actually present, by revising and remaking what is given. A new representation is created which is not a copy of the original stimuli nor an imperfect memory of it. In comprehending a narrative, the spectator routinely sees what is not present and overlooks what is present” (83).
Does this mean that I have simply misinterpreted the tone of his initial comment, and that he does consider the spectator to be the narrator after all?
Reflecting on Branigan’s Nick Fury example, I understand that, when taken panel by panel, 1-12 produce mystery and 13-16 create suspense (81). However, if you take them all in their entirety, disregarding the remainder of the story which he simply relates, doesn’t the spectator conclude in having an overall feeling of surprise? Even if one was not surprised, doesn’t the spectator take all of the frames, consciously or unconsciously, synthesizing them to some personal end? Does this ultimately make the spectator the narrator and all other potential “narrators” simply sources of narration? Such a view would enable us to understand why different people viewing the same film come to entirely different conclusions about it: no spectator brings exactly the same raw material to a viewing experience. What do you think? Is the narrator to be found within the film, in the filmmaking process, or outside the film, i.e. within ourselves?