The Narrator’s Control

Branigan discusses the the different hierarchies of knowledge, and how the spectator (the viewer) can “know” without seeing (72). Branigan only touches on film, but what are the techniques a narrator can use to control the knowledge of the spectator in films, and can they be applied to texts in the same way?

It would be impossible to go through all of the different scenarios in which the spectator may know more than the characters, or the other way around. Branigan discusses the “formula” to measure relative knowledge. Of course in film, the easiest way is by camera angle. The view of the camera is a limited view–whoever controls the camera can control and manipulate what the spectator can see. So the act of hiding and revealing knowledge is a physical one. But how does this translate to a text? The text can’t physically hide something from us, or show us a limited view.

Even the example of Nick Fury that Branigan gives is a visual one–the spectator can only see part of the story or scene. Arguably, the physical nature of knowledge can translate to a text. A text itself is full of words and sentences that we can see with our own eyes much like a movie or a graphic novel. So the readers knowledge is limited physically because we cannot see what is going to happen on the next page. Yet, there seems to be a different between knowledge in a film and in a text. Branigan mentions that a narrator can know more than, the same, or less than the character. He also briefly mentions that in texts the readers have an implicit narrator. Perhaps this is what separates knowledge in films and texts–the narrator. The narrator in a text is always implied. There has to be one, this we assume that someone, or something is the narrator. And because this narrator is assumed (thus possibly imaginary), the control that the narrator has on his/her/its own knowledge is also imaginary. But this brings up another question–how does the narrator work in film, and does the narrator always have control of knowledge? But that is another post for another day.

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One Response to The Narrator’s Control

  1. The idea of a difference between knowledge in a film and a text is an interesting concept that may create a disparity of knowledge between the two. A disparity exists when there is “a disturbance or disruption in the field of knowledge.”(66) Under this idea, the narrator would take on the role of the disruption or disturbance. The narrator’s role in a novel is implied and not always tangible, yes, but I think film utilizes this narration to some degree. Depending on the film, there may be a character whom takes on the role; however, does this mean that films without character narrators have no narrator? I think the narrative shifts from character to character, but even under that there is the implied narrative of the director, just like an author in a novel.

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