Are we, as viewers, meant to feel incomplete until the narrative’s conclusion or do we have a level of omnipotence that might interfere with that?
Edward Branigan, in discussing the role of knowledge (or a lack thereof) in film narrative, suggests that “Narration comes into being when knowledge is unevenly distributed- when there is a disturbance or disruption in the field of knowledge”. (66). He has us briefly imagine a world where we already know where he argues that narration cannot exist because we, as viewers and observers of narration have equal access to information and therefore know everything there is to know about a particular narrative. He then takes that image away in lieu of an statement about how an asymmetrical vision of an object leads to an incomplete vision on behalf of the viewer, essentially having the camera dictate and create that disturbance or disruption of knowledge for the viewer.
While I do agree fundamentally with this notion, as the suspense and the thrill of films may be gone if you knew every single thing that would happen next, but it’s difficult to maintain this uneven distribution of knowledge when so many adaptations are discussed and speculated about meticulously among a particular fan base, hence my inquiry about the level of omnipotence in a 2012 film goer. I’d like to give an example using the recent Spiderman film reboot, The Amazing Spiderman. Anyone familiar with the Spiderman origin story knows that Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben, dies unceremoniously which prompts Spiderman to become Spiderman. When watching this reboot, being quite familiar with the origin story, I knew Uncle Ben was going to die and indeed he did.
There was little disruption of knowledge to be presented in this film when it is an adaptation of a work one might be familiar with. However, I would like to play devil’s advocate to Branigan’s argument using my example of Spiderman. I knew Uncle Ben would die, but I didn’t quite know how and when in this particular execution of the Spiderman origin story, at least to the very detail. Having said that, I think Branigan’s argument is still applicable to a cinematic world in 2012, where directors, screenplay writers, actors, et al. ideally have an understanding that a large portion of their audience already knows the narrative through the source material. However, the uneven distribution of knowledge still exists because familiarity with the source material doesn’t exactly mean we can predict every single moment in a film; we have a general idea, but we certainly aren’t totally omnipotent, though I believe we are more knowledgeable about particular narratives on a grand scheme in this day and age.