THE ONTOLOGY OF NARRATIVE.

Another quote that struck me, this time from Andre Bazin via Matt Zoller Seitz in NY Press:

…I found myself trying to recall an Andre Bazin observation. When I got home, I found it in Bazin’s What is Cinema? Vol. II. In Umberto D., writes Bazin, “The narrative unit is not the episode, the event, the sudden turn of events, or the character of its protagonists; it is the succession of concrete instants of life, no one of which can be said to be more important than another, for their ontological equality destroys drama at its very basis.”

Comments

  1. The man was a poet. Ever read
    «Il neige sur le cinéma», in which he discusses snow in the films of Georges Méliès, Jean Renoir, Charlie Chaplin, Leopold Lindtberg, René Clair, Robert Flaherty, and especially La Symphonie pastorale, Jean Delannoy’s film based on Gide’s novella? He compares the snow in Delannoy’s film to Gide’s use of the past perfect.
    Quite beautiful.

  2. Sounds great. Too bad it’s not online; I’ll try to remember to look for it at the library.

  3. F. David Bower says:

    Surely it is simply a mistake to try to identify units of narrative. Narrative is by definition the flow (in a constructed narrative at least) from point A to point B, or at least through various points.
    So OF COURSE certain points can be said to be more important than others. This has no implications for a discussion of narrative, whose job it is to create meaning by linking various points of action, characterisation etc. into a coherent whole. A narrative has no intrinsic meaning (like notated logic… or grammar!) but the way it works is precisely to give certain kinds of importance (meaning) to events which could otherwise be seen only as disconnected fragments.
    Without a narrative, events have equal (i.e. zero) meaning. With one, it all starts to make sense (i.e. meanings are established in a relational fashion by the narrative).
    Is this what he meant, and I’ve just read it wrong? Having not read it in context, it seems like he’s contradicting both himself and most people’s understanding of narrative.
    Saying something that seems to reinvent or redefine a term or concept is not necessarily clever. Some of the least rigorous thinkers do it regularly to great acclaim. It bores me.

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