Chapter

‘That's what you just think you saw!’ Narrative and Film Style in <i>The Spanish Prisoner</i>

Yannis Tzioumakis

in The Spanish Prisoner

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780748633685
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671236 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633685.003.0005
‘That's what you just think you saw!’ Narrative and Film Style in The Spanish Prisoner

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The chapter examines the distinct aesthetic effects conveyed by the filmmaker’s stylistic and narrative choices in The Spanish Prisoner. Specifically, it argues that Mamet’s unusual aesthetic view relies on a use of film style that sits uneasily with the notion of classicism in American cinema. This is because, although narrative construction follows, for the most part, the basic principles of classical narrative (causal coherence, continuity and character motivation), it often departs from those principles and follows a logic of its own. These departures are mainly manifest in several clear breaks from the rules of social and/or cultural verisimilitude which immediately provide the story with a high degree of implausibility compared to a classical narrative. Equally, the film style employed to support such a narrative generally adheres to the rules of continuity and transparency, though, on several occasions, it also breaks those rules and consequently evokes a strong sense of constructedness and/or artificiality. In this respect, although film style is at the service of the narrative, it also comments on the narrative and breaks the spectator’s engagement with the story in ways that a classical style would never do.

Keywords: Classical Film style; Classical Narrative; Classical filmmaking; Continuity; Verisimilitude; Artificiality; Aesthetics

Chapter.  9128 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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