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But the narrator of the essay film does appear to more directly overlap with the concept of character-oriented narration in ways that open up to narratological discussion.
This is the ultimate essayistic position, of course, with its suggestion of infinite regression or expansion – infinite embedding – even without the presence of spoken narration.
Adding that information track would only add, if possible, to the infinite play that is possible.
It is ‘camera-narration’ that establishes the true nature of film as an art form.
Within fictional films, this argument for a pure visual narration, unmarred by the presence of dialogue, finds its high water mark in films such as La Passion Jeanne d’Arc.
Together, these three areas – essay, film, narration – constitute the basic concerns of this discussion.
Unified by conceptual forces and cultural desires, this constellation of issues pulls further related terms and concerns within its overall orbit: persona, voice, and point-of view or focalization among them.
“How and why did documentary narration acquire its miserable reputation whilst still remaining one of the most commonly used devices in nonfiction filmmaking?
” (Bruzzi 2000: 47) “[T]he essay film [is] a practice that renegotiates assumptions about documentary objectivity, narrative epistemology, and authorial expressivity within the determining context of the unstable heterogeneity of time and place.” (Corrigan 2011: 6) “[T]he imaginative use of voice-over and voice-on narration […] enables [film] to problematize the relation of discourse to story, of narrator to narrated, of imagination to reality.” (Chatman 1999: 337) The history of narration and documentary film, increasingly known as nonfiction film, is not an altogether happy one.
Seen in this light, the narrative provided in the essay may in no small part be seen as the story of narrating.
Said another way, the narrator of the essay exists in the text as a character whom the viewer watches and hears deliberating on the subjects at hand, among which are statements on the activity and implications of creating the text itself.