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Date: February 22, 2009

examining narrative perspective through film

Narrative perspective, or point-of-view (POV), is an essential element of fiction writing. It is also a difficult concept for some beginning students to get their minds wrapped around. As a way to introduce variations in narrative perspective, I use film clips to demonstrate how POV can effect the narrative. This method comes with some pedagogical risk, though, as narrative perspective in fiction writing is not exactly the same as that of cinema. In fact, in most cases and strictly speaking in terms of fiction-writing POV, the narrative perspective of film is third-person dramatic/objective (with the exception of internal monologue and some experimental ventures). We see the action unfold the way an audience member in a play would. In terms of cinematic terminology, though, the POV of a film can be either omniscient or subjective (meaning able to wander and know everything about all the characters or to be limited to just one character). To complicate things still further with film terminology, objective or subjective POV is not to be confused with the POV-shot, a subjective shot made from the vantage point of one of the characters. Ok, having already overthought it, I ask my students to try not to–over-think it, that is.

The point of using film clips to introduce narrative perspective (or POV) in fiction writing is simply to help students understand that the story changes when the perspective changes. We dig into the particulars of each specific POV a little later. So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I use to introduce the concept. Maybe it will be of help to someone…

Answer key: Shawshank Redemption: first-person minor; Rear Window: third-person limited; Full Metal Jacket; third-person dramatic/objective; Mash “POV” episode: second-person; Notes from Underground: first-person unreliable narrator

walking as metaphor

Metaphor is more than mere poetic flourish in language. It is the very way in which we construct our realities. Roger Brown argues that inasmuch as language is representative, all language is metaphorical. Lakoff and Johnson tell us that metaphors are “concepts we live by”–constructs that shape how we talk, how we understand the world around us, our attitudes, and, most importantly, how we act.

When pushed beyond everyday use, however, metaphor takes on its poetic powers, allowing us to see the the ordinary in extraordinary ways. This extraordinary view can come through different kinds of texts–verbal, visual, cinematic.

Here is Ryan Larkin’s Oscar-nominated, animated short from 1969 entitled “Walking.” Consider this as a work of metaphor. How does it work to “defamiliarize” our view of the familiar–as all good art does? Comments encouraged.

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