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Ingmar Bergman's Nested Dolls: Narrativity and fictionality in cinema

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posted on 2023-08-30, 17:01 authored by Saminda Ranawaka
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s cinema is often seen as a classic nexus between several generic categories: narrative, fiction, art cinema, auteur films. While generic approaches pursue the potential traits and underlying structures that distinguish one class from another, they also ingrain and idealise restrictive preconceptions. By exploring Bergman’s formally and thematically related The Silence (1963) and the prologue of Persona (1966), my research attests that generic approaches are seriously inadequate to explain the multidimensionality of cinematic narrative. In the first part of my study, I develop a three-tier analytical framework by reviewing the key approaches to narrative and cinematic fiction. Considering the insights of rhetorical narratology and C.S. Peirce’s sign theory, I also postulate applicable theses for narrativity and fictionality in the cinematic context. The second part of the study demonstrates that this nested narratological model offers an illuminating approach to elaborate on how audiences exploit cinematic narrativity and fictionality as communicational resources and acts. Instead of relying on the predetermined macro-structures like syuzhet, plot, fabula, or story of Bergman’s individual films, I explore micro-relations of Bergman’s cinema across the proposed analytical tiers offering new readings of these canonical films. Bergman’s cinema not only advances cinematic images, experiences, and their references temporally with narrativity but also stratifies them across various levels with cinematic fictionality. Thus, cinematic narrativity not only hinges on the diegetic tier (or structural-story), but the extra-diegetic and thematic tiers also determine narrativity. The immediate experience and discursive dynamics in Bergman’s cinema interweave author, audience, actors, medium, themes, and other artworks into integrated textual threads with fictional characters, events, and stories. My study argues that cinematic narrative is not a predefined medium, component, or structure, but a text-external communicational event that engenders multifarious cinematic effects and signifying instances. As its original contribution to knowledge, I elaborate cinematic narrativity and fictionality as referential dynamics as well as communicational resources. These resources integrate immediate cinematic experience as well as interpretive engagement for communicational goals. I also maintain that my exploration helps to revisit the ambivalent takes on cinematic authorship, communication, and fiction/reality dichotomy.



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