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The Extent of Mental Completion of Films

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Abstract:

According to constructivist theory a film cues us to apply a variety of schemata in mentally constructing a narrative and the diegetic world in which it takes place. But to what extent and with what degree of precision do we mentally construct time, space, causality, and the characters when we watch a film? We are not aware of the real world and our immediate environment much in excess of what our interests, needs, and desires are in any given situation. Similarly, we do not conceive of a complete fictional world when watching a film. Rather, a film cues us to fill in to the extent and with a precision that is relevant to our attempts at making sense of what is happening, often as focalized in terms of character interest. The cueing takes place through an interplay of what Thompson (1988) has defined as the realistic and the aesthetic background construction. This article outlines how this interplay functions to override apparent discrepancies in the material on the one hand, and to produce a variety of aesthetic effects on the other hand. Von Trier's Antichrist serves as an example of how the partial blocking of the filling in function can serve intriguing aesthetic purposes.

Keywords: BACKGROUND CONSTRUCTION; CHARACTER CONSTRUCTION; CONSTRUCTIVIST THEORY; FILLING IN; LARS VON TRIER; TRAUMA

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/proj.2011.050104

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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