Unreliability and Point of View in Filmic Narration

Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 59 (2):23-37 (2022)
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Abstract

Novels like Fight Club or American Psycho are said to be instances of unreliable narration: the first person narrator presents an evidently distorted picture of the fictional world. The film adaptations of these novels are likewise said to involve unreliable narration. I resist this extension of the term ‘unreliable narration’ to film. My argument for this rests on the observation that unreliable narration requires a personal narrator while film typically involves an impersonal narrator. The kind of ambiguous story-telling that we find in literary fiction with unreliable narrators, where for certain descriptions it is unclear whether what we’re told is an accurate account of what’s happening in the story world or not, can instead be achieved by conventionalized filmmaking techniques for reporting the contents of mental states, like the point of view shot, but especially the more ambiguous blended perspective shot.

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Emar Maier
University of Groningen

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