Abstract The Word Viewed: Conversation on Film
This thesis examines a feature of virtually every narrative film--the conversation. Defined as sustained dialogue between two or more people, the conversation is often essential to conveying narrative information--at times becoming a narrative event in itself--and yet it might also be considered fundamentally uncinematic, i.e., boring or visually unexceptional. Some of the broad guiding questions of the thesis are: What makes conversation fit for filmic representation? How does the camera capture conversation?
Through close readings of exemplary films, I offer not a history of the conversation on film but an examination of some of its permutations and possibilities. I focus on conversations in a few significant American films between heterosexual couples in the service of romantic (re-)kindling or reconciliation. To that end, I draw on Stanley Cavell's conception of conversation in his genre of remarriage comedy in order to argue for a definition of conversation that means both talk and more than talk: an intellectual, emotional, and sexual compatibility that is the couple's relationship itself.
All three chapters test the idea that a marriage or a romantic relationship may be understood as a conversation. The first chapter examines what I call the "visual conversation" of F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927) in order to draw and test the boundaries of remarriage comedy. Chapter Two looks at Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (2004), which depicts almost nothing but conversation in real time, in order to consider how the camera captures "continuous conversation." Finally, Chapter Three reads closely the fragmented romantic narrative in Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), in which the conversations between its central couple are complicated by Allen's status as both director and comedian/star and his direct address to the audience.
Overall, the thesis offers a three-fold conception of conversation: the talk (and not-talk) that represents a couple's relationship within a narrative film; the discussions of films that occur in film criticism; and the ways in which films may be in conversation with each other, through reference or homage.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Forms of Conversation/Conversational Form 1
Chapter One: Visual Conversation in Sunrise 15
Chapter Two: Continuous Conversation in Before Sunset 40
Chapter Three: Complications of Conversation in Annie Hall 56
Conclusion: An Invitation to Further Conversation 73
About this Master's Thesis
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