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Film Modernism$
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Sam Rohdie

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781784992637

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784992637.001.0001

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Narrative

Narrative

Chapter:
(p.156) Narrative
Source:
Film Modernism
Author(s):

Sam Rohdie

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781784992637.003.0038

Narrative is the consequence of an historical situation largely codified in the nineteenth century in the novel and in History writing, though also in painting and in theatre, and after the turn of that century, in film. Godard’s films, from his first to his most recent, dismantle that tradition. His work is less a rejection of narrative as it had been practised (and largely still is), as it is a fragmentation and reordering of it, subjected to insistent interruptions, like a bell sounding or a telephone ringing in its midst. In a Godard film, interruptions are not less important than what is interrupted, indeed the distinction between major and minor, representation and punctuation, the narrative and digressions from it, have little sense. All elements are equal (equally forms) and there is no classification system with all that implies of order and illustration. If his films, and especially his Histoire(s) du cinéma, are dense with citations and examples from the past, these are more like a collection or artistic options than a museum or archive ordered by fictions of classification. The combination of the indifference of elements to hierarchy, their resistance to a fixed order and place and their apparent equality in Godard’s work establishes each element as autonomous and particular and also as available for rearrangement hence the instability, circularity and sense of possibility in his films, their lack of finish and their energetic ceaselessness, porosity and meandering and thereby also the problem of speaking about them. How do you get hold of, begin to possess a Godard work which is so unfixed and opaque?

Keywords:   interruption, major, minor, autonomous

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