Eyes and Narrative Perspective On Story: A Practice-led Exploration of the Use of Eyes and Eye lines in Fiction Film

Knudsen, Erik orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8361-6975 (2014) Eyes and Narrative Perspective On Story: A Practice-led Exploration of the Use of Eyes and Eye lines in Fiction Film. Journal of Media Practice, 15 (1). pp. 3-20. ISSN 1468-2753

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14682753.2014.892798


Eyes and eye lines are one of the key ways in which the perspective on a story is established in figurative narrative fiction cinema. As such, the eyes and the use of eyes by a performer needs as much creative and technical attention as shot composition, sound, production design and editing. Rather than thinking of the eyes of a performer as a subservient aspect of a projected performance, often driven by the dominance of dialogue-action delivery, this paper seeks to examine how, in fictional cinematic expression, eyes can be deployed to enhance an introspective and transcendent narrative perspective on a story. This exploration takes place through practice. In particular, during the creation of my latest feature film, The Raven On The Jetty (Erik Knudsen, UK 2014), in which I sought to explore how to enhance the relationship between eyes, eye lines and narrative perspective on story. In reflecting on these issues, I shall look at what is meant by narrative perspective and relate this not only to the performativity of a fiction film, but also to the relationship of this performativity to emotions and feelings. I shall then look at eyes: first looking at their behavioural importance, then at looking and seeing. I hope to show that we can think of eyes not merely as a part of an actor’s performance, but also as a window through which we can see a world whose presence is untouchable. I aim to argue that looks and eye lines are as effective as any other cinematic tool in establishing actions, re-actions, space, time, intentions and revelations and to illustrate how I have sought to challenge certain understandings and approaches to the use of eyes to add a different perspective on a story. I write this paper primarily from the perspective of a filmmaker, as opposed to a film scholar, and therefore while acknowledging the considerable theoretical work done by film theorists such as Vivian Sobchack (on phenomenological semiotics1), Stephen Heath (on narrative space2), Edward Branigan (on point of view3) and Tom Brown (on breaking the fourth wall4), not to speak of the extensive debates taking place on Catherine Grant{\textquoteright}s Film Studies for Free Blog5, this paper is a subjective and reflexive exploration that seeks to reveal a creative thought process in action, in contrast to a scholarly examination of the cultural theory around film language or film form. Finally, I shall very briefly summarise some of my key findings in a conclusion.

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