CONTEMPORARY THEORY OF EDITING
Narration and Space
A single concept has dominated
theoretical considerations of filmic space and position.
Mainstream mimetic theories, much like diegetic theories,
attribute every image to an invisible observer incarnated
in the camera, making the observer at once narrator and
spectator. The totalised space built up from editing is
thus attributed to an idealised invisible witness, the
occupant of an absolute position. The discourse becomes
a series of views whose source is the viewer’s position.
Just as there is more to narration than
the camera, claims David Bordwell, so is there more to
cinematic space than effects of the viewer’s position.
Instead of seeing the spectator as the apex of a literal
or metaphorical pyramid of vision, we can treat the construction
of space dynamically. The syuzhet’s presentation of information
can be facilitated or blocked by the style’s representation
of space. No theory of narration can omit the question
of position, but it needs to be integrated into a broader
account of how films mobilize spatial perception and cognition
for storytelling ends.
On an example of ideal positioning shot/reverse
shot, Bordwell points to limitations of Jean-Pierre Oudart’s
suture theory. Oudart claims that in shot/reverse shot
figure, the first shot entails a space offscreen, behind
the camera, ’the fourth side, a pure field of absence’.
The next shot in the series reveals that something occupies
that offscreen space. The viewer has to anticipate and
recall: the first shot foreshadows what could replace it,
while the second image makes sense only as an answer to
its predecessor. The suture works by creating gaps and
filling them up, imposing the existence of some imagined
space shown in the next shot.
Bordwell thinks that Oudart makes a step towards the characterization
of observational activities performed by the viewer — anticipation,
recall and recognition of the space narration represents,
however, introducing the phantom narrator as the maker
of the first shot, he returns to the theory of the invisible
observer. Suture simply designates certain aspects of the
schemata that we activate in order to make spatial and
causal sense of a scene’s total space. However, as a theoretical
concept, ’suture’ is not an adequate explanation of how
this process occurs.