Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Posthumous Narrators and Truthfulness

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Last night, I had the odd realization that I thoroughly enjoy movies wherein the narrator is dead from the very beginning and proceeds to narrate the story of the movie regardless. If you don’t know a few of these, Sunset Boulevard, American Beauty, parts of Sin City, and a lot more (just to give you a frame of reference). Why do I like movies like this and what makes the narrator’s posthumous story so important? Well, I’m glad you asked… or rather that I preemptively asked for you… so here goes.

By Paramount Studios (-) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1) The answers to the existential questions– While many live individuals in movies look for the answers to their existence, the dead narrator is more fully able to think about and appreciate the follies of their life. Moreover, they are able to dissect the situation that brought them to their ultimate end. Although their answers may be flawed (and of course they are hypothetically answering the questions… they are characters after all), they seemingly have an inability to backtrack because they will not be around long enough to do so… Thereby, these characters offer an interesting and terminal view on what they think it means to be human.

2) Truthfulness– The dead narrator structure of story telling allows us as the viewers some semblance on intrigue and definitive in within the world of the story. They’re dead…. why should they lie to us about anything, rather most of these narrators just want to get the true story out there despite how it makes them appear. This format is an interesting way to make us as viewers feel that they are not just trying to make us see them in a glowing light of innocence and better-than-thou light. For me, they make it feel like they are telling it like it is regardless of the consequences… they are dead after all.

3) Omniscience of Death– While many movies function on the ideology that we the audience are the overarching perspective (3rd person omniscient), this brand of posthumous narrations allows someone (the dead narrator obviously) within the story to analyze what is going on. This death retrospective enables both the characters and the screen writer to deliberately and visibly place commentary about their creation into the script… which can be worked for good or bad (hopefully, good… I’ve seen some bad things however… Yeah…).  This can be played for powerful introspection into the characters and the ideals they are examining, powerfully might I add.

As I go back and watch movies like this, it makes me think of many things… However, overall, they make me think about myself and the world around me (I’m sounding existential now). Now, I’m not saying that this is necessarily the most effective way of producing a work. I just think that it works well at times. Now, I leave you with the ending scene of American Beauty which emphasizes all these things quite well (if you haven’t watched the movie, I would recommend watching it all the way through… yeah…).

Lester Burnham: [narrating] “I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

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Written by barryr22

July 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm

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