The Mind's Eye: Focalization in Postmodern Films
This paper explores a key mechanism by which the audience is connected to character in contemporary film, namely through the narrative action of focalization. Focalization is the process by which we see from a character's perspective. Interestingly, there has been a trend in contemporary filmmaking that makes the technical process of focalization a feature point of the plot. That is, the films that I want to analyze do not just use focalization, but are explicitly focused about focalization. In the film Being John Malkovich (1999), the characters place themselves into someone else’s body and interact with others to find out more about themselves. As the characters enter someone else, the audience views this "outer" character, yet the "inner" character is acting and thinking for them. The action of plot comes to revolve around the consequences of this inner/outer dynamic. Using this process, the audience can gain an understanding of the characters and how they interact with their “outer” and “inner” body. We will explore how this process works in some representative "postmodern" films and what this move to make formal narrative elements like focalization the substance or content of the narrative has to say about film and society.