Communicator (communicator) wrote,

"The Narratology of Transcendence"

The best event I went to at Eastercon was a presentation on the development of the script of 2001 A Space Odyssey by Kubrick and Clarke. The presentation was by Nick Lowe, a classical scholar who does film reviews in Interzone. In fact, I might go back to Interzone just to read those reviews again.

In the other big event I went to this weekend, Ben Goldacre's intelligence allowed him to present with great confidence and aggression, setting out his argument forcefully, with his reason at the fore. 'THIS is the headline in the Daily Mail THIS is the false data which underpins it THIS is the damage that occurred in the real world'. The logic is inescapable.

Nick Lowe's argument was much more oblique and intuitive. 'Here is a timeline of disparate events from 1965-68. Here are some extracts from various script drafts. You may wish to compare them with the memory of 2001 that you have in your head as I speak.' He's asking you as a listener to do much more of the work. He's also a less accessible speaker, not helped by me making a poor snap decision about where to sit, so it was hard for me to see and hear. And of course the development of film narrative is not as important as medical scares that kill people.

But Lowe seemed to stimulate my mind more. His method is to use metaphor. In his film column he uses the imagery of the film he is reviewing as a metaphor for the structure of its narrative, and the commercial context in which such a film with such choices would be made.

So, his closing metaphor in this presentation was that Clarke's words were like the fuel tank which boosted Kubrick's screenplay into orbit, and were then discarded, falling away from the command module, and burning up, leaving the silent craft to move naked in space.

And from this he is extrapolating a theory of narrative which is in opposition to current film practice - against McKee, against Joseph Campbell, against the three act structure. In a panel on reviewing we were discussing that some restriction is required for creation, what I call inhibition of signal, or discipline. Like the Aristotelean unities of the 18th century, the almost ubiquitous template of heroic film narrative is an inhibiting discipline, but it is time to move past it, in my opinion. That means we need a more informed discipline. And it's not out there waiting, it needs to be created via this type of critical reflection.

This web page presents some of the material which underpinned this lecture, including the working draft script, script-fans.
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