May 16, 2012

Shifted transfer

In the extracts from passage scenes in movies that I have given in my recent postings, I have identified a technique which I called shifted transfer. The idea is that when a character makes a trip into an unreal world, such as the world of a movie-within-the-movie, or the world of a painting, there may be a difference between the perspective of the character himself and the perspective of the audience. The audience can remain at the origin location while the character already has been transferred to the destination location. (The audience is transferred later than the traveler, hence 'shifted' transfer.) Thus in Die Einsteiger, we're still there, in the now empty room, while the two travelers are already inside the video film; in Sherlock Jr. we can see the large movie screen into which the protagonist has stepped even when the character himself is already inside, and thus no longer in the room which contains that screen. We have seen, though, that not every film that includes passage into some instance of unreality uses the technique of shifted transfer. In The Dutch Master, the perspective of the audience and the perspective of the protagonist who steps into an old painting remain closely tied to each other. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the protagonist is drawn into a memory which is dramatized as if in a holographic 3D-film, and the point of view is strictly that of the character, there is no lingering of any kind for the audience when the character moves.

In the latter cases, the subjective element is emphasized, while in the former cases we (the audience) are more in the mode of observers, objective onlookers. This makes shifted transfer a cinematic means to achieve a double-check on whether passage has actually happened. What would you do if you were the inventor of a device that lets you enter movie or dream worlds? You would probably set up an experiment that lets you verify, from some good, external vantage point, both that the traveler has arrived at the destination and that he has vanished from the origination location. That would convince you, as the inventor, that the device does enable such a trip. Shifted passage has exactly the function to convince the audience, in exactly the same way. Where the film wants to keep the question open (such as in the stepping into a painting in The Dutch Master), shifted passage is consequently not employed. Where the subjective experience of the passenger is to be emphasized (as in the passages into memories in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and into dreams in Dreamscape), it's also avoided.

No comments: