Non-Linear Narrative Structures Have Deeply Influenced How Subjects Are Presented in Visual Culture.

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Narrative in visual culture
May 14th 2012

Vis Com 1st Year

Non-linear narrative structures have deeply influenced
how subjects are presented in visual culture.

Joanne Duff DT545 Vis Com 1st Year
Non-linear narrative structures have deeply influenced how subjects are presented in visual culture. The first movie I looked at was Irréversible, a French movie written, directed and produced by Gasper Noé. Noé employs a non-linear narrative to force the audience to think about the actions taken by those seeking vengeance before the reasons behind these actions are known. The movie is told in reverse order, beginning with the main character murdering the person he believed brutally attacked his girlfriend. The intention of this film is to unnerve and disgust the viewer, and it achieves this through camera work, sound and music, as well as the grisly subject matter of the film itself. I also looked at Happiness, a film by Todd Solondz. The story revolves around the lives of three sisters and the people around them. It is told from the point of view of different characters in the movie, with events sometimes overlapping and intertwining. The two movies are similar in that they both explore disturbing subjects, but deal with it in different ways. Irréversible’s characters are exaggerated, from the main character’s descent into murderous revenge to the disgusting acts carried out by his girlfriend’s attacker. The camera work is stark and the film’s most disturbing and important scenes are created in one continuous shot. In Happiness, it seems to imply that the morally ambiguous and perverted characters aren’t freaks, but could be anyone, even the people we think we know. Irréversible strives to force the viewer into unease, Happiness is more subtle, but also unsettling.  

The disturbing nature of Irréversible begins with the opening credits, which tilt as they scroll. The first 30 minutes of the film make use of strange low frequency sound which are normally only heard in nature when an earthquake is about to occur. These frequencies are almost inaudible to humans, but can cause nausea, sickness and vertigo.

The opening credits gradually tilt, causing the viewer to experience disorientation The story begins with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and his friend Pierre (Albert Dupontel) moving through a gay club looking for a man called Le Tenia (meaning the tapeworm, played by Jo Prestia) who attacked Marcus’ girlfriend Alex (Monica Belluci). They attack a man, viciously beating him with a fire extinguisher. The scene is unrelenting, as they move through the club the soundtrack, as well as some of the scenes happening in the background continue to turn the viewer’s stomach. The attack itself is a continuous shot and doesn’t hide any details. This event is the culmination of the rest of the events of the movie. Noé’s intention was to show us the results of Marcus and Pierre’s quest for revenge so that we may judge it by itself, without knowing the reason behind it. By doing this he presents us with a different view of the characters, and makes us question whether the characters are justified in their actions. To order the scenes in this way Noé has painted Marcus as being the monster of the film, rather than Le Tenia, who is being punished for a crime that in our eyes, he hasn’t yet committed. The film then moves onto scenes depicting Marcus and Pierre’s hunt for Le Tenia. The whole film is shot in a panicked and unsettling way.

The camera sometimes turns completely upside down and is rarely still (From the opening scenes of Irréversible) The second most important scene of the film is the rape and attack of Alex. It is similar to the attack in the club in that it is one continuous shot, and doesn’t look away. It occurs in a tunnel, and at one point we see a person enter the tunnel only to witness the scene and walk away. This piece of the movie lasts for an excruciating ten minutes. The whole movie is extremely...
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