Throughout this series of articles, I’ve been emphasising the idea of ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’ as a distinguishing feature of postmodernism. With postmodern film, this idea can be expressed even more simply – incredulity towards narrative. After Citizen Kane simultaneously interwove two different storylines – each taking place in different temporal and spatial locations – post-structuralist filmmakers have questioned and altered conventional storytelling structures, forms, character archetypes and narratives in their experimentation with the capabilities of the filmic form. The ethos behind this is ‘fragmentation’: a fracturing of the expected, conventional order of a film’s plot by shifting between different times, spaces and characters in the creation of a non-linear narrative, or no narrative at all.
One of the prime characteristics of postmodern cinema is defiance against the narrative convention of genre. Genre is, essentially, a set of conventional rules that filmmakers conform to in order to make sure the audience is aware of, and comfortable with, the type of film they are seeing. Postmodern composers repudiate the concept of genre by either completely ignoring it, or by mixing together various genres and styles in a process known as ‘pastiche’, making it increasingly difficult to categorise a film in any one genre.
Self-reflexivity is, by no means, a uniquely postmodern way to construct art. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is heavily self-reflexive through its direct references to theatrical production and indeed the intertextual mise-em-abyme of using a play within the play itself. However, postmodern self-reflexivity is driven by the emergence of new media. While modern media forms like photography and cinema emerged in the modernist, post-Industrial era of art history, postmodern filmmakers use the medium of film to comment on the effects of modern media forms, and the potentially pernicious aspects of their ambiguous future. Certain self-reflexive postmodern filmmakers constantly draw attention to the fact that they are making a film, and never leave the audience in doubt that they are watching a film. Indeed, composers explicitly reference other media texts in their deconstruction of the filmic form and the effects the filmic form on the viewer.
I do not by any means claim to be an authority on postmodernism. To do so would be in contravention of the ethos of postmodernism, as ostensibly no-one can understand the absolute truth surrounding an idea – in this case, postmodernism itself. Already, I can tell that this is going to be a very confounding article: one full of my misunderstandings and misinterpretations of one of the most complex historical, philosophical and artistic ideologies ever, and peppered with pretension and masturbatory self-aggrandisement.
I’ve been in a bit of a horror movie mood since Halloween, so in a few weeks time, I’m going to be counting down the best ten horror movies of all time – as voted by you! Please send me a list of favourite horror movies of all time, and then I’ll compile them and review each of them! You can submit as many as ten films, and you can submit those picks by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org before November 29. I’d love it if you could help me out and make the blog more interactive (when it returns in two weeks…).