Time and Film Viewing: Spectators' Temporal Experiences

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Elephant & Castle - Bergamo University - Italy

Time and Film Viewing: Spectators' Temporal Experiences
edited by Stefano Ghislotti and Elisa Pezzotta

We welcome original articles for a special issue of Elephant & Castle, which is due to be published in winter 2016, that will attempt to further the inquiry into the temporal experiences that arise in the spectators' minds during film viewing. With "temporal experiences" we mean all the effects of the viewers' mental activities that are cued by cinematographic data, and that constitute a synthesis of memories linked to the feeling, measurement, conception, and imagination of the passage of time, either when films explicitly express duration, or symbolize and suggest it. These activities can be defined as experiences because they are substantial answers to key elements of film construction, and can become innovative modalities of viewing that give meaning to new, enigmatic aesthetic and narrative choices.
Contemporary cinema, from Pulp Fiction to more recent films, has shown the tendency to treat time as a significant parameter, and to explore its variations and potentialities, both from a thematic and a narrative point of view. Time has become the main subject of lots of films, and the field of experimentation of narrative forms, with results that directly and significantly involve viewers, modeling their perceptions and stimulating new forms of reception. On the one hand, this trend is inspired by the aesthetic research carried out during the era of international art cinema, which made fundamental contributions to the exploration of time with directors such as Ozu Yasujirō, Robert Bresson, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Alain Resnais and Michelangelo Antonioni. On the other hand, contemporary cinema has adopted time as a key element, making it more complex and refined through rich textures, or extreme narrative tensions, or structures so elaborate and meandering that spectators get lost, disoriented, and often feel it necessary to re-interpret the whole film with the help of a second viewing.
Temporal ideas and forms, as well as the modalities of their presentation, arouse in spectators peculiar mental representations. For example, in some films, as in time travel narratives, time becomes a theme, whereas in puzzle films it becomes an enigma to be solved, a hypothetical time that spectators have to reconstruct joining and reordering all the different clues. Furthermore, for some directors, such as Andrei Tarkovsky, time assumes a peculiar importance becoming a key aspect of his poetics.
Nevertheless, the temporal dimensions of viewing do not only characterize these specific examples. In each film the objective duration of a shot, a scene and a sequence may not correspond to the time lived and experienced by the spectators during viewing. The experience of time seems to be able to elude precise measurements, expanding and contracting itself in the spectators' minds. It is, according to Torben Grodal, a parameter that depends on other cognitive and affective processes activated during viewing.
We welcome contributions that examine the different temporal experiences of spectators, that arise during the viewing of a film or an ensemble of films, whether they are focused on the theme of time or other subjects. The bibliography below is intending as a starting point, intended to encourage creative responses to the theme proposed here. Possible discussion points include:
films in which time is foregrounded, as in time travel narratives, backward and jumbled plots, alternative stories and repeated event plots, or in particular cases such as Time Code (Mike Figgis, 2000) or La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962);
films by directors for whom time becomes a distinguishing feature and concern;
discussions of how mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing and sound influence the temporal dimensions of viewing;
analyses of how temporal experiences depend on other cognitive and affective processes activated during viewing.

Please send submissions, no longer than 9000 words, in Italian, English or French, accompanied by a brief abstract and biographical note, by the 30th of November 2015, to the following email addresses: stefano.ghislotti@unibg.it.
The editors will make the final decision on which proposals will be included. All submissions will be reviewed following a strict double blind peer review policy.


Bordwell, David (1989) Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Buckland, Warren (2009) Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Buckland, Warren (2014) Hollywood Puzzle Films, New York: Routledge.
Currie, Gregory (1997) Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ghislotti, Stefano (2012) Film Time. Le dimensioni temporali della visione. Bergamo: Sestante.
Ghislotti, Stefano (2011) (ed.) Ai confini della comprensione. Narrazione complessa e Puzzle Films. Bergamo: Lubrina.
Grodal, Torben (1997) Moving Pictures: A New Theory of Film Genres, Feelings, and Cognition, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Herman, David (2003) Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences, California: CSLI (pp. 163-192).
Plantinga, Carl and Greg M. Smith (1999) Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion, Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Sternberg, Meir (1990) "Telling in Time (I): Chronology and Narrative Theory", Poetics Today, vol. 11, no. 4 (pp. 901-948).
Sternberg, Meir (1992) "Telling in Time (II): Chronology, Teleology, Narrativity", Poetics Today, vol. 13, no. 3 (pp. 463-541).
Sternberg, Meir (2006) "Telling in Time (III): Chronology, Estrangement, and Stories of Literary History", Poetics Today, vol. 27, no. 1 (pp. 125-235).
Totaro, Donato (1999) "Gilles Deleuze's Bergsonian Film Project", OffScreen, 31/03/1999.
Totaro, Donato (1992) "Time and the Film Aesthetics of Andrei Tarkovsky", Canadian Journal of Film Studies, vol. 2 , no. 1 (pp. 21-30).