Cinematic effects in literature  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cinematic effects in literature, is a notion first put forward by German writer Lotte H. Eisner in her book The Haunted Screen.

Lotte H. Eisner argues that dream novels such as Lucinde, Flegeljahre and Heinrich von Ofterdingen try to depict photographic techniques such as metamorphoses and superimposition.

Eisner writes:

"Romantic authors such as Novalis or Jean Paul, while anticipating the Expressionist notions of visual delirium and of a continual state of effervescence, also seem almost to have foreseen the cinema's consecutive sequences of images. In the eyes of Schlegel in Lucinde, the loved one's features become indistinct: 'very rapidly the outlines changed, returned to their original form, then metamorphosed anew until they disappeared entirely from my exalted eyes.' And the Jean Paul of the Flegeljahre says: 'The invisible world wished, like chaos, to give birth to all things together; the flowers became trees, then changed into columns of cloud; and at the tops of the columns flowers and faces grew. In Novalis's novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen there are even superimpositions."

She concludes:

"It is reasonable to argue that the German cinema is a development of German Romanticism, and that modern technique [cinematography] merely lends visible form to Romantic fancies."

Umberto Eco in Six Walks in the Fictional Woods also discusses cinematic effects in the work of Italian author Alessandro Manzoni.

"One of the questions that has always intrigued Italian readers is why Manzoni spends so much time, at the start of The Betrothed, in describing Lake Como. We can forgive Proust for taking thirty pages to describe the process of getting to sleep, but why does Manzoni have to take at least a page to tell us, "Once upon a time there was a lake and here I intend to set my story"? If we tried reading this passage with a map before us, we would see that Manzoni builds his description by combining two film techniques: zoom and slow motion. Don't tell me that a nineteenth-century writer didn't know about film ..."

In Trial of the Warlock, a novelette by Norman Mailer, the story is written in the style of a film script.

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