Skip to content

Cock and Bull – frames within frames

October 25, 2014

cockandbull

When confronting film adaptations of classic novels – I’m a dyed in the wool miseryguts.  I mean, I will hate everything and bore everyone around with me about how profoundly wrong and stupid everything is.  The only kind of film adaptations I really like come in two varieties – there are the ones that are minutely, painfully accurate and detailed and run to about seven or eight hours.  And then there are the ones which are radical reinterpretations that take the central logic of the story and rearrange it within some radically different historical context.  Or far future.  In a different country.  Or on another planet.

I did like Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy/Cock and Bull  (2005), however, and I do show bits of it when I lecture on Tristram Shandy.  Like today.

The logic of making a film about making a film about a book that is about writing a book seems unassailable.  I love the fact that Steve Coogan is playing a very annoying actor called Steve Coogan and you can’t really separate or imagine a “real” Steve Coogan separate from the character on screen.  Coogan gets annoyed when  hears an impression of him, claiming it’s just an Alan Partridge impression, but who is in any position to start splitting personae at such a confusing stage of proceedings.

I wonder what it must have been like on the set of that movie?  Separating the real crew from the cast who are playing crew – the cameras that are shooting the film from the cameras which are props.  Wheels within wheels.

One thing that films within films, stories within stories, plays within plays, an dream sequences do – is enhance a strange kind of reality effect.  A fiction that builds a frame within itself and claims that everything within that frame is “really” fiction gives a kind of truth claim to everything that happens outside that interior frame.  “Realism” (which is never real but only about a certain kind of effect) is always enhanced in relative terms.  There is no absolute reality – only a sense that something are more real than others.

Frames within frames is why that scene from The Ring (2002) was so scary.  The most level headed rationalist can’t help but think “if she can climb out of that television set into his living room – what’s to stop her climbing out of my television into my living room”.  By assembling a hierarchical sequence of realities – any absolute security attached to our own reality seems threatened.

The great thing that Winterbottom did with his two masterpieces – Cock and Bull and 24 Hour Party People was to use the idea of unreliable narration to remind us that, on the one hand, reality is too sprawling and complex and intimate and fascinating to ever fit into any form of narrative… and on the other hand that reality is inconceivable without narrative, that our frames are as essential as they are useless and that our only reality lies in the Sisyphean curse of happy storytelling.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. I love these two guys. Must see this!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: