Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

Spaces, Gaps, and Levels

From the Diegetic to the Aesthetic in Film Theory

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2012), 6, (1), 21–37.

Abstract

Adopting an aesthetic perspective, as distinct from a strictly narratological one, this article centres on the represented reality of a film that the concept of diegesis in its various formulations posits. In particular, it addresses this reality's experience by viewers, its figurative location, and its relation to other aspects of a narrative film work, as well as the so-called real world. Although concurring with some significant criticisms of the diegetic/nondiegetic framework, it also calls for preserving aspects of what some theorists argue constitutes the semiotic and experiential character of diegesis. Including, for example, the existence of a distinct referential (denotational) level of a film, and the sort of variable gap between what is within and without the world of characters and narrative events (and fluid ‘border crossings’ between the two) that is suggested by Robynn Stilwell. These views are taken up into a different model, a topological one, which entails conceiving both fictional representations and narrative(s), together with film sound and music, as artistic elements within a fundamentally multi-layered whole. Equivalent to the created and experienced totality of a film's presentation, this whole may, for short, be termed a film world as distinct from a represented, fictional, or diegetic world.

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Yacavone, Daniel