25 Chapters
Medium 9780253020871

3. The Wellsprings of Fictive Creativity

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

Fictive representation, while necessary as a means of facilitating communication between the emotional and cognitive parts of the brain, does not emerge out of nowhere; it is prompted by motivations that arise out of the brain’s emotional systems, and is designed either to express or induce emotion(s), or both. The rich history of humans creating stories shows that the affects involved can be combined in a variety of ways that are as infinite as the subtle differences between every human being and between every human experience. Within this variety and complexity, however, a certain number of predominant motivations can be discerned, which eventuate in a range of fiction categories that we have come to identify as “genres,” distinguished by the nature and manner of their preoccupations. Before the role of genres can be fully apprehended, however, their relationship to the basic affects needs to be established.

At the heart of all impulses to create fiction is the SEEKING system that prompts humans, like all other mammals, “to search for, find, and acquire all of the resources that are needed for survival.” This is an instinctual-emotional impulse, according to Panksepp, that is involved in the appetitive phases of all of the other emotional systems.1 When the SEEKING system aligns itself with other affects that connote perturbing emotions in the individual, such as GRIEF/PANIC (associated with separation distress), the fiction it prompts tends to be deeply personal, as are almost all auteur films as well as a great preponderance of literary fictions. When SEEKING aligns itself with CARE and adopts a social focus, a different kind of fictive work is produced, one that primarily harnesses the moving power of affect for the sake of addressing issues that have consequences for the well-being of a collectivity. One can see this kind of concern in social problem novels such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855), which describes the “misery and hateful passions caused by the love of pursuing wealth as well as the egoism, thoughtlessness and insensitivity of manufacturers.” It is also seen in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel. Many fiction films similarly focus on social issues, such as Days of Glory (Rachid Bouchareb, 2006), dealing with the experience of soldiers from the Maghreb who fought for France in World War II, only to find themselves the victims of discrimination in France, and Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011), which addresses the phenomenon of sexual addiction, currently widespread, and the misery it can cause.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008343

9 The Child King: Small Change (1976), Love on the Run (1979)

Gillain, Anne Indiana University Press ePub

SMALL CHANGE AND LOVE ON THE RUN, IN VERY DIFFERENT ways, both deal with the past, reassembling fragments of a childhood, a time of life, an experience. Of the sketches that make up Small Change, only the final one (the summer camp) is directly autobiographical. The others are snippets of stories found in newspapers, invented, or borrowed from others. Nevertheless, this film seems in many respects to be like a rereading of The 400 Blows, with all the young heroes being a composite of Antoine Doinel. Love on the Run picks up the story of Antoine through flashbacks of the series that bears his name, and also of Day for Night, The Man Who Loved Women, and even A Gorgeous Girl Like Me. Small Change disperses memory across the space of a town that owes more to one of Trenet’s songs than to the actual reality of France in 1976; Love on the Run looks for images of a lost time in the memory of cinema, in this way definitively consummating the divorce between myth and life. Both films reflect a wish to exorcize the past by subjecting it to the gaze of an appeased maturity. The way they are edited transforms the story into a puzzle in which the key piece is that of inscribing a new vision of the relationship between the son and his mother.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008343

7 Marriages: Mississippi Mermaid (1969), Bed and Board (1970)

Gillain, Anne Indiana University Press ePub

AT THE TIME WHEN BED AND BOARD WAS RELEASED, TRUFFAUT made the following observation:

I class myself among the group of directors for whom cinema is an extension of youth, who, just like children who have been sent to play in a corner and remake the world with toys, continue to play as adults by making films. This is what I call “cinema from the room at the back,” involving a refusal to accept life as it is, or the world in its real state and, in reaction, an acceptance of the need to re-create something that has a bit of the quality of fairy stories about it, rather like the American cinema that made us dream when we were young.1

This declaration, while it applies to all his works, reflects more than anything else the degree to which Truffaut remained distanced from his own times during the years following May 1968. Mississippi Mermaid and Bed and Board are both characterized by unreality. Removed from ideological commitments, Truffaut cultivated the style of the masters. In the first of these movies, he adopts the formula of a melodrama that combines the influences of Renoir and Hitchcock, and in the second one, those of Lubitsch’s comedies seasoned with a dash of Guitry. Being the works of a cinephile that were aimed at a mass audience, these films were not very successful when they were released. Nevertheless, their experimental nature does not mean that they are devoid of emotion. The sincerity of the representation of love in Mississippi Mermaid, and a degree of awkwardness in the handling of certain aspects of its structure, turn it into what one could describe as “a little sick film” that appeals to those who love Truffaut’s works. The power of the film derives from its melodic line, from the continuity of its interior vision, which follows the course of a metaphorical journey that is not spatially interrupted. In contrast, Bed and Board, a static film that centers on an apartment building, exploits discontinuity. Gags, improvisation, and wordplay are uppermost in a story in which the scene forms the narrative unit. Although one is a film-river and the other is a film-mosaic, these two works both have as their subject the early stages of the life of a married couple, describing the pitfalls that threaten its precarious harmony. Both end on a note that is full of ambiguity. But their deep subject remains the eternal dialectic between solitude and intimacy, which is at the very heart of the experience of the spectator who is watching cinema.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253020871

4. The Materials of Fictive Invention

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

In chapters 1 and 2, I establish why fiction enacts more than merely a didactic or entertainment purpose, suggesting that it has a mind-altering function more complex than propositional logic alone can accomplish–that is, without emotional reactions having been processed into thought. I argue that fictive representation, motivated by the SEEKING system, activates areas in the right hemisphere of the brain to enable communication across, and integration between, the two hemispheres, which in turn allows material that would otherwise remain cognitively unrepresented in the unconscious mind to be brought into conscious awareness. This process itself, I suggest, depends on the “moving” power of emotions that arise from the basic affective systems with which evolution has equipped humans, along with all other mammals, as an adaptation designed to increase the chances of survival and enhance well-being.

I also argue that fictive representation accomplishes its tasks through the construction of fantasies that allow unacknowledged or disavowed affect, as well as affect consciously experienced as a result of environmental circumstances, to be processed psychologically. This is a precondition for the regulation of affective experience and hence the management of life itself. Before exploring in more detail how fantasies actually work in literary and cinematic fiction, it is necessary to examine some of the representational devices and strategies they comprise.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253020871

10. Intersubjective Attunement, Filiation, and the Re-creative Process: Jules and Jim–from Henri-Pierre Roché to François Truffaut

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

My purpose in this chapter, following the theoretical exposition in chapter 9, is to show how the intersubjective attunement made possible by the combined operation of neurological and psychological processes involved in reception generates a response that is not merely passively receptive, but also actively re-creative. To a large extent, the processes involved are invisible and unconscious, but their presence can be detected through their outward signs: namely, in patterns of unconscious filiation that can be traced from one author to the next and in the evidence of imitation and reconstitution provided by the cinematic adaptation of literary works. Neuroscience has, as yet, been unable to track empirically the neurological ways in which these intersubjective/re-creative processes are effectuated at this stage in scientific research–the human brain is far too complex for that–but enough evidence exists, in forms that are accessible to critical and historical analysis, to enable scholars to make informed surmises.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters