The Richness of a Narrative Arrest: Performance and Scenic Composition in the Cinema of William Wyler

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The work of Hollywood director William Wyler offers a rewarding case for studying the narrative purposes of rhythmic variations. Film critics have traditionally viewed Wyler’s scenes in terms of depth of field but by looking for elements that weaken his pace, we can explain his acclaimed work as the result of how performance and picture jointly serve rhythmic purposes. My study distinguishes between two kinds of narrative arrests in Wyler’s films, 1935–1970. The unfocused arrests are critical for Wyler’s art and depend on actors’ techniques for adding emphasis and Wyler’s techniques for creating pictorial diversions. By halting dramatic progression during key scenes, Wyler seemingly expands the characters’ worlds with meanings in the spectator’s eyes. Finally, I show how changing technologies and narrative norms constrained Wyler’s later work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProjections - The journal for movies and mind
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)68-87
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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