Moving Picture, Lying Image: Unreliable Cinematic Narratives

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By coining the term “unreliable narrator” Wayne Booth hypothesized another agent in his model besides the author, the implicit author, to explain the double coding of narratives where a distorted view of reality and the exposure of this distortion are presented simultaneously. The article deals with the applicability of the concept in visual narratives. Since unreliability is traditionally considered to be intertwined with first person narratives, it works through subjective mediators. According to scholarly literature on the subject, the narrator has to be strongly characterized, or in other words, anthropomorphized. In the case of film, the main problem is that the narrator is either missing or the narration cannot be attributed entirely to them. There is a medial rupture where the apparatus mediates the story instead of a character’s oral or written discourse. The present paper focuses on some important but overlooked questions about the nature of cinematic storytelling through a re-examination of |the lying flashback in Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright. Can a character-narrator control the images the viewer sees? How can the filmic image still be unreliable without having an anthropomorphic narrator? How useful is the term focalization when we are dealing with embedded character-narratives in film?

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Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies

The Journal of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania

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