Mise en Esprit: One-Character Films and the Evocation of Sensory Imagination

In: Paragraph. Vol. 43, Nr. 3, 2020. S. 249-264

This article starts out by introducing the category of the ‘one-character film’ — that is, narrative feature films that rely on a single onscreen character. One-character films can range from extremely laconic movies entirely focused on the action in the narrative here-and-now via highly talkative films that revolve around soliloquies of self-reflection, questioning of identity and a problematizing of the narrative past to strongly dialogue-heavy films that — via phones and other telecommunication devices — reach far beyond the depicted scene. It is on the latter that the article eventually focuses. Films like Buried (2010), Locke (2013) or The Guilty (2018) centrifugally thrust the viewers into a simultaneous present that remains invisible and that they have to imagine in sensory ways. Imagining this invisible elsewhere, which I call mise en esprit, can be facilitated and evoked through various cinematic means such as reduced within-modality-interference, suggestive verbalizations, acousmatic voices and sound effects.

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