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Carmgdbie Utiisvnrey did a study taht porevd that as lnog as the fisrt and lsat ltetres of a wrod are trehe, you can slamcrbe the mdilde of a word in any fahison and the wrod will still rdea as the oaringil wrod.

What I find interesting about this is the idea of perception and how our minds automatically form narratives, or make sense of the nonsensical. It’s impossible for us to accept something in the abstract, we are always trying to fit ourselves into the situation, mentally, in order to understand what our senses are perceiving. In regards to the Cambridge study, we are applying known truths (i.e. definable, recognizable words) to nonsense. In regards to art, it allows the obscure and abstract to become more accessible.

In INLAND EMPIRE, the director David Lynch toys with the idea of traditional narrative. He wrote the movie script on a day-by-day basis, handing the actors a freshly written page in the morning and filming the movie without knowing what the plot would be, framing ideas within scenes and trusting that everything would fit together in the end. The result is an intimidatingly long movie that is so convoluted that it is difficult to sit though. During my viewing, a quarter of the theater got up and left during the middle. However, as confused as you may be, once you relax and trust in David Lynch, the movie reads on the same level as a poem. Each scene tantalizing in it’s own right, single lines that force contemplation long after they have been uttered. INLAND EMPIRE is the most mentally agile film I have ever seen. It forces active audience participation because of it’s lack of cohesive narrative, both during the film and after. You, as an audience member, struggle throughout the movie to form a narrative, and each scene forces you to reevaluate the narrative you had settled upon during the previous scene. The plot is constantly shifting because you are struggling to find a plot. You need a story, and the lack of a specific story, or at least a traditional arc, only creates a more tantalizing puzzle.

I admire this ability of people to piece together a narrative, whether, as in the Cambridge study, from known absolutes, or as in INLAND EMPIRE, simply as a way to process and comprehend unrecognizable stimuli. Paul Broks, author of Into the Silent Land posits that what we think of ourselves, what we define as our being, is a story. We imagine ourselves as something, re-form our memories to reflect this, and act accordingly. Life is nothing but a story.

One Comment

  1. I just started reading a book of essays by Donald Barthelme called “The Not-Knowing.” The first is about how Modernist writers (Joyce, Stein) were interested in creating objects that weren’t simply referents to reality. They built (particularly Joyce-see “Finnegan’s Wake”) “novels” that weren’t stories and couldn’t be unpacked like puzzles; These books existed within the world alongside lamps, hot dogs, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and as such needed to be interacted with like any other phenomenon-not as a text with a particular meaning but as a thing with a meaning as elastic as the context it was viewed in or the consciousness that’s viewing it. Barthelme himself practices this; He is continually within a process of discovery as he crafts his stories (or slumgullions as he called them). He is not describing a structure he has conceptualized from his perceptions of the world. Lynch definitely does this, too. I remember watching “Mulholland Drive” for the first time and developing some theory around it about how our ideas of things and our identities are these fluid creations that relate to our culture and our surroundings. A short time later someone told me he’d read something that completely decoded the film as if it had been a game. I don’t think the film is that simple.

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