Handbücher und Studien zur Medienkulturwissenschaft, Band 3
Eva Laass:
Broken Taboos, Subjective Truths: Forms and Functions of Unreliable Narration
in Contemporary American Cinema - A Contribution to Film Narratology

The subject of unreliable narration in the medium of film has been booming. Having been widely ignored for decades, the topic has enjoyed increasing theoretical popularity in the course of the last few years. This is apparently because in that time, movies playing with strategies of unreliable narration have suddenly proliferated. By consciously contravening dominant entertainment conventions these filmic narratives show a differentiation and intellectualisation of certain narrative forms even within Hollywood cinema and thus constitute striking counterexamples to the frequently lamented increasing triviality of popular culture. However, in spite of the resulting popularity of the respective films as scholarly subjects, there is still no comprehensive study on unreliable filmic narration, the theoretical premises and results are diverse, and hardly any critic is able to consistently classify its narrative strategies or, outside the academic context, to even give them a general name. 

The attempt to close this gap systematically will raise a number of questions. For example, the phenomenon still lacks distinctiveness: how can unreliable filmic narration be consistently defined, first of all? What different forms of narrative unreliability can be distinguished? In which respects do unreliable literary and filmic narration differ? Why have unreliably narrated films become so strikingly popular in recent years? What are they able to offer which Hollywood movies with more straightforward structures and ethics or literary manifestations of narrative unreliability are not? Which needs do they meet in American culture? Based on a variety of mostly well-known examples of recent American cinema - Forrest Gump, Thank You for Smoking, Natural Born Killers, The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Memento, and Mulholland Drive - the study tries to find some answers to these questions and thus to provide an introductory cartography of the heterogeneous field of unreliable filmic narration and its potential social functions.


"Das erzähltheoretisch handfeste Inventar zur konkreten Filmanalyse, die solide und transparente Argumentation sowie die klar verständliche Sprache empfehlen die vorliegende Monographie als maßgebliche Einführung zu Ausprägungen erzählerischer Unzuverlässigkeit im amerikanischen Spielfilm der Gegenwart." (Désirée Kriesch, IASL online)

"[...] kann das Konzept und die entwickelte Typologie von Laass überzeugen. Ihre Studie stellt somit einen wichtigen und umfassenden Forschungsbeitrag zum Phänomen des unzuverlässigen Erzählens im Film dar." (Dominik Orth, MEDIENwissenschaft 4/2009)

ISBN 978-3-86821-075-0, 316 S., kt., € 32,50 (2008)

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