On (UN)RELIABLE (UN)RELIABLITY
By Thomas van den Berg
This text is not necessary in order to understand the video (un)reliable (un)reliability – or, Perceptual Subversions of the Continuity Editing System, nor is it necessary as a companion piece. However, this text does explain exactly why my video should need no written supplement. The sentences you are reading right now are an afterthought, to distance myself from the shortcomings of the audiovisual work presented. Nevertheless, I feel the video should remain in the form in which I originally made it, as it illustrates one of the first attempts at a theoretically laden, standalone piece of audiovisual film studies work, made precisely with the ambition of attaining academic standards normally understood in relation to written scholarship. When one works with technologically more expansive media than a word-processor, however, specific technical constraints and practical pitfalls also arise. These imposed both positive and negative limits on the kind of work that could be carried out from a theoretical point of view, sometimes stalling progress, sometimes opening up possibilities for exploration and presentation.
The video was not made with publication in mind. It was an experiment for one of my Masters courses taught by Dr. Miklós Kiss, at the University of Groningen. I had carried out up to about three quarters of the work I would normally have done had I been aiming to write the research up solely as a paper, and then I started shaping it into video. My production circumstances were spartan: I had limited time, worked on a six year-old MacBook that could barely manage iMovie ‘09, and recorded all audio and music in Audacity freeware with a simple dynamic microphone and a borrowed Focusrite interface. Some voice-over segments are audibly worse than others, due to an unreliably improvised pop-filter. My computer proved time and time again that when things were finally in place in the iMovie project, they were not to be meddled with afterwards (this is why the mispronunciation of “disparate, spatiotemporal shots” remains while the correction “spatiotemporally disparate shots” shows up on screen).
Nevertheless, my aim was clear. I wanted to (attempt to) produce a video that would suffice as an audiovisual container for a research paper. With this goal in mind I sought ways of ensuring the same qualities of lucidity and traceability of information as one would aim for, ideally, in a written text. In my video these efforts can be seen in the references presented at the bottom of the screen (similar to footnotes) as well as in the rhetorical set-up of the video. Like a written paper (although possibly a little more loosely), the video presents a thesis, a contextualized and reasoned case study, a theoretical framework, and an analysis and conclusion. In between the thesis and case-study sections in the video, though, I strategically placed a self-reflexive passage in which I considered the possibilities of videographic essay forms, in the context of film studies, in order to establish a useful frame of reference for the audience.
At the time (late 2012 to early 2013), my knowledge of the audiovisual essay was still nascent, yet sufficent for me to build on. Now I feel that several theoretical notions presented (mostly in the self-reflective part of my video) would benefit from some nuancing or rephrasing, but I no longer have any way of achieving this with this video. So the referencing early on of what I considered a fruitful format (audiovisual formalism) is arguably underdeveloped, yet I think it holds up. In my written thesis work I have gone on to dig more deeply into various modes of audiovisual film studies. I can hopefully share the results of that research with anyone interested in the near future.
With all of this said, please consider my video for what it is: an essai, an attempt.
Edited by Catherine Grant
Thomas van den Berg (b. 1987) recently graduated from the University of Groningen (NL), Department of Arts, Culture and Media Studies, specializing in film studies. His masters thesis explored the evolution of and future possibilities for videographic film studies. Together with his supervisor, dr. Miklós Kiss, the results of this thesis will be reworked into a pedagogical booklet. Prior to his specialization Van den Berg studied English Language & Culture, and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. He is currently working as a freelance writer, videographer, and composer/musician. With his band Kinetophone he has written and performed experimental soundtracks to several films from the silent era, and is now working on soundtracks for contemporary Dutch filmmakers.
Further video credits and information
Essay Video for the master’s course Arts & Cultural Change /
Dr. M. Kiss / University of Groningen / 2013 /
by Thomas van den Berg / s1645269 /
This video is an attempt to work an academic case study with solid theoretical footing into a container where audiovisual rhetoric is employed. Therefore, implications entail both furthering the essay video-format, as well as reflections on artifice in the technique surrounding conventional(ized) narrative film. By means of a case study on Michael Walker’s Chasing Sleep (2000) I propose to reconsider the definition of ‘unreliable narrative’, and additionally seek to problematize our reliance on an artificial system of storytelling which is wrongly considered analogous to our ecological perceptual system.
– Introduction [00’00”]
– Reflection on ‘essay’ and audiovisualcy, differentiating the forms and prospects [01’10”]
– Demarcation of case study: Michael Walker’s Chasing Sleep (2000) [03’54”]
– Theoretical framework concerning ecological perception vs continuity editing, and ecological perception of continuity editing [06’40”]
– Analysis of salient phenomena found in Chasing Sleep [17’20”]
– Discussion and conclusion [31’11”]
– References & post scripta [35’55”]
(total runtime: 36’49”)
NB: this video contains copyrighted material which Thomas van den Berg does not own. All rights reserved.
* rectification: the mention of ‘dusk’ should be ‘dawn’
*** CONTAINS SPOILERS for Michael Walker’s ‘Chasing Sleep’ (2000) ***
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