I’ve been meaning to finish The Rhetoric of Fiction for a while. One thing that stuck out at me, from what I have read, is the idea of a narrator as a distinct, always-present voice, even when distinct from a protagonist. And particularly, that the narrator makes choices about what is, or isn’t revealed to an audience.
That was an idea I found extremely useful when I was watching Calvary the other week [SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know the end of the movie].
Particularly, because the movie opens with a priest in a confessional – told, by a person on the other side, that he’s going to kill him. In a subsequent scene, he tells his clerical superior that he knows who it is. But narrator (and, incidentally, the protagonist) doesn’t reveal who the person making the threat is, for the duration of the movie.
Which is odd. Quite odd. There were other things that I didn’t like about the movie – it felt slightly disjointed, and sometimes it felt as though it was lapsing into comedy simply because it was too easy, even though overall the tone was the opposite of comic. But in retrospect, this … omission stands out.
Because it means that, having reached the end of the movie, one of the scenes from earlier on suddenly becomes somewhat farcical. It also means that we can’t, really, get into the story of the priest; because we’re separated from him, we can only see him from a distance. So as the camera follows him, it feels distant, like a series of disjointed tableaus, rather than the story of a man’s last week.