Wednesday, June 5, 2013


The effect of distancing or estranging a spectator through means within the form or content of a text that challenge basic codes and conventions, and therefore mainstream ideological expectations. The term, drawn from the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and connected with the “alienation effect” theorized and practiced by German Marxist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, has been used by film theorists in discussions of the possibilities and limitations of using cinema to challenge mainstream ideological and institutional structures. Formally, distantiation may be achieved by such things as obvious jump cuts, glaring lighting, violating the 180 degree rule, etc. Narratively, the film may employ absurd, arbitrary, and/or non-linear story lines. Distantiation may be achieved through characterization by creating characters that audiences can neither identify with nor mindlessly loathe. A key question within film theory concerning distantiation is whether a film can achieve its intended political effect simply by being formally alienating without being directly political, particularly in today's post-modernist cinema, when shocking innovation has become part of the standard palette employed by Hollywood directors.

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