Modernist Fiction and the Camera-Eye.
“Style in itself is an absolute manner of seeing”: Modernist Fiction and the Camera-Eye.
In 1897, Joseph Conrad began “The Nigger of Narcissus” with the declaration that, “my task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel- it is, before all, to make you see”. His emphasis on the artist’s loyalties to more perfectly convey the world in fiction prompted literature’s move beyond mimetic Realism and toward a new type of representational writing where authors could use language to investigate the ways we perceive the world..
However, forty years earlier, Gustav Flaubert had similarly emphasised this need for a mastery of language to make the reader see through style alone. He believed the future of Art lay in the direct engagement of language with expression and thoughts on reality (Flaubert 301) characterised in his “novel about nothing”, Madame Bovary (1857). Flaubert’s theory predicts the ideas of the literary impressionist movement, pioneered by Walter Pater and defined by its preoccupations with “the processes of perception and visual sensation, its evocation of superimposition and multiple perspectives…and its understanding of enduring and essential forms underlying the visible world” (Marcus 186).
The attempts of literary impressionism to depart from mere aesthetic representation and turn inwards embodied Modernism’s desires to investigate deeper into their characters, continuing the work of Flaubert by experimenting with language to represent these processes of perception, perfecting techniques such as stream of consciousness, narrative temporality and alternating points of view. It is by the presence of these features in Flaubert’s work that led to his characterisation as proto-modernist, foreshadowing the later stylistic experiments of Modernist authors like James Joyce in Ulysses (1922) which embraced the interior experience of reality, providing an ideal comparison in an investigation into modes of seeing. However, while such experimentation with narrative representation was occurring in literature at the turn of the century, a new art was emerging that promised to perfect the way we viewed the world- the cinema. In 1913, D.W Griffiths reiterated Conrad’s manifesto, saying “The task I am trying to achieve is above all to make you see” (Spiegel xii); only this time he was referring to his intentions for film.
When cinema first came to public attention in 1895, it predominantly focused on documentary films that mimetically represented the world as a series of images. Yet, as technological advances mobilised the camera, many filmmakers recognised that by organising the images on screen as part of the conceptual design, film held the same diegetic potential as literature (Spiegel xii). This notion of a narrative film was heavily theorised by Dziga Vertov, a Soviet filmmaker from the 1920s and pioneer of ‘the kino-eye’, translated here as the camera-eye. One of his most pertinent beliefs was that film would perfect the ‘imperfect human eye’ and improve its ability to portray reality since, “we cannot improve the making of our eyes but we can endlessly perfect the camera” (15). However, disdainful of the mimetic, Vertov’s camera-eye extended beyond the lens to the editing of the film-pieces to form the narrative of the film thus making ‘camera-eye’ a style in itself. The sole purpose is, through the camera, “to organise the film pieces wrested from life into…a meaningful visual phrase, an essence of “I SEE” (88) subliminally invoking Conrad and his Modernist contemporaries’ intentions and also providing the link between the film editor and the author. In considering the techniques film uses to achieve a diegetic quality, we recognise many similarities to its literary predecessors, notably Flaubert and Joyce, explaining their categorisation as ‘cinematic novels’. For Flaubert, this classification lay in his foreshadowing of cinematic forms and for Joyce, his close relationship with the cinema inspiring his revolutionary style of representing reality, with both authors displaying ultimate mastery and directorial control over the world they create.
In Theory of Film, Balazs emphasised the advantages of witnessing the birth of a new art and that studying the evolutionary process of film would help understand its predecessors, namely literature itself (22). The synonymous relationship Balazs establishes between literature and film presupposes a reciprocity between the two mediums; as cinema develops itself by adopting literary techniques, modernist literature draws on cinematic techniques to assist its experimentation in showing reality. However, seeing was not exclusive to vision, “the modernist narrative relates to modes of seeing as modes of knowing” (Danius 21) and so we must explore the ways Modernist literature sought to bring interiority to the foreground, encouraged by cinematic form. By drawing on knowledge of Modernist techniques and film theory while analysing the novel and its adaptation, we can hope to ascertain how both genres departed from mimetic representations of the world and turned towards more diegetic engagements by striving to create a more perfect eye with which to perceive the world, adopting the ‘camera-eye’.
With Madame Bovary, Flaubert wanted to create “ a book about nothing…held together by the strength of its style” (Flaubert 300). Since nothing of this calibre had been attempted, Flaubert needed to create new modes of representation to achieve these ambitious narrative objectives, a feat which caused him great difficulty;
“I have to portray, simultaneously and in the same conversation, five or six characters who speak, several others who are spoke about and the whole town, giving physical descriptions of people and objects: and in the midst of all that, I have to show a man and a woman who are beginning to fall in love with each other. If only I had space!” (Flaubert 304).
Flaubert’s dissatisfaction with the current author’s pen led him to refine his use of language establishing his distinctively visual style as a character of his novels in itself. Considering Flaubert’s narrative in this way poses a problem for the filmmaker hoping to adapt these now recognisably cinematic representational techniques to the screen since as Stam notes, “not only do Flaubert’s characters refuse to sit still for their portrait, the portraitist- Flaubert or better still the narratorial camera- also refuses to stay still” (154). It is this narratorial camera that will provide our focus. As opposed to viewing the adaptations of Renoir (1933), Minnelli (1949) and Chabrol (1991), in terms of their fidelity to the text, by analysing Flaubert’s most cinematic chapter, the Agricultural Fair, we may hope to better understand the features by which Flaubert aimed to make us see life as it is, most aptly through narrative montage. Chabrol, professed to “make the film Flaubert would have made had he a camera instead of a pen” (Stam 176) offering an intriguing analogy through which to investigate Flaubert’s writings as a precursor to the controlled and controlling camera-eye encouraged by Vertov.
The crux of the chapter resides in the juxtaposition of the menial village fair and Emma and Rodolphe’s retreat upstairs to the town-hall, foreshadowing Eisenstein’s concept of constructive montage. Viewed as a collision of ideas, Eisenstein believed “from the superimposition of two elements of the same dimension always arises a new, higher dimension” (49) seeing montage as a narrative driving force rather than just a rhetorical device. The narration of the two scenes is initially divided by alternating paragraphs between the lover’s conversation and the councillor’s speeches yet by disintegrating these distinctions, Flaubert increases the scene’s momentum, mirroring the escalating passion between the lovers. In likening Flaubert’s syntactical play to the editing of the film cuts, we can better understand his vision as he creates an experiential narrative, facilitated by the mobility of his narratorial camera.
Flaubert begins with a wide-angle equivalent shot intricately listing each aspect of the fair, gradually building a complete pictorial representation before filling his tableau with people “pouring in from the lanes, the alleys, the houses; and from time to time one heard banging of doors closing behind the ladies of the town in cotton gloves who were going to the fete” (108). Having established this opening shot, Flaubert replaces the presence of the omniscient novelist with the seeing eye of man (Spiegel 30), not only giving a broader view of the scene but also in alternating between these two modes of perception offers a deeper representation by presenting the world through the perspectives of the characters involved. This is exemplified though the switch in point of view to Mme Lefrancois and Homais watching the couple walk through the fair and then to Flaubert’s recreation of Emma and Rodolphe’s frenetic gait as they try to escape the watchful eye of Homais, “They were obliged to separate because of a great pile of chairs that a man was carrying behind them” (111). Recognising the distinctly cinematic nature of this section, both Minnelli and Chabrol focalise the narration of this scene through the gossips, transposing the camera-eye to their view of the couple.
Renoir’s relatively stationary camera meant this type of swift movement was unattainable and so, omitting this early section of the chapter, he favours basic cuts to transition the eye between Emma and Rodolphe and the councillors outside to demonstrate their simultaneity. In this way, Flaubert’s panning narratorial camera was already more advanced in its ability to travel with its characters and mimic their eye-line. However, in utilizing pan shots to impersonate Emma’s gaze watching Rodolphe, Renoir bestows the camera with a voyeuristic quality, directly implicating it within the narrative in the same way Flaubert was able to do by passing the narration to the vision of the gossips. Minnelli and Chabrol’s more technologically advanced cameras enable the filmmaker to employ more sophisticated editing techniques to provide a silent narrative. This is exemplified through Minnelli’s use of quick succession cutting; the gossips watching the off-screen couple, Charles on the stage alone; the two in the empty room upstairs reminding us where Emma should be – watching her husband on stage. Flaubert’s use of multiple vantage points lends itself well to the cinema, as exemplified by Chabrol’s imitation of the lines of vision of his characters, notably the view down from the window of the town-hall to the councillor on stage and the view up to the window as though from the audience, creating a multi-layered representation of the scene. As aforementioned, Flaubert’s use of syntactical leaps, predating film-cuts, provide great scope for the film editor looking to create a film narrative, as illustrated by Chabrol. As the tension building between the lovers emanates into the disintegrating paragraphs of the text, Chabrol intensifies the scene with rapid cuts between the couple and the scene below their window.
One of the most apparent advantages of film is the use of sound, which allows adaptations of Madame Bovary to embrace the subtleties of Flaubert’s language to encapsulate the same dramatic semantic overlap championed in the text. By cross-cutting the scenes and their dialogue, Flaubert used language itself to direct our perception of the scene, exemplified by the convergence of the word ‘duty’ in both scenarios as either Rodolphe overhears the speech outside or if this overlap is a way for Flaubert to ensure ‘duty’ resonates with the reader, subtly influencing our perception of the characters since we know neither have much respect for marital duty:
“…born of respect for law and the practice of duty…”
“Ah! again!” said Rodolphe. “Always duty. I am sick of the word” (117).
Minnelli’s screenplay dramatises these moments through the overlaid soundtrack of the speeches outside the window while Emma and Rodolphe sit in silence. As Emma finally yields to Rodolphe’s advances, the councillor outside announces “Dr Charles Bovary”, disrupting her fantasy. As she tries to run off, Charles’ voice can be heard outside talking about “a brash imposter”; demonstrating the ingenious use of dialogic in addition to scenic overlap to narrate the situation without implicitly including it in the words themselves. In giving this line to Charles, the audience is made aware, as is Emma, of the atrocity of her behaviour. Chabrol similarly incorporates the narrative capabilities of sound into his diegesis by using the window as a means for the speeches outside to filter into the room adding an extra level of sensorial perception. In extracting these subtleties from the text, the adaptations literalise the fluidity of sound exemplified through these syntactical distinctions whilst complementing the drama of the scene.
In Flaubert’s writing it is not only words that speak but bodily presence, exemplified through his reference to the physicality of his characters as a way to further our understanding of their interior consciousnesses. Flaubert’s use of the body as a narrative tool foreshadows Balazs’ theory that “the expressive moment is the aboriginal mother tongue of the human race” (42), able to articulate emotion external of dialogue itself. Flaubert’s revolutionary style of writing therefore disproves Balazs’ belief that “in the epoch of word culture, we made little use of the expressive powers of our body and have therefore partly lost that power” (42). In this way, cinema can be seen as a reclamation of this lost type of narrative and so in adapting novels we are given a new mode of perception as we can analyse the language of gesture lacking in the novel; “it is the visual means of communication… Man has again become visible” (41). Once again, we return to this idea of seeing and so considering this, cinema’s materialism moves to enhance the visuality of Flaubert’s original novel rather than reduce it to mere drama.
Flaubert’s text embraces the performative aspect Balazs defends in film, allowing his narration to enter Emma’s body as it reacts to her situation; “all the time she was conscious of Rodolphe’s head by her side… she kept hearing, through the throbbing of her temples, the murmur of the crowd and the voice of the councillor intoning his phrases” (119). In representing Emma’s consciousness as she struggles to cope with Rodolphe’s advances and the proximity of her husband outside, Flaubert adds to the experiential nature of the text by endowing the characters’ body parts with narrative ability as manifestations of the characters’ thought processes; “He passed his hand over his face…Then he let it fall on Emma’s. She drew it back. But the councillor was still reading” (116). Chabrol particularly focuses on these understated instances, reiterating his profession of implementing Flaubert’s pen for his camera. Rather than undermining the language itself, his substitution of Flaubert’s words with visual representations reaffirms the necessity of the moment within the narration of the action itself.
In seeing adaptations as ways by which to enlighten the reader to Flaubert’s visionary intentions, the eye watching the screen is forced to engage with the brain, stimulated by the page, through use of editing techniques. Bluestone believed “one may see visually through the eye or imaginatively through the mind” (1) yet these adaptations suggest that in order to more perfectly perceive the world, one needs to engage both the eye and brain, an idea pioneered by Virginia Woolf in her polemic, “The Cinema” (1926). She chastises the moviegoer as “the savage of the 20th Century” (55), a passive receiver of information on the screen requiring no involvement of the brain; “the eye licks it all up instantaneously and the brain, agreeably titillated, settles down to watch things happening without bestirring itself to think” (54). The alliance of eye and brain is unnatural, as they are “torn asunder ruthlessly as they try vainly to work in couples” (56), so, regarding adaptation, while the eye recognises the woman on the screen as Emma Bovary, the brain does not; Flaubert ensured we knew Emma through the inside of her brain and so to see her now, materialised, causes a conflict in our perception.
However, Woolf recognises cinema’s potential as an expressive art if only it can formulate a mode through which both eye and brain can coexist, complimenting each other, only “when some new symbol for expressing thought is found, the filmmaker has enormous riches at his command” (57). Considering the establishment of diegetic film by Vertov and Eisenstein, it seems filmmakers were listening to Woolf’s suggestion for the cinema. Their new type of representation satisfies Woolf’s assumption that “much of our thinking and feeling is connected with seeing”, as previously suggested by Danius, believing there must be some “residue of visual emotion” (57) not of use to writers that the cinema can adopt in order to enrich its images. If the filmmaker could “animate the perfect form with thought” (57), then cinema as a representational form could even surpass literature. In this way, Flaubert’s intensely visual style of writing predates Modernist hopes for the cinema through his attempts to convey the visible characteristics of thought itself (57). But in cinema, “the eye wants help” (55), unable to perceive reality alone, it needs the assistance of the brain to understand the reality on screen just as the brain draws on its mind’s-eye to visualise the images in the novel, returning us to the notion of reciprocity between literature and film.
While Flaubert’s focus was on the object seen, emphasising the eye, Joyce’s Ulysses switched focus to the actual act of the seer seeing, focusing in on the mind, as Spiegel wrote “where Flaubert saw wider, Joyce saw harder and deeper” (64). Rather than aiming for an accurate representation of life like Flaubert, Joyce looked to interior life and so situates both authors in an ideal parallel to explore the evolution of modes of perceiving reality. Part of the appeal of cinema to Joyce was that it could free him from the tediousness of storytelling and precise observation of everyday and “allow him to develop the novel in more esoteric ways; linguistic experimentation and psychological complexity” (Sinyard vii) something Ulysses certainly demonstrates. Like Madame Bovary, Ulysses is a novel about nothing; a sensorial exploration of Dublin in one day, narrated through an omnipotent roaming eye and the interior experiences of his two protagonists, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. The result is a reality composed from the impressions and perceptions of these two men as they connect with their environment, allowing the reader to experience the primary moment of perception as they do. Platt said “things are conceived as they are perceived: to think is to act….This is the new cinema” (Marcus 8). Considering this in literature, is it possible to modify Platt’s statement; while it may be the ‘new cinema’, it has most likely been influenced by the ‘new’ literature that was perfecting its own omnipotent camera-eye as demonstrated in Ulysses.
Experimental filmmaker and friend of Joyce, Sergei Eisenstein wrote that “What Joyce does with literature is quite close to what we’re doing with the new cinematography and even closer to what we’re going to do” (Trotter 87). What Eisenstein was specifically referring to was Joyce’s focus on interior monologue, just becoming available to cinema through the advent of sound. Eisentein believed Ulysses was “the most significant event in the history of cinema” (Marcus 425). Interestingly categorising it amongst cinema, Eisenstein supports the belief that Joyce’s personal interest in film directly facilitated the distinct dramatic and cinematic features in the novel, enabling Joyce to use “cinema as a trope for what he saw in his mind’s-eye as cataracts and eye operations diminished his sight” (Norris 8). While Woolf wanted the mind to join the eye in cinema, Joyce refined his fictional, camera-eye to compensate for his lack of actual sight, responding to Platt’s idea that one perceives through thought itself. In this way, Danius believes we should view Ulysses as an advancement of Conrad’s imperative as Joyce answers the call to perceive, turning it into an “axiomatic and autonomous aesthetic principle” (22) and so in reading it as such we can attempt to investigate the ways in which Joyce attempts to make us see, principally through imploring the senses, making perception a corporeal experience.
Joyce said Eisenstein was one of the only directors he would allow to adapt Ulysses; the ultimate meeting of eye and brain, Eisenstein as one of the greatest artists in the visual medium of film and Joyce, one of the greatest writers of prose who had virtually no sight (Norris 10) but unfortunately the pairing never came to be. In 1967, Joseph Strick approached Ulysses, qualified by his expertise in cinema verite that “gave the camera a status as a ‘character’ in the film and foregrounded its role in producing perspective and point of view” (Norris 17) demonstrated in his debut, The Savage Eye (1959). Since the main adaptive challenge resides in how to convey Joyce’s interiority, this style of camera-work was suited to depicting Joyce’s internalisation of the narratorial eye as he makes us see through perception itself.
One of the most cinematic sections in the text is ‘Wandering Rocks’, a chapter consisting of nineteen short scenes set around Dublin featuring most of the characters in the novel. A more elaborate experiment than that of the Agricultural Fair whose aim was to represent simultaneity of events for dramatic purposes, Joyce’s use of montage orchestrates an almost anthropological study of the everyday in the city. The camera-eye in ‘Wandering Rocks’ roams the city and closes in on the protagonists of each scene while still conscious of the presence of characters already met on the journey or ones we will meet later. These characters are not always seen by the protagonist and so emphasises the readers’ privileged view. Bloom’s “shadowy presence” is first seen in scene 5 where Boylan is buying a present for Molly in Thornton’s while flirting with the shopkeeper. A single sentence inserted into their conversation;“A darkbacked figure under Merchant’s arch scanned books on the hawker’s car” (291), alerts us to the simultaneous presence of Bloom, buying Molly a new book as promised earlier in the novel. The narratorial eye does not encounter Bloom again until sc9, this time the “darkbacked figure scanning books on the hawkers cart” (299) is identified by Lenehan as Bloom. The subtle change to the progressive tense signals a switch in perspective as the reader witnesses the same scene as Lenehan.
Much as Flaubert added to his narration by representing the physicality of his characters, Joyce’s use of montage endows certain images and figures with diegetic quality by positioning them as temporal markers within the narrative itself. For instance the HELY’s sandwich board men we met earlier in Bloom’s shopping trip in ‘Lestrygonians’ are encountered again, further in their journey in sc5, “HELY’s filed before him…past Tangier Lane, plodding towards their goal” (291). In reintroducing them into the narrative, Joyce forcibly engages his readers’ mind’s-eye and brain as they recall when they last saw the image. This argument supports Eisenstein’s claim that “montage is the mightiest means for a…creative remoulding of nature” (5). Despite the intensely cinematic feel of the section, Strick chose to omit the ‘Wandering Rocks’ from his adaption instead focusing more on the ways in which Joyce represented the psychological interiority of the characters through their hallucinations and inner monologues, feeling it is through knowing the mind of the characters that the audience could hope to see the world as they do.
In ‘Proteus’, Joyce uses the inner monologue in Stephen’s mind, “the great spectator hero” (Spiegel 1), to deal explicitly with the nature of perception providing an ideal insight into the use of cinematographic stylistics in his sensorial exploration of the day in Dublin. As he walks down Sandymount Strand, Stephen considers the “ineluctable modality of the visible” (45), questioning the flawed way in which we rely on our sight to see the world which is only capable of receiving “signatures of all things” (45) from reality rather than a true perception, “thought through my eyes” (45). Stephen discerns to counter the “limits of the diaphane” (45) and problematic sight by seeing with another sense – hearing, “shut your eyes and see” (45). Danius suggests this type of synaesthetic imagery suggests “the pre-eminence of the language of the eye” (172) reiterating the focus on the visual in fiction. If our knowledge of seeing the world relies solely on sight, then in closing off that sense, Stephen fears the world will cease to exist, bolstering himself to open his eyes, “I will see if I can see” (46). The world continues to exist without him, “and ever shall be, world without end” (46), this is reminiscent of Woolf’s belief that the cinema can depict the world as though “we have no part in it” (55) furthering the notion that Joyce draws on cinematic ideas to perfect modes of seeing in literature.
This emphasis on seeing invokes Vertov’s theory of the imperfect human eye, something Joyce counters in transforming Stephen’s eye into a camera. Watching the waves on the beach, he exclaims “Ah see now! Falls back suddenly, frozen in stereoscope. Click does the trick” (61), emphasising the poignancy of vision in perception and the privileged position of the modernist writer to be able to freeze time in order to comment upon reality. Strick is able to literalise this effect through the transposition of the camera lens for Stephen’s eyes, implementing a black screen as he closes his eyes, providing what Eisenstein called a “rushing visuality” (105). In doing so, Strick similarly isolates the senses of the audience enabling us to perceive the sounds of the beach with Stephen, his footsteps on the pebbles, the tapping of his ashplant cane, uniting the audience’s experience with that of the character. Using centred long axial shots (Trotter 100), Strick interposes tableaus of the sea, birds and the beach, not only representing Stephen’s line of vision but also by displaying them as quick flashes he illustrates Joyce’s notion of perceiving mere signatures of objects that the brain places together it make sense of reality. In forcing the audience to connect eye and brain in such a way, Strick captures Joyce’s intention to use the narratorial eye to translate the representation of senses into “mental sensations to be seen or heard in the silent interiority of the reader” (Danius 185) involving them in the primary moment of perception alongside Stephen.
Moving from the sensorial, ‘Circe’ descends into the hallucinatory Nighttown where even perfectly refined senses will not help perception of this world. Written in the style of a screenplay with stage directions, speaker’s names and delivery notes, this surreal section removes itself from reality concerning itself with the internal consciousnesses of Stephen and Bloom. In adopting a script format, ‘Circe’ details the character’s thoughts with mimetic accuracy, as though the reader is viewing a performance in the character’s mind, whilst advancing the diegesis by enriching our understanding of the character through this interiority. This is most pertinent in Stephen’s meeting with the ghost of his dead mother. Drunk in the brothel, Stephen imagines he sees his mother, asking her “Choking with remorse and horror: ‘They say I killed you mother’” (681), echoing Buck’s earlier comment that his aunt believes Stephen killed her and so implying its impact on his consciousness. Strick replaces the novel’s horrific descriptions of The Mother with a blurred outline of a woman advancing towards Stephen, fitting the scene in the context of a drunken dream rather than the terrifying manifestation of guilt in the text. To break from the unconscious, Strick ensures we are aware of Stephen’s conscious position in the brothel with Bloom and the whores by infiltrating his hallucination with Zoe’s voice, “I’m melting!” and concern at Stephen’s whiteness. The novel’s stage directions indicating Bloom’s movement to open the window are translated into dialogue, adding to the complete visual experience since the audience are not in the lounge but in the darkness depicting Stephen’s mind. The scene provides a privileged insight into how Stephen perceives himself as instigated by the comments of another, namely Buck’s aunt, representing the layers of perception Joyce deems necessary to infiltrate in order to perfect our view of this world.
While ‘Circe’ withdraws narrative power from the characters by presupposing a playwright of the events, it is further removed in ‘Ithaca’ where Joyce utilises the question and answer format of catechistic techniques to give an invisible narrator complete control over what the reader is permitted to know, its only aim to make us see. Rather than tailoring the questions to only answer material details of the scene, the catechizer ensures they require more insightful responses in order to maintain the intensity of interior narration that has dominated the novel, for example, “Did Bloom discover common factors of similarity between their respective like and unlike reactions to experience?” (777) The responses provide exact details to the extent of pedanticism, perhaps satirising the ways in which art attempts to mimic reality; such details do not add anything to the direct understanding of the moment but do demonstrate the lengths a modernist writer goes in order to make the reader perceive a scene on every level.
The plethora of minutiae details in the text could confound a straight-forward literalisation to the screen and so Strick counters these potential difficulties by preserving the catechism format as a voice-over alternated between Stephen and Bloom as the image on screen depicts their unheard conversation in Bloom’s kitchen before following Bloom to the bedroom with Molly. The alternation of voices creates the effect of the characters narrating themselves and others as the questions ask how they perceive one another; while Bloom makes tea, the voice-over asks:
[Stephen] “Which seemed to the host to be the predominant qualities of his guest?
[Bloom] Confidence in himself, an equal and oppositional power of abandonment and recuperation”.
Catechism shortens the process of perception by removing the intermediary thought processes, exemplified in ‘Proteus’, by employing the omniscient narrator to chart Bloom’s internal analysis of Stephen built from his impressions of him up to this point. In addition to this, Joyce manipulates this style to reveal more subtle expressions of the emotions of this character, notably in the resulting presentation of Bloom. Once Stephen has left, Bloom returns to the house, “Alone, what did Bloom hear? The double reverberation of retreating feet”(827). In the film, Strick adds the sound-effect of bedsprings solidifying Bloom’s paranoia about Molly’s infidelity upstairs. This concern is subtly confirmed when asked:
“What did his limbs, when gradually extended, encounter?
…The presence of human form, female. Hers. The imprint of a human form. Male. Not his” (862).
The short sentence structure encapsulates Bloom’s emotion in his realisation that another man has indeed just been in his bed. The adaptation benefits from the spoken voice in its ability to attend to tonal changes in the actor’s voice to more adequately convey the impression this event has had on the character. Similarly, the final line fades into the sound of a ticking clock as Bloom drifts to sleep and the rhythm of speech passes over to Molly, opening up the final narrative act of the novel in ‘Penelope’.
In this section, Joyce focuses on the ultimate act of self-narration in an unpunctuated inner monologue in the form of stream of consciousness. In choosing this form, Joyce emphasises the importance placed on processes of perception throughout Ulysses by turning his literary camera-eye inwards. The removal of punctuation dramatises the “swift transitionless jumps” of the mind from one perspective to another (Spiegel 168), reminiscent of montage techniques. In this way, the narrative can be likened to the cinematograph itself, “a kaleidoscope of incident” (Spiegel 79) perhaps characterising ‘Penelope’ as the most visionary and so most accurate conveyance of representing reality. As a reconstruction of “the laws of the thought process”, Marcus believes the montage form Joyce adopts is “allied to that particular penetration of interior vision” (91) and it is through this penetration alone that Joyce not only shows but tells his world.
Eisenstein believed that only the sound film was capable of reconstructing the course of thought (105), which clearly encouraged Strick’s decision to record the voice-over monologue first, hoping it would “inspire the aesthetic texture of the rest of the film” (Norris 21). In separating the voice from the speaker through voice-over, Strick literalises the notion of inner monologue as “a feverish inner debate behind the story mask of the face” (105) with Barbara Jefford’s emotive performance intensifying our experience of Molly’s mind.
However, perhaps most imperative to our understanding of the scene follows from Eisenstein’s idea of “the quivering inner words relating to visual images” (105) in the mind that can be literalised on screen, something Strick exploits to great effect adding another perceptive level to the monologue itself. By providing constantly changing images, Strick further articulates the fragmentary nature of Molly’s mind represented in Joyce’s narration and replaces the mind’s-eye we see within the text with the perfected human eye of the camera. While the images do not necessarily correspond to Joyce’s words semantically, they refunction the text by actualising the images circulating in Molly’s mind, transforming the camera into Molly’s consciousness itself and so allowing the audience direct entrance to perceive her in her most exposed form.
As the scene begins, the camera adopts an eye-level shot following her gaze around the room, watching the ceiling while chastising Bloom’s request for breakfast in bed. Ruminating on whether Bloom is having an affair, the image changes to Bloom and their former maid, Mary Driscoll, in the kitchen. Her declaration that “I wouldn’t lower myself to spy on them” is paired with an image of her searching in a drawer, a memory of her past behaviour. Her admission of jealously at Bloom’s alleged infidelity is followed by memories of her liaisons with Boylan. While the text does not explicitly name Boylan at this point, Strick speculates on who she could be thinking about, “sometimes you love so wildly when you feel that way so nice all over you can’t help yourself” (875) by adding the sequence of Molly and Bloom passionately kissing on her bed. Each image on the screen relates directly to an interpretation of the text, her visit to confession is ingrained with her internal guilt as the priest emerges as Boylan and the stills of the church’s stained glass windows show a figure, head in hands, being scolded. Strick’s choice of images support the argument that the screen has transformed into an uncensored projection of Molly’s internal thoughts, notably through the use of naked male statues to represent her irreverent sexual desire. When not directly conveying the surreal images of Molly’s mind, the camera returns to omniscient eye, for example showing her kissing rosary beads, possibly representing her Catholic guilt for thinking such lascivious thoughts whilst reminding us of our voyeuristic position amongst these thoughts.
To further Molly’s reflection on herself, Strick uses mirrors and shot/reverse shots, with the camera behind her shoulder, as she looks at herself, saying “only not to look ugly or those lines from the strain”; we see what she sees since we look into the mirror with her. Oscillating between this type of shot and eye-level shots, Strick gives the effect at once of being inside Molly’s mind but similarly reaffirming the audience’s position as a privileged observer of this scene. As the text provides an uncomfortably close access to Molly’s sexual fantasies and conquests, Strick translates this through the extreme close-ups of the looming faces of her lovers again creating an experiential style of viewing, similar to the style of writing Joyce used in ‘Proteus’.
The text’s intense visuality makes it impossible to avoid engaging the brain without the mind’s-eye and without this mutuality the monologue would risk misinterpretation. Strick’s decision to record images after the audio satisfies Woolf’s intentions by remaining loyal to the imperatives of the modernists to primarily appeal to the brain which will always elaborate itself with images through its mind’s-eye, yet here the brain is assisted by the camera. By closing this exploration of perception with an entirely internal speech, Joyce seems to be saying that it is through this interiority that we are able to truly ‘see’.
The sensorial experiments exemplified in Flaubert and Joyce show the Modernists advancement from mimesis as a means of making the audience ‘see’, to engaging with how the characters perceive the world, using language as an entrance into their thought processes to unite the reader with the character at the initial moment of perception. To return us to this moment, the author needs complete editorial control over all components that constitute the perceptive experience; namely visual engagement with the object and its influence on the consciousness. While literature was experimenting with ways to engage more intellectually with reality, the Modernist writer found inspiration in the emerging art form of cinema that was similarly attempting to perfect the ‘eye’ by transposing it through the camera-lens. Tolstoy said: “The cinema’s swift change of scene, this blending of emotion and experience is…closer to life. In life, changes and transitions flash by before our eyes and emotions of the soul are like a hurricane.” (Sinyard vii) epitomising our argument as to why Modernist writers looked towards cinema to inspire their pen as they sought new styles through which to make us see the world. Tolstoy saw the camera as a direct threat to the writer, claiming it “will make a revolution in our life- in the life of writers…A new form of writing will be necessary…But I rather like it” (Cartmell 5).
Viewed as such, the cinematic stylistics in literature can be said to be the product of this threat and so supports the idea of the cinematic novel and cinema as analogous, a logical progression of representational art forms that can compliment and interpret one another as both modes seek to express new ways of seeing. In this way, supporting our belief that filmic adaptation of these novels can offer new interpretations and so provide a continuation of Conrad’s imperative to make us see. Flaubert’s conclusion that “style is an absolute manner of seeing” (301) prompted modernist writers to imbue the pen with cinema’s camera-eye by merging both mediums’ visual techniques. In doing so, the writer is given a new dialectic through which to observe and write about life, revivifying the representational capabilities of his pen.
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