Levels of Reality

…literature does not recognise Reality as such, but only levels.

I’ve also enjoyed Italo Calvino’s ‘The Uses of Literature’, in particular his essay ‘Levels of Reality in Literature’. It’s fools errand to try distill Calvino’s lucid argument into a blog post, but this is a scrapbook after all – so here is the vibe of it;

Different levels of reality also exist in literature; in fact literature rests precisely on the distinction among various levels, and would be unthinkable without an awareness of this distinction. A work of literature might be defined as an operation carried out in the written language and involving several levels of reality at the same time.

He goes on to demonstrate his thesis through analysis of the classics. How, for instance, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream the aristocratic, supernatural and comic characters occur on three different levels of reality that intersect. Think about what it means for suspension of disbelief;

…the credibility of what is written can be understood in very different ways, each one corresponding to more than one level of reality. There is nothing to prevent anyone from believing in the encounter of Ulysses with the Sirens as a historical fact, in the same way as one believes in the landing of Christopher Columbus… Or else we may believe it by feeling ourselves struck by the revelation  of a truth beyond perception that is contained in the myth.

Calvino proposes the following sentence as the most complete and compact model for connecting links between levels of reality in works of literature;

I write that Homer tells that Ulysses says: I have listened to the song of the Sirens.

Now, chew on THAT next time you’re raking your sand garden OR you can read the 20-page essay yourself…

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An old friend moved cross-country and left me with a bunch of film books that I’ve been flicking through recently. I really like this idea of orchestration from Lajos Egri’s ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’;

When you are ready to select characters for you play, be careful to orchestrate them right. If all the characters are the same type – for instance, if all of them are bullies – it will be like an orchestra of nothing but drums.

Maybe one of the reasons ‘The Wire‘ is so successful, is that the characters are so perfectly chosen – so perfectly orchestrated.

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Mental Image

Woman beside the river

I’ve been writing with Sam and we’re up to a sequence set in a forest. I don’t live in a forest, or even near a forest, so sometimes I forget what a forest looks like.  I wish I could spend a couple months trekking through the wilderness to address this problem. Photos are a more affordable solution.

Sam put me on to this fantastic resource that I’d like to also share with you, dear reader: www.ffffound.com. It’s called ‘image bookmarking’.

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What makes a film ‘too bleak’?

One of the arguments recently levelled against Australian films is that they tend to be too bleak or too miserable (Last Ride, Beautiful Kate, Blessed, etc.).

But many of the greatest films ever made are incredibly dark to the point you might label them ‘bleak’ or ‘miserable’.

So what makes a film ‘too bleak’? I don’t really know, but maybe;

  • Relentless Suffering Without Reprieve
  • Characters With Absolutely No Control of their Destiny
  • Characters Who are Absolutely Powerless to Act
  • Monotonous Story Rhythm (Boring)

Imagine ‘Dancer in the Dark’ without the dancing… that might qualify as ‘too bleak’.

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Scary Face

In the most terrifying moments in film, there is always a face

  • The face of someone who shouldn’t be there. (Bob, at the end of the bed in ‘Twin Peaks’)
  • The face of the dead. (The girl in the jar of formaldehyde in ‘The Kingdom’)
  • The face of the old. (The old woman in the veil in ‘The Others’)
  • The face that changes.(The woman in the bathtub in ‘The Shining’)
  • The face of the unknown. (The creature in ‘Aliens’)

Gore may be repulsive, but it is not frightening. Nothing is as frightening as a face.

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My Favourite Films of the Decade

And many others that I’ve yet to see, and more that I’ve no doubt forgot to mention. All in all a great decade for cinema.

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Incongruous Detail

Like the magician’s left hand…


  • Three Colours Blue: A beach ball rolls out of the crashed car, across the road and onto a field.
  • The Limits of Control: Two men carry a bathtub across the piazza.
  • The Mirror: The encounter with the doctor; the fence breaking, the locked briefcase, the wind rustling through the bushes as he walks away.

Yesterday, at the beach, I saw a boy flying his kite. He let go of the strings and before his father could catch it, the kite took off; across the beach, across the road, and up into the power lines where its handle got caught. It kept flying.

A film that is based on true events but that strips away every last detail or moment considered to be inconsequential/insignificant, will seem totally and utterly fake.

It will seem fake because it is fake.

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