See also:   [Film Terms (on film page)]
                   [Alienation] (film term)
                   [Art Films]
                   [(art) Concepts]


The concept of distancing might at first glance appear to be the same as -[alienation]-, but in reality the primary idea behind alienation is that it sets apart one person or thing from the rest. And this is not some "mere" dermarkation occuring by something "passive" like classificatin, but rather it is to set up a series of *barriers* between the alientated and its/their environment. The ways that distancing can be used are now briefly described (if you think of any others, or have commetns, etc, pls email me, frank: ) 1) Objectivity. In the case of the scientist or the surgeon, the practicioner needs to distance themselves from the object under study/treatment so that they may judge each aspect and evaluate it in terms of the existing body of knowledge and how it may be "investigated". The scientist exams the "fact that doesn't fit the theory" in order to extend the theory to encompass a wider universe that it does in its current form. Thus, scientific distancing leads to scientific progress - even to the extent of having to over-throw existing "doctrine" - but read by scientists as THE STATE OF THE ART or THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES. In a sense, this is no different than the belief system of the fundamentalist. Similarly, the surgeon must remember their *theoretical* training and undertake to tear apart the patient so as to find and fix the problem, and *then* to re-build them so that the flaw/disease/injury has been corrected. Thus, the brain surgeon must not think about what s/h/they are doing so that they *can* concentrate on what they are doing - diging around inside someone's brain and hence the IS-ness of that person. 2) Isolation. The master of this was of course Alfred Hitchcock (recently this sort of "almost mystical detachment" can be seen in many movies - esp in the Kung Fu and Ninja movies (also viz, the homage in "The Matrix") when we aren't sure if this is reality or simply our perception of it). In "The Birds", during the first major confrontation (at the Gas Station), the camera pulls back (very bird-like), but becomes so micro-scopically detached that we can't tell what is really happening - but note the use of sound to attach us how-ever remotely via SOUND to what essentially a very visual (and viceral as well) scene. Note how this is the exact opposite total involvement of the viewer as in (eg) of "Psycho" in the Shower Scene. 3) To nip-off a bit of sub-space. This idea is more of the idea of taking a set of things that is running essentially as an independent system and setting it aside to "run its course". Clear examples of this in film are when the camera either pulls back (usually the sound is non-existant, muted or covered with alternate music) or the action proceeds with cuts into it of other events related to the system. Again, often the actual voices are muted (or dis-connected) from what the people are saying, their actions are essentially "under a microscope" and we are able to see in detail - but often not understand -- what is happening. The best examples of this that come to mind are in "Seinfeld" when Jerry and George are trying to figure out how to do the "room-mate switch", another example, sees the plan coming together in "Home Alone", etc. 4) Repulsion/disavowal/etc. This is most commonly used and seen in theatre when a character turns their back on some-one during a speech - usually used to reveal a secret or a discovery of fact or a dreaded confrontation. This depends of course on the very human gestures of denial. For example when someone discovers the worst about someone or something else and they back away, shading their head side-to-side or even saying "No, no, no, no...". 5) Skepticism. The most common is the raised eye-brow or the head-turn to-the-side, or of course just a single word. One of the best examples is in "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" when Tucco says to The Man with No Name, "See, Angel-eyes is going to take care of us" and he responds with just "Yeah." -- almost totally devoid of *any* emotion. This is a key element to skepticism as distancing - the action/display/etc "neither confirms nor denies" the object/event/"fact" under study. 6) Defocusing. The slightest form (as far as i can tell) is simply to remove significance/focus from an event/object by placing the "thing" at a distance. For example, in "Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail" when Dr. Schneider chooses the false grail for her boss and then this contrasted for her and Indy searching the shelf for the actual grail. The pan of the camera (as well as cutting back and forth to the three actor's faces - as well as the knight's) bring the object of desire OUT of focus. This is most often manifest in magic tricks by the classic "distraction" and "misdirection" techniques.

Representations of Distancing

In Painting

(That is, the 2-dimensional)

In Sculpture

(That is, in 3-dimensions)

In Film/Theatre/Performance

(That is, in time, 4d, history, exposition, etc)


film clip examples, etc. hmmm - history is the most consuming of probs in all of this "proper presentation"....