WANDER DARKLY (Tara Miele, 2020) – Analysis of Narration

Wander Darkly’s (Tara Miele, 2020) narration utilizes deflective gaps as well as delayed gaps in information to provide a base for the enigma, “What happened to Adrienne?” These gaps, paired with the narration’s recurring usage of distributed gaps by using temporal-editing, create a global redundancy in the range of knowledge of the fabula by deflecting information with non-chronological editing. Along with the global techniques, there are local gaps such as the flaunted gap represented through the hooded figure or the timestamp on the clock. All of these techniques work to culminate in revealing the ultimate suppressed gap in information in the fabula; that Matteo has died and Addriene is dissociating because of her grief. All of this results in the retardation of the flow of information from the fabula’s main motif, how individuals respond to grief, within the narrative’s syuzhet. The short scenes and narrational techniques work in tandem to paint the global picture of Adrienne and Matteos’s journey, leading up to his death. 

The narration’s use of deflective gaps by employing temporal editing serve to retard our range of knowledge of the fabula, and lead the viewer to hypothesize that Adrienne has died, and the narrative is expressed through her perspective. Through the primacy effect, Adrienne and Matteo crash within the first several minutes of the narration’s syuzhet. We see her watch in horror as her body is wheeled into the morgue. It is then from this moment on that our construction of the fabula becomes retarded through temporal editing in this localized moment in the narration. By switching from scene to scene, temporal gaps are created, and the narration expects us to fill them in. Later in the narration, when Adrienne enters her bedroom, one moment she sees her mother cradling baby Ellie, and then she sees a grown up Ellie sobbing over the fact that Matteo left when she was young. This temporal gap at the local level deflects us from the true information of the fabula, that Matteo is dead. Thus, we are left to believe that Adrienne may have died and Matteo left Ellie with her grandmother. However, at the global level, the temporal gap serves as a clue for Adrienne’s dissociation. Through the first watch, the syuzhet constructs time as non-chronological, and gaps are formed everywhere. From Adrienne’s “funeral” to Ellie as an adult. Yet, through the second watch, moments like when Adrienne sees a shadowy figure in her window, it is evident that the syuzhet flaunts the clues that indicate Adrienne’s wavering mental state early on. 

Flaunted gaps are utilized as redundancies at the global level in order to suppress the presentation of information. The hooded figure becomes a flaunted gap that deflects us from the actual truth. When Adrienne first sees the hooded figure at Dia De Los Muertos, it affirms the original (false) hypothesis caused by the primacy effect, That is, that Adrienne is dead, which is confirmed by these images of what is assumed to be death himself. The redundant use of death as a motif serves as a deflection from the fabula. This flaunting and deflection work together to create a gap of understanding as well as a build up of suspense. At the local level the hooded figure creates the deflection necessary to construct the suppressed gap, Matteo’s death. Matteo’s relationship to characters within the narration’s syuzhet is vital to yet another redundant and flaunted gap. Throughout the syuzhet, there are consistent references to the idea that Matteo abandoned his daughter after Adrienne’s death. While this is untrue, it serves as a flaunted gap that also distracts from the truth; that Matteo died. This gap suppresses the flow of information through the distribution of exposition. We piece together that Matteo may have left Ellie after Adrienne died, only to find out that it was all a fabrication through Adrienne’s expression of grief. 

Distributed exposition is used by the narration to scatter information crucial to the construction of the narrative’s fabula as well as the answer to the enigma of what happened to Adrienne. The moments from the syuzhet where Adrienne teleports from the morgue, to the funeral, and then to a highway overpass  serve to deflect information from the fabula, that Adrienne is not dead, and the retardation of the range of communication creates a delayed gap for later on in the fabula. While utilizing distributed exposition, there are several points of attack at play in the narration. The first being the car crash. Preliminary exposition is used when we first see the accident, but the enigma of whether Adrienne actually died is still at large. We learn more about Adrienne and Matteo’s relationship through the temporal gaps created by distributed exposition. The couple’s first meeting at the birthday party provides us with necessary information towards the understanding of their dynamic. Subsequent scenes such as Matteo refusing to propose to Adrienne hint at the discrepancy between the couple. Through this distributed exposition, the narrative retards our understanding of what actually happened after the accident. This deflective gap pushes us further into the formulation of our initial (false) hypothesis; that Adrienne died and Matteo left. However, the later scene involving Adrienne’s mother admitting she doesn’t know how to console her daughter over the accident immediately discredits the primacy effect, as the spectator’s hypothesis becomes challenged. We no longer are certain that Adrienne has died and instead become curious of what happened. Even though the crash occurs at the start, the syuzhet becomes challenged by the truth behind the fabula. 

Retardation and redundancy are combined and controlled by the syuzhet to formulate gaps of information that hinder our understanding of the events that occurred after the crash. By delaying the revelation of who actually died in the crash, the global redundancy creates a sense of anticipation as well as suspense. The timestamp on the clock becomes a redundant element utilized by the syuzhet to establish a gap. When Adrienne sees it as she checks the time, the flaunted and redundant gap demands of its spectators to pay attention. The clock’s relationship to the communication of information serves as a clue in answering the enigma of Adrienne’s death. It is both a redundant gap as well as a suppressed gap. By leaving the question, “What is wrong with the clocks?” unanswered, it peaks the suspense of the narrative. The reiteration of the hooded figure and the timestamp on the clock culminate in the eventual understanding that Adrienne is detaching herself from reality to deal with the loss of Matteo. The retardation of this information presented by the syuzhet enhances our senses as we are told to pay attention to details that would otherwise go unnoticed if they were not flaunted. 

On the subject of details, the primacy effect is utilized to give initial details that cue us into the unfolding mystery of whether Adrienne died or not. We hypothesize that Adrienne has passed away after having seen the car crash and Adrienne’s body in a morgue. This moment becomes a deflective gap and in combination with the primacy effect it adds to the retardation of information at global level.. This localized scene establishes the motif as upon a second watch we realize that Adrienne is dissociating and is in a dreamlike state of mind. Through the syhuzet’s dispersion of crucial details, we as spectators gather that Adrienne and Matteo were in the car, the car crashed, and Adrienne died. The initial hypothesis gets created and from then on, deflective gaps, temporal editing, as well as delayed gaps weather down the claim and brew suspicion. 

While at first, the primacy effect gives us confidence in our schema formation, that Adrienne died, it is quickly diminished through the syuzhet’s use of suppressed gaps. We see Adrienne get wheeled out of the hospital and into the morgue, without realizing that it is actually Matteo. This limit of information constrains our knowledge of what actually happened after the crash. The omission of the fabula information, that Matteo was the one who died, pushes the spectator to rely on the flaunted gap, that Adrienne was dissociating and thought she died. Wander Darkly’s narration specifically misleads audience members by stressing Adrienne’s point of view, in thinking that she died. This misdirection is what creates the suppression of the flow of information. So, the primacy effect becomes undermined by the suppression of fabula information. The quick transitions at the end of the film where Adrienne recounts her memories, fill us in with the truth of what actually happened. We see that it was actually Matteo that was wheeled into the morgue, not Adrienne. We also see Adrienne dissociating from her friends around her. In this case, we experience our first impression, and initial hypothesis, that Adrienne died, challenged by the suppressed gap, that it was actually Matteo. 

This suppression of the flow of information of the fabula results in a redundancy of the syuzhet. We see Adrienne recount the events that actually happened, without her dissociative state and discover that Matteo died. The same scenes we have already witnessed are presented with the difference being Matteo is dead. The final moments of her recollection fill in the suppressed gap and answer the enigma of the fabula, “What happened to Adrienne?” She has been dissociating the entire time as the result of the loss of Matteo in the car accident. With grief as the backdrop for the transgression of events presented in the syuzhet, localized deflective and delayed gaps hindered our understanding of this. And we, like Adrienne are taken on a journey of the grieving process. Through the narrative techniques discussed, information is retarded from us the same way that Adrienne fails to understand Matteo’s death. Through the presentation of the syuzhet, the narrative gives cues to guide us along the path of Adrienne’s experience. Those who experience grief after the loss of a loved one often detach themselves from reality. 

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