The Munro shifts

This could be one of the characters from a short story
Runawy written by Alice Munro

It so happens that I consumed “Venus in Fur” the film, and “Runaway” the short story within a few days of each other.  I can’t shake off both.  Both for different reasons. 

Maybe it’s not entirely fair to compare film with literature, but on the other hand why not: if people produce stories for mass consumptions than the consumers have the right to compare products. 

Another reason is that both Polanski and Munro are masters in their respective crafts and as masters are expected to be nimble enough to totally spellbound the viewers/readers.  

Both storytellers play with time as the key element of forwarding the story.  Both also play with shifting the levels of their narrative lasers, if you will.  

In both cases time and attention shifts are significant.  Both withhold the information (“Runaway” - what happens, “Venus” - who’s the girl, what are her motives).  

A good write up about the Munro’s withholding technique is at: 

The film with its narrative tricks tries to dig straight into the psyche.  The story (at least on the surface) tries to uncover the events, and only then, after the events are somehow put together in the readers’ mind, the chilling psychological dimension of the story hits us with full force.   

Munro spreads her diagnosis of who we are and what we do over several layers of reality and in doing so gets the means to juggle them creating the poetic and the profound.  Polanski is confined to the psychology of two people and one space and because of that his attention shifts have to be limited to uncovering their inner layers via  “and then (or “suddenly”) he becomes…”, “she turns into…”.   In Munro’s technique it’s “let me uncover jet another side of it..”, or “while this happens, something far more important influences this event and this something is…”, or “let’s drop this particular way of seeing this event and shift to…”.   I wrote “Polanski” but it’s really for short, since it’s a collaborative effort where the cinematography by Pawel Edelman is really exceptional - I want this lenses that he uses there! - and the deliciously light and intriguing music by Alexandre Desplate captivates from the very beginning.  

In this (yes, I know) risky comparison,  one approach is more effective than the other.  Is it because the psychological “truths” served in both have different weights?  Or do they?  Is it because it’s easier to successfully manipulate more narrative elements rather than less?  Is it because the disciplines are not equal in their sophistication?  

Or perhaps a metaphor will almost always win because it quickly engulfs  our imagination and in a sense does most of the work for us, while the “Venus in fur”-like painstakingly constructed exploration of inner layers of our psyche requires from us more concentration and perhaps more …maturity.

Whatever the reason, it is the “Runaway” that refuses to stop poking into my mind and heart.    

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