Vera Tobin

Elements of Surprise / Publications / Teaching / CV

“Viewpoint, Misdirection, and Sound Design in Film: The Conversation.” Journal of Pragmatics, 122: 24-34.

Stories can and often do build surprises by encouraging audiences to attribute certain assertions, presuppositions, and evaluations to an “objective” or base-level perspective, only to reveal later on that these elements should be attributed only to the mistaken or deceptive viewpoint of a particular character. This paper presents a comparison of sound design and viewpoint phenomena in Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Conversation (1974) with similar narrative twists in prose and with other perspective shifts in film. It shows how viewpoint blends, shifts, and distinctions between the “viewpointed” and “non-viewpointed” status of elements in the visual and auditory stream in film can work together to create this kind of re-evaluation surprise, and discusses how these are and are not analogous to similar effects in prose.