Discontinuity in Narrative Cinema

Elif Akcali

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines the concept of discontinuity both as a storytelling tool and a critical concept in narrative films through a range of examples from contemporary Hollywood mainstream cinema to renowned European modernist films. Films that utilise discontinuity are less dependent on continuity in time, space or causality and they do this in various ways: by breaking the linearity of the narrative, using absences in the causality of a film, disrupting the reality of the fictional world or playing with our expectations in the compositions of frames, scenes or sequences. One of the aims of the research is to articulate the different forms and functions that discontinuity assumes in a diverse selection of films in an attempt to discover the effects of discontinuity on our understanding of a film’s style and narrative. The thesis uses detailed film criticism as a primary method for investigating discontinuity and the case studies range from conspicuous examples of discontinuity to seemingly conventional films. Thus, another objective of the thesis is to test the validity of discontinuity as a critical concept in order to find out whether it is useful in contributing to our interpretations of films. The examples here are neither classified nor analysed historically or contextually, but are grouped under the similarities they share in using discontinuity. Nevertheless, the results of the case analyses illustrate common uses in films made within the same period. Through its findings, the research seeks what discontinuity in cinema is, what it contributes to a film’s aesthetics and how it changes our understanding of a film’s story. It also presents the changing forms and functions of discontinuity in time and how this concept defines and is defined by our comprehension of film style and narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Leigh, Jacob, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Aug 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • discontinuity
  • cinema
  • film studies
  • narrative
  • non-linear
  • absence
  • film criticism

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