Movies As Detached Detail

Precious and An Education were the last two movies I saw on a big screen, and both seemed to me to support the idea that movies are basically believable detail intended to be processed in near mode, combined with an overall story arc intended to be processed in far mode.  Both movies get high marks for believable environment and actor micro-expression detail, and a lot of relatively realistic setting and character features.  But the overall story arcs are rather predictable and not especially believable – they affirm standard morals and myths of modern viewers.  While in real life believable near detail adds evidential support to related far claims, the “detached detail” of fiction breaks this connection.  As I said for science fiction:

Grand historical arcs must be described in the story, but since they are processed by readers mostly in far mode, readers are not very critical about how plausible are those arcs.  The near details of the lives of the major characters, in contrast, are processed more in near mode, so SF writers must make those seem more realistic.  (Of course we don’t process even these in as near a mode as details of our own lives now – it is still fiction after all.)  This all supports my detached detail warning: don’t assume that because the character lives described are compelling, the historical arcs are as plausible.

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