Lüge, Täuschung und Verwirrung. Unzuverlässiges und ‚verstörendes Erzählen‘ in Literatur und Film

Sabine Schlickers


My contribution aims to modify current concepts of unreliable narration in literature and film. Although in film studies it is more common to talk of mind-game movies, this notion is not synonymous with unreliable narration: mind-game movies are films which question (the perception of) reality through the deployment of  various specific ambiguities, whereas unreliable narration excludes – in my definition – the ambiguity by using an unexpected plot twist. In order to account for all narrative techniques which produce strange effects and call attention to themselves, I introduce the new concept of perturbatory narration. Conceived of as a transmedial and transgeneric mode of narration, this umbrella term includes the interplay of unreliable and paradoxical narration (i.e. metalepsis, certain forms of mise en abyme, self-begetting novels, Möbius strips etc.), explicit metafiction as well as Fantastic Narration. Each of these disturbs the reader’s or viewer’s process of orientation within the fictional world, which can result in either stronger immersion or, on the contrary, a breach of the aesthetic illusion. Based on a typology of unreliable narration, my analysis of three films of the new Argentine cinema aims to show this typology’s validity, but also its limits: elements of the paradoxical and fantastic which are intertwined with the unreliable narration point to  the necessity of a new, broader narratological concept, one which could then be described as perturbatory narration.