The Concept of Chronotope (and its relevance to cinema)

The concept of Chronotope has been invented by Russian literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin (who actually borrowed it from Einstein’s theory of relativity) and literally means “time-space”.

“almost as a metaphor (almost, but not entirely). What counts for us is the fact that it expresses the inseparability of space and time (time as the fourth dimension of space).” p 84
‘the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature’ (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 84).
‘Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space
becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history’ (p. 84).
Bakhtin, M (1981): The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Austin, University of
Texas Press.

Memory and Exile: Time and Place in Tarkovsky’s Mirror, Dr. Peter King

“Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea of the chronotope: the singular linkage of time and place – how place is always a place in time – and how this creates the significance of memories of a particular place.”

“As Natasha Synessios (2001) has suggested, this concept was influential on Tarkovsky’s thinking for this particular film [Mirror]. Speaking generally, we might suggest that film is particularly suitable for this fusing of space and time, with its attempt, as Tarkovsky himself saw it, to stop time (Tarkovsky, 1986). Film is an artistic medium specifically intended to hold up time and to create impressions using time and space.”

The symbolism of the mirror in Tarkovsky’s films:
“According to Green (1993), it is used as ‘the metaphorical looking-glass that provides man with a reflection of himself. In its surface, time is refracted; and it is a transitional device through which one may pass to other worlds, other states of consciousness’ (p. 80).”

Green (1993):
“the view Tarkovsky seeks is that of the child, with which we glimpse Utopia or paradise. The point in man’s history where he takes the wrong path is where the child loses its innocence and begins to comprehend the world in documentary form. (p. 85)”
“marks an attempt to recover the vision of childhood as well, not just the memories, but the unexplained mysteries, with all their discontinuities and distortions of time; a child’seye view of the world and history, which accounts in part for the elusive fascination and haunting quality of the film. (p. 85)”
Green, P (1993): Andrei Tarkovsky: the Winding Quest, Basingstoke, Macmillan

“We do not remember our lives in a linear manner, viewing one incident following another, but rather as a mix of the actual and the hoped-for, of promise and regret.”

Bakhtin’s Chronotope on the Road: Space, Time, and Place in Road Movies Since the 1970s, Alexandra Ganser, Julia Pühringer, Markus Rheindorf, 2006

“the relation between images of time and space in the text, out of which any representation of history must be constructed. The chronotope of a particular text thus functions as an ideological index, but can also be used to discuss a whole genre. In some chronotopes, mainly those of travel and uprooted modern life, time takes precedence over space; in the more idyllic, pastoral chronotopes, space dominates
time.”

“of special importance is the close link between the motif of meeting and the chronotope of the road (‘the open road’), and of various types of meeting on the road. In the chronotope of the road, the unity of time and space markers is exhibited with exceptional precision and clarity. (Bakhtin p98)”

“While Bakhtin was primarily concerned with chronotopes of the novel, critics such as Robert Stam have recently suggested that the chronotope seems in some ways even more appropriate to film as a medium in which “spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out concrete” (Bakhtin 11)”
Stam, Robert. Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism and Film. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 1989.

“the suspension of movement and its corresponding space-time relation entails the hopelessness and dreariness of film noir”

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