Ellipsis (narrative device)
Ellipsis, often represented in text as "...", is the narrative device of omitting a portion of the sequence of events, allowing the reader to fill in the narrative gaps. Aside from its literary use, the ellipsis has a counterpart in film production. It is there to suggest an action by simply showing what happens before and after what is observed. The vast majority of films use ellipses to clear actions that add nothing to the narrative. Beyond these "convenience" ellipses, ellipses are also used to advance the story.
An ellipsis in narrative leaves out a portion of the story. This can be used to condense time, or as a stylistic method to allow the reader to fill in the missing portions of the narrative with their imagination. Ellipsis has its roots in the modernist works of Ernest Hemingway who has pioneered the Iceberg Theory, also known as the theory of omission.
Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse contains famous examples of literary ellipses. Between the first and second parts of the novel, many years pass and World War I is fought and won. The reader is left to infer the events that have taken place during the elapsed time by the changes evident in the characters in the novel. Another example is found in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.
Ellipsis is a common procedure in film narrative, where movement and action unnecessary to the telling of a story will often be removed by editing. For example, there would be no need to show a character standing up from a chair and walking the length of a room to open a door. Instead, the character may be shown standing up from the chair and then in the next cut—normally viewed from a different angle, or with a cutaway shot in between, necessary to smooth over the gap—he would have already crossed the room and be over by the door. Narrative logic allows the viewer to disregard the ellipsis in this case. At the start of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film takes a giant chronological leap as it jumps from the first tool of humankind (a bone) to the latest (a space station). However, in this instance the ellipsis—a match cut in film language—is filled by the metaphorical parallelism between the two objects, visually similar in shape and joined by a deep anthropological significance.
The Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu is also famous for his use of ellipsis. Important people or events would be omitted in his narration, leaving the audience to infer what has happened through subsequent dialog. For example, in Late Spring, Noriko is shown about to leave for her wedding in her kimono, while the next scene is of Mr. Somiya in a bar after the wedding.
- Australian National University. "A Basic Glossary of Film Terms". Springhurst.org. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- Tomsyek, Sarah. "Narrative Gaps in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence". Retrieved 4 January 2013.