When Image Becomes Word: On Yuri Norstein and Lyudmila Petrushevskaya’s “Tale of Tales”

By Izabela Zdun.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Transcending the audible word and presenting reality as a set of fragmented images and distorted memories instills a flavor of lyricism in Yuri Norstein's silent animated film “Tale of Tales” (1979). Echoing Boris Eikhenbaum's principles of the trans-rational cinematic language, Norstein establishes a visual collage that links disparate images in a way that produces a dreamlike inner coherence, one based on poetic reasoning. The combination of separate images into a meaningful whole is achieved by the spectator through inner speech. However, in order to achieve full comprehension, it becomes inevitable to dismantle “Tale of Tales'' conceptual scaffolding consisting of metaphor, metonymy, and mise en abyme that make up its lyricism and conjure up the pre-cognitive and, effectively, delay the cognitive and hermeneutical end. The present paper provides new perspectives for the perception and interpretation of Norstein's animated film. It also attempts to reconstruct the theoretical assumptions behind them. “Tales of Tales” is interpreted as a result of duplication, multiplication, and reflection, leading to infinite regression that deconstructs the simultaneous equivalencies of metaphor and point to a world of infinitely ambiguous metonymies that function as reflections of the artist's self. Meta-images, memories within memories, dislocate “Tale of Tales'' syntagma, its temporal and spatial sequentiality related to inner speech, and thus automatically cancel out full and immediate cognition and interpretation.

Keywords: Inner Speech, Silence, Animated Film, Mise en Ebyme, Metaphor, Metonymy, Meta-image, Memories

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.75-83. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 304.563KB).

Izabela Zdun

Doctoral Student, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures,, Russian and Slavic Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Izabela Zdun is a doctoral student and a Russian language instructor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at McGill University. Her research interests encompass the intertwinement of oral tradition and literacy, and the presence of folklore in contemporary Russian literature. Izabela earned her B.A. in specialized translation and interpreting, and her M.A. in Russian and Russian literature at Warsaw University.