Baseball Toaster Aesthetics Blog
Why Do We Still Feel Suspense With Repeat Viewings?
2007-03-09 10:53
by Ken Arneson

Now we're talking. This is the kind of analysis I want see more of.

David Bordwell breaks down some previous non-neuro-based theories, and then gets into the true meat of the problem. He looks at how the brain processes information, to explain an artistic phenomenon we experience. In this case, Bordwell explores why we can see a suspenseful movie a second time, and still experience suspense.

I'll add one thing to the article: the concept of conditioning. Learning in the brain doesn't work like an on-off switch. It takes repetition for something to stick, for us to become conditioned to a stimulus, and to begin to expect it. So when we watch a film a second time, we're only slightly conditioned to the stimulus (the film), and so we can still be surprised. If you watch it a tenth time, or a twentieth, you're probably not going to feel very much suspense.

The very best works of art manage, somehow, to defeat the conditioning phenomenon. Great art gives you something surprising even after the twentieth viewing. That's very hard to do, which is why greatness is so rare.

2007-03-09 20:07:04
1.   overkill94
Intersting story although I didn't have the patience to read the whole thing.

United 93, in particular, can sustain suspense because though we know what will happen, but we don't know exactly when or exactly how it will unfold. This is a bit different than a repeated viewing of a movie because we do know the details beforehand so it depends how long ago the first viewing happened in order to gauge the amount of suspense this time around.

For instance, a movie I saw 5 years ago will have almost the same amount of suspense because I have forgotten a lot of the unique details that create the suspense, but a movie I saw 6 months ago would lose a lot of its power because it's still fairly fresh in my mind.

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