“Take the matter of information. One tatic upheld by traditional narrative is to give “full” information, so that the ending of the viewing or reading experience coincides, ideally, with full satisfaction of the one´s desire to “know”, to understand what happened and why. (This is, of course, a higly manipulated quest for knowledge. It´s the business of the artist to convince his audience that what they haven´t learned at the end they can´t know, or shouldn´t care about knowing.)
But one of the salient features of new narratives is a deliberate, calculated frustration of the desire to “know”. Did anything happen last year at Marienbad? What did become of the girl in L´Avventura? Where is Alma going when she boards a bus alone in one of the final shots of Persona?
Once it is conceived that the desire to “know” may be (in part) systematically thwarted, the old expectations about plotting can no longer hold. At first, it may seem that a plot in the old sense is still there; only it´s being related at an oblique, uncomfortable angle, where vision is obscured. Eventually, though, it needs to be seen that the point isn´t to tantalise but to involve the audience more directly in other matters, for instance the very processes of “knowing” and “seeing”. ( A great precursor of this conception of narration is Flaubert. And the method can be seen in Madame Bovary, in the persistent use of the off- center detail in description.)
The result of the new narration, then, is a tendency to de-dramatise. In, for example, Journey to Italy or L´Avventura, we are tol what is ostensibly a story. But it is a story which proceeds by omissions. The audience is being haunted, as it were, by the sense of a lost or absent meaning to which even the artist himself has no access.
The avowal of agnosticism on the artist´s part may look like unseriousness or contempt for the audience. But when the artist declares that he doesn´t “know” any more than the audience knows, what he is saying is that all the meaning resides in the work itself. There is no surplus, nothing “behind” it. Such works seem to lack sense or meaning only to the extent that entrenched critical attitudes have established as a dictum for the narrative arts that meaning resides solely in this surplus of ´reference´outside the work – to the “real world” or to the artist´s intention.”
SONTAG, Susan. Persona The film in depth.