Tonight we watched Love Actually as inspiration for the sort of interconnected narrative I alluded to yesterday, as was mentioned on JOHO. David’s right in saying there’s an integrity of storyline that’s needed, no matter how many expositional tricks we play, as with Memento. The difference, I think, will be in how we package and stitch together plot, and what we’ll call “a work”.
Tonight’s movie used interconnection quite effectively, where each separate plot harmonized with each other like themes building in a symphonic work, unlike some Robert Altman films that seem more like channel-surfing. The degenerate case would be something like “Love Boat”, where separate plots simply share location and you could swap plots between episodes without affecting the whole. Compare this with the two storylines in Cold Mountain (hers and his), which could not exist without each other, as both build toward a very shared resolve.
Intermixing’s nothing new, but it currently unfolds in a controlled manner, chosen by the author or editor. Each time time I watch Blue, White, and Red, the stories proceed as always, though I may notice more crossover between them. Wouldn’t it be interesting if I could easily alter the course a bit, perhaps dial down one side-plot or follow a minor character instead? An example is Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which follows two minor characters in Hamlet around instead. Imagine if you were tired of a scene and could choose to follow Guildenstern out the door.
Creating such works would be tricky. You’d have to pay special attention to connecting points, making them useful and compelling in multiple contexts. It’s hard to imagine this right now, but I’m nearly sure this will seem almost normal in the future. The trick is to preserve the integrity without degenerating into channel flipping.
An easier thing to envision would be interconnected documentaries. You’re watching Ken Burns do The Civil War, within which might be a reference to Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. Rather than having to trudge your way through yet another battle scene, you could switch over to the other documentary, then switch back at a later point.
It’s not hard to see where the semweb could help here. Imagine every book, album, and movie were digitized, annotated, and available. What kind of wicked cool montages could we create? What semantic playlists might we publish?