In a recent interview to the Italian state tv, RAI, the Welsh director Peter Greenaway stated that he is not interested in telling stories anymore. He claimed that just like artists were able to give up figurative painting in the early 20th century, directors should stop making narrative films and work on the visual side of the cinema only.
The first thought that comes to mind is that some of his old films (The draughtsman’s contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover especially) were rather good tales – among other things, but of course if Mr. Greenaway has lost interest in telling stories he is free to use his extraordinary visual talents the way he likes. His Prospero’s books is certainly an astonishing example of non-narrative film.
Yet I think he is very wrong. We need stories, and always will, because (to use Lagertha’s words in Vikings season 1) “all our lives are just stories”. It is in our nature, being creatures who live within time and space coordinates: we are born, we grow up, we age, we die. That is a story. We meet people, feel emotions, act on impulse or plan our actions carefully. That is a plot. And all around, the seasons, the elements, the landscape and society: settings. Our lives are stories, and we need other stories to understand our own: not just to pass the time as Greenaway says, although I can’t see what is wrong with that. Stories help us make sense of our lives. Be they western films or naturalistic novels, epic poems or crime tv series, stories are worlds where we can rehearse our parts between scenes.
“All our lives are just stories”
(This picture belongs to History Channel)