Suture: a stitch or row of stitches holding together the edges of a wound or surgical incision
In cinematic terms, suture refers to the processes by which the audience is sewn into the film narrative (the fabric) – the processes and devices by which the viewer is placed within the film itself in order to experience the film world as reality. By using the tricks of camera angles, lighting, editing, even music, for example, we are encouraged to leave our own subjectivity behind and to identify with the cinematic gaze. In other words, suture is making us believe that it is us that is doing the viewing and not the camera. Indeed, so powerful is suture, that in order to be a film ‘reader’, one has to learn to dismantle these devices and to be aware of the inherently manipulative nature of film making.
The objective of cinematic suture, as with medical suture, is to seamlessly and invisibly join separate pieces together to make a single, flawless whole. But further, it is the artful crafting of a specific viewpoint to the extent that we identify with certain characters on screen. Successful suture makes us suspend disbelief and makes us respond in the way the director intended. It makes us part of the scenery and part of the narrative. We step into the screen and adopt the persona that is required of us.
It is not difficult to see an analogy here between the device of suture and the reality of the critical patriarchal gaze. As women, we are invited to suspend disbelief as we inhabit the characters and scenes set out for us by a system of oppression and repression. We are girl, we are wife, we are mother, we are victim and sometimes we are hero. The cinematic portrayal of female roles mirrors and reinforces our own experience of living within patriarchy. The camera’s eye mirrors the critical gaze that determines how we feel about ourselves, who we feel we are and how we relate to the world around us. In real life, as in cinema, we play the parts we are given and are ‘encouraged’ to stick to the script.
I am a feminist film and art historian and I chose the heading ‘suture’ as it sums up the way in which our identities and lives and experiences as women are formed by the seamless ‘stitching’ together of gender expectations. Using films as examples and analogies, I want to dismantle the trickery of suture in order to write my own script.