Brechtian Alienation Device
A Brechtian Alienation Device, or verfremdungseffekt, is a technique used by directors to distance the audience from emotional involvement in the work through jolting reminders of the artificiality of the film performance. It was coined by poet, playwright and theatre director Bertolt "Bertie" Brecht. The effect can be achieved by breaking the fourth wall, like in Alfie when Michael Caine directly addresses the camera "I suppose you think you're going to see the bleeding titles now. Well you're not, so you can all relax", or the simple avoidance of sentimental dramatics, a lack of method acting and no acting at all.
The moment in JCVD when Jean Claude Van Damme spins around on his chair, goes into the sky and is suddenly surrounded by the lighting rig of the film is a prime example of a Brechtian Alienation Device, and one Mark Kermode took the film royally to task for.
Another way of of inducing verfremdungseffekt in an audience is through simple and evident lighting and set design, such as in Dogville by Lars von Trier.
It was in Mark's review of of Dogville that he used this phrase for the first time. Brechtian Alienation Device that is, rather than verfremdungseffekt. Mark can't say verfremdungseffekt. Mark also points out that most of the time, Brechtian Alienation Devices are pointless and annoying, because we know we are in a cinema - we walked in through an entrance that said CINEMA and queued for 20 minutes to pay money to a disinterested kiosk attendant who tried to upsell us popcorn and drinks. Stop faffing around reminding us that we're in a cinema and show us some damn entertainment.
Accidental and undesirable instance of Brechtian Alienation Devices (BAD) would be when your local World of Cine projects a film in the wrong format, or somebody starts eating some really loud food (something that you should, of course, never do, as this would be a felonious violation of Wittertainment Moviegoers Code of Conduct).
See Faux Tactility.