di'e'ge'sis noun 1. the narrative world of the story 2. recounting, narration
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Featuring new writing on: • Pan’s Labyrinth • Grimm • Harry Potter • Dynamo Also including: Folk Horror • Méliès • Time-travel • The Olympics
I EDITORIAL S S U E # 5
Welcome to the 5th issue of magazine, produced by students across the BA (Hons) Film and Television Studies degree at Southampton Solent University. offers a space for student writers from across the Faculty of the Creative Industries & Society to engage with film, television and screen culture, critically and creatively. This issue we CUT TO [magic] and explore the mysterious and the mystical, the enchanted and the enchanting as they have appeared to us on screen.
Our writers consider the complexities of cinematic and televisual fantasy and investigate the symbolic and metaphorical function of magic. The articles move beyond a consideration of magical fantasy as mere escapism and assess how the treatment of magic acts as a social, cultural, historical, religious and political commentary in a variety of examples. The issue takes on magic in its many guises: from age-old fairytales to contemporary fears; from early trick films to illusions in the digital age; from mystical fairies and supernatural avengers to wicked witches, monstrous demons and big bad wolves; from folk tales to folk horror; and from dreams to nightmares. Collectively, the articles span the history of film and television, drawing examples from Hollywood, world cinema and British film and television to show how magic is more than just hocus-pocus.
And so we invite you to escape into the magical realm of , to open yourself up to the fantastical possibilities on offer and be bewitched by the delightful discussions that follow. Abracadabra! To reserve your copy of the magazine, email email@example.com
Managing Editors: Donna Peberdy & Darren Kerr Assistant Managing Editor: Adam Flood Editors: Charlotte Birch, Bianca Garner, Anna Gurman, Sam Hall, Lloyd Hann, Tammy Paine, Lucy Ravenhall, Yaz Wall, Claire Williams Design: Adam Flood, Donna Peberdy Cover image: Hollie Birkenhead, Sam Hall, Rob Turnbull, Yaz Wall Model: Yaz Wall
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PLAY. PAUSE. REWIND.
04 A GRIMM TALE
Fairytales fantasies have increasingly worked their way onto the small screen. But what makes these televisual fairytales so distinctive and appealing?
08 LABYRINTHS OF CHILDHOOD
Fantasy is more than just escapism. It offers access to magical worlds that have deeper connections to the “real” world than we might first think, particularly in their narratives of childhood...
12 DEVIL’S WORK
Are fantasy franchises such as Harry Potter and Twilight as innocent as they seem or is there something more insidious and evil going on?
16 Modern Day Jesus? 18 Time for a Magic Trick 20 Witching Hour
22 Magical Mr Méliès 26 A Magical Message
AT THE MARGINS
28 From Witches to Wicker 32 Coming of Mage
34 Standing on Ceremony 38 Cine-Olympics
42 Time-Traveller: Chris Marker 44 Total Action: Tony Scott 46 Gentle Giant?: Michael Clark Duncan 48 Issue 5 Editorial Team 50 The next issue
website: www.diegesismagazine.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/diegesisfilmtvmagazine Twitter: xDiegesis email: firstname.lastname@example.org
C U T
A GRIMM TALE Lucy Ravenhall
M A G I C
F airytales have been sweeping across cinema screens recently with the release of Red Riding Hood (2011) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and it seems that they have found a place on the television screen as well. Once Upon a Time (2011) and Grimm (2011) have used these fantastical tales to make captivating dramas. These childhood stories we all know so well have remained popular with a wide ranging audience, so what have the creators
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done this time to make them these televisual fairytales distinctive and appealing? Grimm centres on Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a police detective who witnesses strange visions where ordinary people temporarily change into frightful creatures. It is soon revealed that he, like his family, is a “Grimm” and must now learn to keep the balance between humankind and the mythological.
The pilot episode opens with a quote taken from the story of Little Red Cap published in 1812 by folktale authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm or, as they are better known, The Brothers Grimm: “The wolf thought to himself, what a tender young creature. What a nice plump mouthful…” Opening with a direct quote from The Brothers Grimm their tale continues to be a feature for the rest of the series. Interestingly, the show is an adaptation of an
adaptation, since the tale of Little Red Cap originally derives from Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood (1697). The episode continues by following a young woman jogging through the forest wearing a red hooded top until she is suddenly snatched and killed by a creature: the wolf. Nick is the police detective assigned to this case and later has to track down the man responsible for another abduction of a young girl, again wearing red, on her way to her grandfather’s house.
But why have the creators decided to adapt the story of Red Riding Hood in this way? In Why Fairytales Stick (2006) children’s literature scholar Jack Zipes highlights that fairytales “are representative of particular cultures” such as Perrault’s French Tales of Mother Goose stories from the late 1600s and Hans Christian Anderson’s Danish tales in the 1800s.
on the choices that the creators have made. It is a modernised interpretation of the tales; the Big Bad Wolf is not an actual wolf that is depicted in books but, without revealing the twist, just a general member of the public. All the creatures encountered in the show are humans; the only difference is they have added supernatural abilities.
When looking at Grimm compared to the original fairytale published over three centuries ago, there is evidence that modern day western society has had some influence
When the young girl is abruptly taken by the Big Bad Wolf while on her way to her grandmother’s house, this could awaken contemporary fears related to issues of child abduction and
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perhaps even paedophilia. Stories of missing children are very prominent in the news media and could be said to be a moral panic. In Cinema’s Missing Children (2003), Emma Wilson states that there has been a cultural shift in cinema from an obsession with the lady who vanishes to, in the contemporary period, the missing child as “the lost object of desire, origin and vanishing point”. This suggests that over time worries of child abduction have risen and by tapping into these fears it means that the audience can relate more to this version of the fairytale. Yet even the earlier stories, Zipes notes, “were not considered the prime or appropriate reading material for children” and the Brothers Grimm revised many of their stories “adding Christian sentiments and cleansing narratives of their erotic, cruel, or bawdy passages”. It could be suggested that the creators of Grimm appropriated elements from original fairytales before they were revised for children and, in doing so, serve as an acknowledgement of their roots. Grimm is aired post watershed and so is intended for the older audience; it includes elements of horror that would not be present in, for example, a Disney interpretation of the fairytale. By adapting tales for an older audience, the creators have had to reassess their focus so that the innocence of the stories as they have been popularised becomes questionable. It is immediately apparent that the creators of Once Upon a Time have taken a different approach to interpreting fairytales in creating their mythical world. From the opening sequence the visuals suggest that the interpretation of fairytales is quite literal. We see a landscape of vast mountains with a man on a brilliant white horse wearing
a traditional knight’s garb galloping into a forest to find Snow White who is surrounded by the seven dwarves; in keeping with the well known story, she is in a deep sleep until the Prince awakens her with a magical kiss. In 1975 Geoffrey Wagner described three types of adaptation from looking at literary tales that had been transformed to film: transposition, where a novel is “directly given on screen”; commentary, “where an original is taken and either purposely or inadvertently altered in some respect”; and analogy, where a film “shifts the action of the fiction forward in time or otherwise changes its essential context”. Even though Wagner’s categories cover a range of films and their adaptations, when looking at an ongoing television series such as Once Upon a Time it becomes difficult to label it. The opening scene could be considered as transposition as in terms of mise-en-scène it remains faithful to the tale of Snow White. However it is only a select scene that has been interpreted from the tale so it could be said to be an example of commentary as it has been altered. Then a twist in the narrative further complicates matters. The action is taken into present day when a ten-year-old Henry Mills (Jared Gilmore) discovers that everyone in his town is a fairytale character with no recollection that they have been cursed by the evil witch to be prisoners on earth. Two interwoven storylines are presented, one following the traditional fairytale world and the other following real life events. From this it can be seen how difficult it is to classify this type of double narrative: on the one hand, there are elements of transposition and, on the other hand, there is a change in the context that brings Once Upon a Time right up to date, suggesting
that there is more fluidity in how to define adaptations. This October a new television series Beauty and the Beast (2012) will be aired on CBS about a modern day love story between Cat Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), an outsider of society with a terrible secret. With even more fairytale-based programmes being produced we can ask: why do fairytales remain so popular? According to Zipes, “the external stimuli of fairytales are immense; fairytales act on us in infancy and continue to play a role in our lives through old age. Fairytales are not just contagious […] they are injected into our systems”. Zipes’ idea of fairytales being “injected” into us seems viable; even though they may differ between cultures, every country has them and they are a significant part of childhood. This could be why fairytales seem to have a certain magic to them so that audiences cannot help but keep going back for more. Fairytale adaptations made for television appear to differ to those made for cinema. A reason for this could be down to the time frame and format that they have. Television series span over many weeks at an hour a piece whereas a film is just a two hour experience. By its nature then, the television adaptation would offer the chance for more alterations, since even smaller details like character development becomes a much longer process on television than on film. Whether you are watching a magical film or television programme, however, they can both evoke feelings of nostalgia and escape back to the first fantasy worlds we encountered when we were younger. They captivate the child within us, yet still appeal to the darker side of the adult mind.
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umankind has always been fascinated by the possibility of an alternate magical, and sometimes monstrous, world. Consider the numerous myths and fairytales that have explored an alternate magical realm. From classic fairytales such as L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900) to The Chronicles of Narnia stories written by CS Lewis (1949 to 1954) these worlds are accessed through a portal, Platform 9 ¾ or even a magical wardrobe.
recover from the battle and leave the magical world with a new approach to life.
However, film has an advantage that the novel does not; through filming techniques, spectator identification with the characters can be used to provide easy access to the magical world. The exploration and creation of a magical world is very closely linked to the fantasy film genre and the idea of escapism. To understand the power of escapist fantasy, I consider here JRR Tolkien’s notion of fantasy as escapism in relation to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) in order to examine the connection between childhood escapism and the magical world both films present.
Labyrinth is an example of a classic fairytale quest that explores the potential benefits of escaping into a magical world. The film tells the tale of 15-yearold Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a fantasist who indulges in medieval tales of knights and goblins and dreams of living in a different world. Angry at her stepmother for commanding she babysit for her brother Toby again, she selfishly wishes for the goblins to take her brother away, a wish that is instantly granted.
Tolkien proposed a theory of fantasy escapism in his essay “On Fairy Stories” published in 1947. He claimed that through the process of Recovery, Escape and Consolation, disappearing into a magical world can renew the spectator’s outlook on life. Firstly, Escape is the act of escapism, providing the spectator with an alternate magical universe more appealing than the real world. Recovery is the escape into and the return from fantasy offering the spectator a new outlook on life by reflecting reality in a fictional environment. Thus the spectator’s identification with the protagonist allows them to battle their own demons,
Finally, Consolation is the happy ending. It is the promise of a reward or joy that the hardships of the fantasy world have been faced and morality has triumphed. Tolkien suggests that through their identification with the protagonist who has succeeded in battle within the magical world, the spectator leaves the story as the hero.
Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie in all-in-one white Lycra and a mullet) appears and explains to Sarah that her brother has been taken to the goblin palace at the centre of a labyrinth and, if she does not reach him within 13 hours, she will never get him back. Sarah is left to face the reality of growing up and to deal with the consequences of her actions. Sarah is at an age between the imaginative innocence of childhood and the hardship of adulthood. The film projects this idea onto the journey Sarah takes into the labyrinth so that her mission to reach the palace ultimately reflects her journey towards adulthood. Sarah’s stepmother tells her she should have dates at her age, to which Sarah storms off; she has no interest in dating and cares only for her fantasy role-play with her books and toys. Sarah repeats a line from her storybook:
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the goblin castle to take the child that you have stolen.” This narration not only suggests the film’s relation to fairytales but also directly relates to Tolkien’s idea of fantasy as Escape; Sarah indulges in fantasy stories to the point of escaping into them, leaving behind the responsibilities of adulthood. Sarah’s perilous journey into the extraordinary labyrinth is fictional. She bases her fantasy on reality, creating the creatures she stumbles across on the toys in her bedroom. When Sarah is first introduced, the camera pans across her toys so that the audience recognise them when they reappear in the labyrinth, from the manic Fire Gang creatures with detachable limbs to a music box with a girl in a white ball gown that accurately resembles Sarah in a scene at a masquerade ball. These references suggest that the labyrinth is a fantasy Sarah has escaped into, based it on elements of her reality. Through the process of Escape and Recovery, Sarah battles her own demons in the fantasy world. The Junk Lady (voiced by Karen Prell) attempts to give Sarah her childhood toys to make her forget her responsibilities and thus keeping her locked inside her childhood. Sarah uncertainly says she was searching for something; that ”something” refers to her baby brother, but it also refers to her transformation into adulthood as she searches for her responsibility and purpose. Tolkien’s act of Consolation after the battles have been fought is also evident in Labyrinth.
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After Sarah’s climactic faceto-face battle with Jareth, she transforms into the heroine of her own story. The consolation is the “happy ending” where, after a conflicting journey, Sarah’s search for adulthood has been resolved. In the act of Sarah giving her favourite toy to Toby, saying “he belongs to you now”, she expresses an acceptance of adult responsibility that plagues the adolescent mind. The magical world in Pan’s Labyrinth is similarly used as a place to escape to but the film focuses more on reflecting the contextual historical struggle than the psychological battle of growing up that is at the essence of Labyrinth. Pan’s Labyrinth is set in Spain during the early years of Franco’s dictatorship. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) arrives with her mother (Ariadna Gil) into their new home in the fascist region of Spain during the aftermath of the Civil War. Her mother has married the fascist Captain Vidal (Sergi López) in an attempt to provide a more luxurious life for her daughter. On arriving, Ofelia stumbles across a fairy that leads her to a faun (Doug Jones) who explains that she is a princess who belongs in another world. To prove herself, Ofelia must complete three dangerous tasks by the time the moon is full. Like Labyrinth, Pan’s Labyrinth incorporates fairytale elements to introduce the magical world; the green silk dress with a white pinafore that Ofelia’s mother makes her resembles Alice in Wonderland’s dress and is the outfit she wears when she first enters the magical fig tree. This tree is the location of Ofelia’s first task where she must prove herself to the faun.
It is there that she battles a giant toad to retrieve a key hidden within its stomach. Clad in her fairytale dress Ofelia stumbles, like Alice, into the fantasy world, thus increasing the magical symbolism of the scene. Again as in Labyrinth, the magical world in Pan’s Labyrinth is a creation of Ofelia’s imagination, particularly as no one else can see the fairies or the faun. However, although acting as a form of escape for Ofelia, this magical world reflects her reality; the juxtaposition between the magical world and Ofelia’s reality is used to illustrate aspects of Francoist Spain. One key scene explores this by contrasting Captain Vidal’s dining scene with the dining table of The Pale Man (also Doug Jones). This composition compares Vidal to a faceless Pale Man who symbolises the evil nature of the Captain; both he and The Pale Man sit with excessive amounts of food whilst those around them starve. One key difference between both cases studies is that Pan’s Labyrinth merges the magical world with reality. The colours of the “real” world are painted in greens and greys, contrasting the reds and golds of the magical world. However, towards the end of the film, the colours of the fantasy world begin to seep into reality and the two realities begin to fuse together. Previously the magical world acted as escapism from the otherwise war-torn bloodshed of Fascist Spain, but as the boundary between the two worlds meet, Ofelia’s fantasy becomes reality, expressing the power of imagination in the human mind. Director Guillermo Del Toro stated in an interview included on the 2007 special edition
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DVD that if Ofelia believes in her magical reality strongly enough then it will transform her objective reality. This is evident in a scene when a fairy comes to visit Ofelia and shows it the image of a fairy in her book telling it how fairies should look. The fairy immediately transforms its pose to resemble the classic fairy of Ofelia’s book. In both Labyrinth and Pan’s Labyrinth, the protagonists are the only children other than the baby brothers under their protection. It is only the children who can access the magical world and, in both cases, they act as a form of escape. Whilst the magical world can be a visually exciting treat for an audience, in both films the purpose of the magical world is to act as an alternate reality to the protagonist’s own. However, they also hold a greater significance. Their fairytales reflect different social contexts and ultimately express the power of youth and imagination in creating fantasy. The spectator identifies with the protagonist and through this opens their mind to experience the fantastic journey along with the characters, offering us a place to escape to. The films remind us that even if the only way we access the magical world is through the screen, it will always act as a comfort when the struggles of reality become too much. Although we may feel that the access to a magical world is something we left behind as a child, it remains a part of us all, only waiting to be reawakened.
â€œThe films remind us that even if the only way we access the magical world is through the screen, it will always act as a comfort when the struggles of reality become too muchâ€?
DEVILâ€™S WORK A
s of April 2012 the Harry Potter film franchise had grossed over $8.2 billion. It has also gained a loyal fan base who, even though the release hype of the seven books and eight films has died away, are still just as excited about the world of Harry Potter now as they were when it all began. Stephanie Meyerâ€™s Twilight book saga and subsequent film adaptations (2008 - ) have also gained similar attention but on a smaller scale. Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and The Chronicles of Narnia (20052010) are just a few of the film adaptations with magical and supernatural plotlines that have captured the imagination of a wide audience demographic.
These films have become ingrained in western culture and also the wider world. Children have grown up visiting these fantastical worlds with the stories being easily accessible to them. But are they just entertainment or are they being taken more seriously? Do supernatural films have adverse effects on audiences, making people believe in ideas that simply are not true or is film just a medium used to express the ideas of the writer that can either be accepted or rejected by an actively thinking audience? What do religious groups have to say about the matter? Some members of the Catholic Church, as the Father Amorth
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comment suggests, regard the Harry Potter films as evil. If this is true then perhaps parents should be worried about the supposedly satanic messages conveyed through these films. Vulnerable fans could be subjected to ideas that are regarded by many as untrue. It can be argued that Harry Potter promotes some of the same ideals as many religious groups do, such as the idea of good conquering evil. This is evident in almost every film where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) survives an encounter with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and keeps his powers at bay until the next film. Many religious groups would agree with the ideas expressed through the Potter stories
“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses” -- Father Amorth, Chief Exorcist for the Diocese of Rome
that applaud acts of courage no matter the personal cost and stress the importance of loving others. As Harry tells Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), “you’re the weak one and you’ll never know love and friendship”. So even though millions of people around the world are losing themselves for an hour or two in stories centred on witchcraft and wizardry, haven’t we moved a long way since the days of burning witches at the stake? JK Rowling has built an entire world around the theme of magic, giving it integrity and focusing on more than simply casting spells to seek revenge
like the ancient legends would have us believe. Looking back at earlier supernatural films such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), secularism and belief in supernatural entities such as vampires were seen as a replacement of religious beliefs like Catholicism. As Ken Gelder argues in Reading the Vampire (1994), the lack of a religious belief or believing in nothing means one is “able to believe in anything”. This might suggest that the increase in magical cult films is a sign of the times where people are moving away from the idea of religion and accepting other ideas. The Exorcist (1973) is a supernatural film that caused
much controversy at the time of its release. As Mark Kermode suggests in his book The Exorcist (1997), the 1973 film showed the destruction of the American dream embodied by the suburban family. Evil cuts through “the home, the family, the church and, most shockingly, the child”, Kermode observes. The Exorcist portrays many moral panics of the time such as the breakdown of the conventional family, the decline in religious beliefs and traditions and the lack of respect youth have for their elders. In promoting these ideas, it could be assumed that this film would be unpopular with most religious groups. However, the original book that the
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film was based on (published in 1971) was written by a Catholic, William Peter Blatty. Additionally, when the film was released in 1973 it was commended by The Catholic News for being “profoundly spiritual”. As Kermode points out, the famous American Evangelist Billy Graham, who led a worldwide movement towards Christianity, disagreed with The Catholic News and argued that the film embodied evil. The film caused a split between those who supported it and those who despised it. The reaction to the film is similar to its plotline where the moral juxtaposes the immoral. As Kermode says, the film has “equal power to elate and disturb, thrill and appal, engage and enrage”. The difference in opinion shows that the audience can actively watch films and are not just passive receptacles for religious message; people are able to have their own, often diverse, opinions about issues raised through the medium of film.
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So what of more recent films like Twilight, which use mythological creatures such as vampires and werewolves but present them in a more modern and glamorised (and indeed sexualised) way? The Twilight saga continues to be very popular with young audiences and it could be argued that, like Harry Potter, it has generated a cult following of its own. It is interesting to note that Meyer, the author of the Twilight books that the films were based on, is a Mormon from the Church of the Latter Day Saints. She has admitted in numerous interviews that some Mormon themes were weaved into the books and this is something that was recreated in the films. Rather than being seen as a tactic to preach the message of her religion to the world through supernatural storytelling, however, it is inevitable that her core beliefs will filter into her writing. Meyer may have brought these mythological creatures into the schools and houses of today’s youth but
she has also combined this with universally acknowledged ideas about morality that many religious groups uphold. The characters demonstrate acts of selflessness and overcoming one’s natural character in order to help others, such as Edward Cullen’s (Robert Pattinson) determination to be a vegetarian vampire. Similarly CS Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia books, admitted to using the Narnian tales to express the ideas of Christian faith. He described fantasy stories as getting past “those watchful dragons” and making people think about the world in a different way. Should we be worried about the ideologies of these writers being forced onto young children who just wanted to escape into a world of magic and fantasy for a while? Or is it unreasonable to assume that people are unable to watch a film and decide for themselves what they think about the ideas it conveys?
In the case of many horror films, concerns have been raised about the effects that horrific images have on young children but little has been written about the effects of fantasy films such as Harry Potter that are aimed largely at younger children. Surely fantasy films have a greater effect on a younger audience due to their “strong colours or effective contrasts of light and shadow to draw the viewer in” as described in Karen Lury’s The Child in Film: Tears, Fears and Fairytales (2010). This suggests that fantasy films have the power to affect children more than horror films, which they are less likely to have access to. Or are they safely oblivious to these religious messages? Some have said it is dangerous to blend the world of big screen entertainment with religion but should we be worried about the messages weaved into film plotlines? Or is the whole idea inevitable and we should give audiences enough credit to be able to accept or reject ideas and not create moral panics out
of something that was created for entertainment purposes. Fundamentalist religious groups may always find reasons to disagree with the latest and greatest, magical, big screen craze and filmmakers will continue to use their medium as an entertainment art form to express their thoughts, ideologies and religious beliefs to the world. All in all, films have the power to express big ideas and discuss difficult and controversial subjects. But whether they are seen as a serious medium that should be cautiously monitored or just light entertainment, they will always have the power to get people talking.
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uring an afternoon in June, crowds surrounded the River Thames and gasped at the sight before them: an unknown man, dressed in red and walking on water.
Dynamo, a magician from the slums of Bradford quickly became the man everyone was talking about, hailed to be the best magician in years. How Dynamo managed to walk across the River Thames in June 2011 is still unknown but this trick propelled him towards stardom and fame. Dynamo (whose real name is Steven Frayne) has since hosted his own television show Magician Impossible (2011), stunning
thousands with his skills and modern magic knowhow. But just how has this unknown man from Bradford convinced the world that his pre-recorded magic is real? Pre-recorded shows are often those most questioned by viewers; the powers of editing are now so sophisticated that the most complicated tricks can be made to look simple at the touch of a button. This undoubtedly leaves most viewers ready to doubt the power of magicians. Despite this, Dynamo is one of the most acclaimed magicians of our time, which he says is all down to the way he tells his stories.
A MODERN D Y â™
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The bar for magic themed shows has been set high in recent years. The likes of Derren Brown and the Harry Potter franchise have proved hard to beat. Despite the competition, Dynamo’s show Magician Impossible has crashed through the barriers in its way. The show aired on UKTV, a commercial subsidiary of the BBC. The aim of the fly-on-thewall documentary was to bring magic into the 21st century while staying true to its oldfashioned roots as the 28-yearold travel the globe impressing everyone with his magic. Magician Impossible has been extremely successful; the first series exceeded expectations and the show has been commissioned twice since. When Dynamo returned with the second series, the show smashed through UKTV’s previous records with viewing figures as large as 1.2 million. Magician Impossible has also been given a string of awards including the Best Entertainment Programme at both the Broadcast Awards and the Broadcast Digital Awards. One of the key factors to Dynamo’s success and popularity is the way he has attached the world of magic to a personal narrative. From the outset Dynamo tells us his story and he takes us to his home town of Bradford. In every episode he teaches us about himself, what he believes in and where he comes from. He likes to connect magic to a story, telling us about his Grandad teaching him the basics and watching his mind flourish and grow. Dynamo appeals on a personal level; audiences like to watch someone they can relate to and this building of trust is crucial in the reception of his magic. Dynamo’s magic is also believable is due to style and aesthetics. Magician Impossible breaks all rules of the traditional
magic show whereby the magician stands on a stage and presents to a room of people. Unlike other magicians such as Derren Brown, none of the stunts in Magician Impossible are staged or pre-prepared; Dynamo introduces us to the world of street magic. We see him making magic in his natural surroundings with everyday objects. He does not perform these tricks on a prepared stage to a large audience, but to single people or small groups on the street. Dynamo scans his surroundings for tricks related to the people he is with and the country he is performing in. Magician Impossible reveals how Dynamo has dedicated his life to learning magic, going from council estates to regal estates, impressing not only the Royal family but also, significantly, a string of celebrity friends. By incorporating celebrities into his magic, Dynamo is able to convince us further; we do not just see the general public being tricked by Dynamo but celebrities who will do anything to keep their cool. Celebrities play a significant role in the making of the show. In fact, celebrity endorsement is the dominant reason why Dynamo is so famous and successful. In one episode Dynamo meets singer Natalie Imbruglia in a bar, which is covered in paper butterflies. As he picks up a butterfly it turns into a real butterfly and flies out of his hands. Before she has time to blink, the whole bar is full of real butterflies. In another episode Dynamo meets boxer David Haye and performs strength tricks. Dynamo makes it completely impossible for former heavyweight champion Haye to lift Dynamo off the ground despite all of Haye’s strength!
Dynamo has impressed audiences around the world by creating magic that no one has seen before, keeping it fresh, and surprising and often creating magic that does not need words. In fact Dynamo has a habit of creating magic and disappearing without explanation. Magician Impossible was made on a tiny budget, which had to cater for a whole series of travelling across the globe, impressing people who crossed Dynamo’s path. This is part of the show’s appeal. The entire series has very low production values with no scripting, rehearsals or additional lighting. This in turns adds to the show and makes the show more believable. When Dynamo carries out a trick on the public, there is usually just the one basic camera, filming the whole event from a fixed position. Every trick is edited and shown in its purest form; how can you not believe something that appears to have not been edited? The result is that Dynamo appears to be the closest thing to a real magician. Despite all his other achievements, walking on water has become one of his most famous performances. Was this just a bold publicity stunt to take on the biggest ‘magic trick’ in history and carry it out with ease? In doing so, Dynamo appears to have reduced the religious act to nothing more than a magic trick, an illusion. Yet it is doubtful that audiences are left pondering the religious implications of Dynamo’s trick. Instead, the audience and his celebrity friends are left thinking about one question: just how did he do that?
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“Sci-fi films are like magic tricks. At some point you have to let go and just believe in the story” -- Bruce Willis commenting on Looper at Toronto Film Festival 2012 Indeed for the magic of Looper (2012) to work, the audience need to let go and suspend all disbelief in order for the trick to successfully unfold. What makes Looper such a thought-provoking film is the ways it pulls off its trick: “to make the concept of time travel believable in a futuristic world”.
TIME FOR A MAGIC TRICK BIANCA GARNER
ime travel has been a consistent fascination for filmmakers; consider The Time Machine (1960 and 2002), Back to the Future (1985), 12 Monkeys (1995) and The Butterfly Effect (2004) for example. 12 Monkeys itself is not an original story but is a remake or rather a reimagining of Chris Marker’s 1962 short La Jetée (see Christy Moore’s obituary in FADE OUT this issue), and there have been two feature adaptations of HG Wells’ The Time Machine (1895). Both 12 Monkeys and The Time Machine have complex plot lines and the filmmakers rely on the audience to accept the concept of time travel in order for the story to flow without too much confusion or ambiguity. Looper is an example of what Warren Buckland describes as a “puzzle film” in Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema (2009). It is a non-classical film that uses a complex plot in order to create a unique and detailed world. The complex plot in this case reflects the concept of time travel, moving forwards and backwards between two moments in time. The increase in “puzzle films” such as Fight Club (1999) and Memento (2000) can be seen as postmodern development. These films reflect a contemporary society lost in time, full of confusion and conflict. In dealing with the confusion of identity and the consequences of human actions, Looper can certainly be seen as belonging to this postmodern idea of film. Looper creates a futuristic world that is believable and realistic, as Bruce Willis has stated, “There are reminders the whole way that we are in a different time situation but it’s a real emotional film”. Set in 2044, when America is suffering from a new economic depression, the world has evolved to become a harsh and dangerous place
where organised crime has taken over. Joe (Joseph GordonLevitt) is a hired killer recruited by the mob. In 2074 time travel has been invented but outlawed so only the mafia use it, sending their “hits” back to 2044 where they are consequently killed by Joe and his fellow hit men. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when the mob of 2074 start to “close the loop”, sending older versions of the hit men back to 2044 to be killed by their past selves. Looper’s narrative sets up three major plot points which can help de-construct the “magic trick”. Firstly, “The Job” sets up the life of a “Looper”. We follow Young Joe in his lifetime, ending loops and then closing his own “Loop” until we follow Old Joe which marks the end of the job for Young Joe. The following “What if ” stage considers the possibilities of what would happen if Old Joe stopped Young Joe from killing himself. This “What If ” concept pushes the story along; time shifts, changes and adapts as Old Joe and Young Joe start making conflicting decisions that go against the original constructed timeline seen in the first act. In the third act – “Consequences” – both Joes must face the consequences of their past and future actions. The film reaches the point where two versions of the same character appear at the same moment in time. The film’s trick is effective largely because of the performances of the two lead actors. The success of the trick is down to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ability to act like Bruce Willis, adopting Willis’s body language, vocal and facial expressions. The scene where the two Joes eat at a diner is perhaps the best example of two actors playing the same person at different times during that individual’s life, a technique demonstrated in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There
(2007) where six different actors play Bob Dylan. Gordon-Levitt studied Willis body language by watching Willis’s performances during his early career, paying close attention to Willis’s iconic role as John McClane in Die Hard (1988). Gordon-Levitt manages to pull off the trick of being the younger Bruce Willis so effectively that it is a pity that there are not more scenes with the two of them. Joe is not our everyday “action hero”; he is our hero as Young Joe but also our villain (Old Joe). This plays on the audience’s identification with the character of Young/Old Joe. The audience want to cheer on both Joes, however if either one is to exist and to survive then the most horrific crime must be committed, a crime that would question the hero’s identity. By glossing over the idea of “time travel” and just giving the audience enough detail for them to follow, the film manages to pull off its trick without becoming too complicated and without confusing its storyline and audience. This approach been seen before in Inception (2010) and The Matrix (1999) where the full details of these magical sci-fi worlds is withheld. Like a magician, only the filmmaker knows the true reality of the film’s plot and narrative. By holding back information, the audience are left with anticipation and a hunger to be satisfied. Looper connects with its audience by allowing them to draw their own conclusions about the story. The overall success of the film is not simply to trick the audience into accepting a futuristic world where time travel exists without explanation. The audience is also tricked into emotionally connecting with both versions of Joe. It is this realistic potential of a desperate man facing up to his (future/younger) self that makes the film so effective.
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ractical Magic is a witchy tale that mixes romance, drama, comedy and fantasy along with an interesting historical narrative. Based on a novel by Alice Hoffman written in 1995, this enchanting and compelling film is based on a curse that is placed on a witch if she falls in love and marries. The curse means the witch’s husband will die when the black beetles chirp. Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) play two witch sisters who are trying to find love and end up raising the dead by mistake. Practical Magic portrays the historical progression of witches, from the witch trials
and hunts known as the Salem witch trials that took place in 1692. During the trials, anyone who was accused of being a witch was put on trial and were executed if found guilty. Practical Magic acknowledges this history at the beginning of the film by showing Sally and Gillian’s ancestor being put on trial and facing her execution. However, she uses her magic to snap the rope that will hang her and survives, to the shock of the villagers.
Drawing from history, if the accused survive their execution they are free to leave but are exiled from their village. Practical Magic acknowledges this key point in history and this is how the family
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curse begins; banished from her home, the surviving witch waits for her love who never shows and so she curses all the women in her family line. As Practical Magic moves 300 years in the future, the film portrays the general acceptance of witchcraft today. This is shown throughout the film as Sally and Gillian struggle to become accepted by the local community. It is clear that the local town fear the witch sisters. Mothers try to hide their children for fear of spells being cast on them, which does come true when one of Sally’s children casts a chickenpox spell in retaliation to taunts. Yet these taunts are minor in comparison to how witches have been treated historically. The casting of Kidman and Bullock means the film questions the common stereotype of witches as what Kimberley Stratton calls “lascivious old hags” in Naming the Witch: Magic, Ideology and Stereotype in the
Western World (2007). Although the aunts can be interpreted as this type, Practical Magic indicates that witches are not always flying on broomsticks or wearing pointed hats with warts at the end of their noses. An incident in the film showing that time has progressed is when Sally and Gillian are judged by the law for murder rather than being hung or burned for their crimes. The film indicates that murder by magic is reasonable if it is self-defence. According to an essay by Tanice Foltz in Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America (2006)
“an overriding message is that witches are basically good and, as such, they can kill “bad” people and avoid “punishment”. Although Sally and Gillian get away with murder, it is not without consequence as the man they kill comes back to haunt them. Practical Magic is interesting for challenging ideas around witches even if it ultimately uses history in a very light-hearted way. Many things may have changed since the Salem witch trials but the fear of the unknown is still evident. In Practical Magic it all works out just fine in the end. Sally, Gillian and their family even give a show for the entire village which consists of them jumping off of the house roof with their umbrellas and they are given a round of applause by the local community.
According to Carrol Lee Fry in Cinema of the Occult: New Age, Satanism, Wicca, and Spiritualism in Film (2008), films such as Practical Magic and The Craft (1996) “show a growing tolerance for alternative spiritual paths in our multicultural society”. Practical Magic certainly does not take this history too seriously but it provides a modern day twist on some significant past events with references to new-age witching practices. One thing is for sure, it is a cauldron full of dark humour, with a dash of horror, a stir of mystery, bubbling romance, and the end result will leave you fixed to your seat wanting more.
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S H O R T H A N D
eorges Méliès is arguably G one of the most influential and notable early trick
filmmakers. This is due to his development and use of certain tricks and special effects to add a magical dream-like quality to his films, combined with his distinctly theatrical style that derived from his passion for stage magic. In fact, he was himself an illusionist prior to being a filmmaker. Méliès accidentally discovered what would become his first film trick when his camera jammed. He fixed it and continued filming but when he developed the film he noticed that the subjects in view transformed from one frame to the next through a kind of substitution: a bus into a hearse and woman into a man. However, a similar technique was used previously by Thomas Edison in The Execution of Mary Stuart (1895) where a person is substituted for a dummy before having its head chopped off. Experimentation with film to create illusions had begun. Méliès developed this kind of edit to form the basis for his early trick films, such as The Vanishing Lady/Escamontage d’une dame (1896). The film presents a magician making a woman disappear, then creating a skeleton from thin air before making the woman re-appear. The film is presented much in the same style as a theatrical stage performance, including a painted set. The characters even speak to the camera as if directly addressing an audience in the theatre. Yet the editing here creates a magical illusion that would be difficult to recreate on stage due to the advancements of cinematic technology. Acknowledging the theatre tradition, The Vanishing Lady satisfies spectators by presenting the magician’s trick in a familiar way but simultaneously providing a new
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type of entertainment to be enjoyed or perhaps to even be shocked by. These trick films were very different from earlier unedited “actualities” where what was presented on screen would be often be a single shot of a mundane, everyday activity filmed in real time. This single-shot tableau technique seems fairly simple in that it involves pausing the action and substituting an element before recommencing the film. It proved important in the development of film and editing as it encouraged filmmakers to explore other possibilities for camera tricks and different editing techniques in order to create desired magical and fantastical effects and illusions. It is no surprise that trick films, particularly those by Méliès, became popular and continued to evolve using more complex editing, along with developments in narrative form. However, it is clear that the trick is the main focus of The Vanishing Lady; there is essentially no conventional narrative, which was a common strategy for many early films that were experimenting with the new form. However, some have argued that such experimentation actually indicated a move towards narrative rather than being examples of early avant garde filmmaking. Whether or not Méliès’ films should be considered evolutionary or revolutionary has been the subject of much debate in film history. Barry Salt is known for taking an evolutionary and teleological approach to these early films in Film Form 1900-1906 (1978) while Tom Gunning has argued for a revolutionary and experimental approach in The Cinema Of Attractions:
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Early Film, its Spectators and the Avant-Garde (1986). However, both views could be applied to Méliès’ films as it could be argued that the editing techniques were somewhat revolutionary but the incorporation of narrative could be considered evolutionary in terms of film. Indeed, many filmmakers would go on to borrow and draw inspiration from Méliès’ work. A Trip to the Moon/Le voyage dans la lune (1902) is often considered to be Méliès’ masterpiece. This film demonstrates how Méliès developed the magic of his film trickery and subsequently influenced those created by other filmmakers employing similar techniques. Méliès combines his theatrical sets and performances with the kind of editing only possible with film technology to create the special effects as well as the adventurous narrative. Often said to be based on the tales of Jules Verne, A Trip to the Moon follows a group of explorers as they embark on a mission to the moon. The film includes a number of different scenes like the construction of the bullet-like space vessel, the explosive launch, the iconic landing in the eye of the “man-on-the-moon” shot, an alien encounter and a celebratory return to earth. It is worth noting here that the length of Méliès’ films increased in order to accommodate the various charming tricks as well as the key points in the narrative, from the minute-long singleshot tableau structure of The Vanishing Lady to the tenminute duration of A Trip to the Moon. In A History of Film (1995), Jack C Ellis suggests that it was this kind of storytelling that first attracted a loyal audience and built an
economic base for the film industry with Méliès leading the way in fantasy films. Méliès still employed the substitution trick – making aliens disappear in a puff of smoke and turning an umbrella into a mushroom – to create the kinds of things only seen in our wildest dreams. But he also employs a different range of techniques in order to create magical illusions. Some were as simple as moving stage pieces, using smoke bombs or clever costumes.
“many filmmakers would go on to borrow and draw inspiration from Méliès’ work” Méliès also used a multipleexposure, or superimposition, to make stars and planets (all with human faces) appear above the sleeping explorers and some of the smoke effects would also have been used to mask a cut, giving these effects both magical and practical qualities. As well as the original black and white film A Trip to the Moon was also available in a beautifully hand tinted colour version, emphasising some of the elements such as the smoke clouds. The colour adds an element of realism despite the fantastical appearance of the film. Méliès had been known to devise the tricks, costumes and decorations before constructing the scenarios. In this way, these types of early trick films can still be seen as exhibitionist. Also, the novelty of the tricks could
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have worn out as tricks were often repeated, for example the substitution trick. This could also be evident when considering The Impossible Voyage which was exhibited just two years later in 1904 and is very similar to its predecessor, even to the point that some critics consider it a sequel. Early film continued to develop past the theatrical style of the trick films of Méliès and began to include a variety of shots, including close-ups. Yet the contribution Méliès made to film is still evident in contemporary films. Consider the use of computerised special effects, stunts and camera tricks in recent box-office hits, not just in films of the fantasy genre, but spanning across all genres. A case in point is the recent enchanting tale of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) which pays a wonderful homage to the work of Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley, pictured) whilst also displaying the fantastic abilities of modern movie magic. One particular scene shows Hugo (Asa Butterfield) transforming into a machine; rather than the jump cuts and stage magic style of The Vanishing Lady, each part of Hugo is visible as his body gradually morphs. Méliès would have been proud. Regardless of the approach, it would be difficult to deny that Méliès, his techniques and enchanting films changed the way other filmmakers approached their own craft at the time and since, whether in terms of narrative, staging and composition or the magic of special effects editing. Without such early film developments and the contributions of Méliès, contemporary films would be far less fantastically magical.
A MAGICAL MESSAGE
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s soon as the screen faded to black to reveal the word Fin, the plaudits for MariesGeorges-Jean Méliès’ 1902 film Le Voyage dans la lune/A Trip to the Moon began and the French filmmaker was hailed as a “magician”. His ability to lead many technical and narrative developments set a new precedent in filmmaking. Taking into consideration the Oxford English dictionary definition of a magician being “an entertainer who is skilled in producing illusion by sleight of hand and deceptive devices” and contemplating the historical context in which A Trip to the Moon was situated, we are faced with the idea that there may be more to this science fiction film than initially meets the eye. Religious undertones are embedded in the structure and mise-en-scène of the film’s opening scene. Astronomers gather in a large hall seemingly in a state of high anticipation and excitement. The arrival of the President is met with a standing ovation; taking his place on the stage, he explains to the audience the idea of a trip to the moon. The atmosphere and reaction to the individual is similar to the accounts in the New Testament that describe hysteria enveloping the “messiah” Jesus Christ during his travels through Israel. The President’s proposal of a trip to the moon is comparable to religious teachings about life after death. The President’s proposal of a journey to the moon is similar to religious teachings regarding the meaning and existence of Heaven.
landing conveys the events surrounding the story of Jesus’s life and death. Upon landing on the moon, the explorers settle down for the night, which is followed by a series of events. Firstly, a bright comet flies past in the sky which is followed by seven stars containing the faces of people. This gives way to three astronomical symbols that include a star held up by two women, a man leaning out of window within the planet Saturn and finally Phoebe, Goddess of the moon, seated on a crescent moon. The simple image of an astronomical symbol in the sky whilst travellers are sleeping has definitive links to events preceding the birth of Jesus. The comet is comparative to the Star of Bethlehem, particularly when taking into account the comet’s alternative term of “evening star” or “Venus” is associated with the deity that presides over birth and death. The sleeping explorers imitate the shepherds that looked over their flock before being guided by the Angels to the stable where Jesus was born. Moreover the numerical significance of the “Seven Stars” or “Big Dipper” has wider connotations within the history of Christianity; there are seven angels, seven sins and it could refer to the idea that God created the earth in seven days. All represent the teachings of
“there may be more to this magical science fiction film than initially meets the eye”
Both examples refer to a journey to a mystical place beyond the realms of the earth that is largely subject to theory over physical experience, creating wonder and intrigue in its wake. While it can be understood that characteristics given to the President are to cast him as an intelligent being, he is adorned with features such as long hair, a beard and cape that are commonly perceived as stereotypical features associated with Jesus. The location of the scene contains features almost identical to churches, notably the arched windows, high ceilings, pulpit and stone work foundations, which further supports the idea that A Trip to the Moon invokes religious beliefs. Like the opening scene, the moon
Finally, the three planets that follow the seven stars represent the legacy left by Jesus functioning as religious symbols associated with him. The powerful biblical image of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns is evoked in the spherical image and structure of Saturn that is comparable to a head with a crown. The way Phoebe is seated upon the crescent moon also bears a similar shape to the “Menora”, the oldest symbol of the Jewish people. What is even more striking is that if we were to remove the two figures holding the star, we would be left with a star that represents the Star of David, widely recognised as the symbol of Jewish identity and religion. Henceforth, each of these examples evokes the events, teachings and legacy left by Jesus that reflect the Christian and Jewish faiths. In doing so, Méliès’ magical mise-enscène captured his ability to blend social factors with science fiction demonstrating an early attempt to make films relevant and relatable for audiences.
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M A R G From I N Witches to S Wicker
rom 1955, a revolution in horror cinema crept
from the shadows of the British Isles in the form of Hammer Horror. Hammer provided the greatest resurgence in popular horror cinema since Universal had great commercial success during the 1930s with such films as Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932). The British production company created stars in Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, while American horror actors including Vincent Price also benefitted from Hammer’s commercial and critical triumphs. Yet despite its popularity around the world, the impact of its films began to diminish during the early 1970s in a cycle of poorly produced scripts and box office disasters. A studio which could perhaps be considered the UK’s last global success in film production and distribution, Hammer’s biggest attractions were its Gothic horrors and monster movies. Dracula and Frankenstein initially provided a staple diet for most of their fans, before losing their appeal by the end of the sixties. While attitudes and interests changed, Hammer took the route of greater gore and nudity over an innovative storyline. This eventually led to less depth and critical merit in their scripts, and eventually the general public were no longer responding to the maxim “sex and death sells”. By 1979 the studio had all but become bankrupt having experienced a steady decline from 1974 onwards, with films such as The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires failing despite its ambitious gothic horror/martial arts hybrid-genre approach. There was however a little known sub-genre keeping British horror afloat during these turbulent times. Horror enthusiast, actor and writer
Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen and Sherlock) dubbed this sub-genre “folk horror” during his threepart BBC4 documentary A History of Horror (2010). Only encompassing a small number of little known, yet well-received titles, Gatiss describes these films as having an obsession with the English countryside and an exploration of the dark pagan beliefs associated with it. While successful, Hammer was by no-means the only studio to influence and nurture this trend and yet they may have started it with The Witches, a 1966 tale of a schoolteacher who finds the occult firmly rooted in an idyllic English village. The film is light on horror and yet includes numerous themes and plot devices, such as deception, manipulation and pagan ritual, which would eventually reappear in the folk horror classic The Wicker Man (1973). Although The Witches was not a great success, the little known British studio Tigon similarly foregrounded the use of the English countryside in The Witchfinder General (1968) starring Vincent Price. Set during the English Civil War, The Witchfinder General offers a clash between Christian morality and corruption in the church as Vincent Price’s witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins, travels the countryside turning villager against villager in the quest to bring suspected witches to “justice”, in spite of their outward innocence. The film was regarded a critical success and was the last film to be directed by the young and promising maverick Michael Reeves who committed suicide at the age of 24. Notably it was the film’s political edge and the brutality in its onscreen violence that distinctly set it apart from Hammer’s cosier conventional Gothic ambiance.
By 1970 Tigon thought it prudent to make a follow-up to Witchfinder, which saw the subgenre of folk horror reach full stride. The film, Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), presents a grisly tale of child-murder and satanic cults in the seventeenth century English countryside during the joint reign of William and Mary. Mostly set in a small farming community, it utilises the British countryside through its location shooting in fields and forests coupled with intimate shots of cottages, barns and the church. Instead of the Gothic setting common to the Hammer films of the past few decades, Tigon turned the celebrated rural areas of the British Isles into a place of madness, where nature had become Satan’s playground. Blood on Satan’s Claw’s most notable feature however is perhaps not the way it dealt with late seventeenth-century Britain or the country’s greenery, but how it deals with the subject of witchcraft and the occult. Hammer began this trend with The Witches and The Devil Rides Out (1968) and Tigon would take up the reigns with an approach that mirrored the times. The previous decade gave rise to growing liberal attitudes, celebrations of youth culture and most importantly a strong feminist movement. Yet these changes in attitudes had also brought with it a degree of fear in how far these new freedoms would reach. Drug use, sexual liberation, and a shift in attitudes towards women’s rights became a potent backdrop for the themes of the occult, witchcraft and generational conflict in the narrative of Blood on Satan’s Claw. The film follows a number of isolated incidents taking place in a village, all linked to a number of satanic pagan rituals being carried out primarily
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by a group of young adults led by a sultry hedonist called Angel Blake (Linda Hayden). These isolated incidents each see a young member of the community developing a furry piece of skin on their bodies. This piece of skin would later be removed and pieced together with parts from other youngsters to form the beast they wish to summon. Many of these young people are then ritually murdered so that the demon can be pieced together and resurrected, culminating in the final conflict. With The Judge (Patrick Wymark), an unlikely hero, being absent throughout most of the picture, much of the focus is on the young townspeople and how they are affected by the demonic rituals and manipulation perpetrated by the “witches” of the village. The conflict between paganism and the church is made even clearer when the local reverend (Anthony Ainley) becomes accused of a rape and murder charge enacted by the sinister Angel Blake. The narrative of this film tars late sixties hedonism with a disapproving brush while simultaneously exploiting it through gore, nudity and even an insinuated (and much maligned) rape scene. Such images were common in horror at the time, and folk horror was no different. Yet here they are not evoked purely to draw in an audience but also to amplify the gratuitous and horrendous nature of the act, making them all the more profound. It could be argued that paganism had been directly slandered in Blood on Satan’s Claw, its magic and ritual associated with Satanism and cruel manipulation. This was nothing new, but the uncensored nudity
and violence of the film still detracts from its overlying theme, falling more closely into the recent custom of Hammer Horror, utilising sex and acts of violence to full effect. A film which would treat paganism with a little more understanding but still steeped in horror is the cult classic The Wicker Man (1973). The film certainly did its best to present both what is understood of Celtic religion and the revived form it has taken since the nineteenth century. It deconstructed an idyllic countryside and heritage by peeling away the layers of what appears natural to reveal a darker side of what Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) calls “the old religion”. The Wicker Man, which has been written about extensively and merits further attention as a folk horror classic, follows yet another unlikely hero in the form of Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward). Howie is led to the small Scottish island of Summerisle under false pretences, and while he believes he is investigating the disappearance and possible murder of a young girl he is in fact being manipulated by the islanders to unwittingly become part of a brutal pagan ritual. The film not only includes frequent references to pagan practices, such as the use of the maypole or the significance of sex and death as a central part of the islander’s beliefs, but it also favours a moderntraditional hybrid of folk music over an orchestral score, with the songs often linking closely to the pagan themes and rituals. The language of the music is given a modern twist yet its purpose has a relevant pagan meaning, for example the “The
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Landlord’s Daughter”, a song composed for the film but loosely based on an eighteenth century ballad, hails the sexual motifs of paganism through the use of innuendo. Furthermore, such modern twists are apparent in the characters and especially in Lord Summerisle. Rather than being portrayed as a demonic figure, the Island’s leader is portrayed as a friendly and warm figure, who shall eventually orchestrate the burning of an innocent man. But, for all its revisions, The Wicker Man would not keep the popularity of British Horror afloat, and folk horror would soon sink thereafter. Folk horror, it could be argued, was not a great commercial success, but it does stand up as a critical one, with The Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man all fondly remembered by modern critics and filmgoers. With the re-emergence of Hammer Studios in recent years, the distinctly British horror film may not yet be at its peak once again but with cinematic triumphs such as The Woman in Black (2012), low budget horror such as Wake Wood (2011) and the international success of Let Me In (2010) it is clear that British horror production is certainly not dead. Folk horror, in many ways, signalled the end of the golden age of British horror yet this subgenre had great potential in expanding upon British identity. Unfortunately it withered away before it was given time to be fully explored.
â€œThe Wicker Man decontructed an idyllic British countryside and heritage by peeling away the layers of what appears natural to reveal a darker side.â€?
iki’s Delivery Service/Majo no takkyūbin (1989) is a heart-warming coming of age story about a young witch and her journey into maturity as she leaves home to become a fully fledged witch. Based on a popular Japanese children’s story of the same name, the story begins with Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst in the Disney version) embarking on the journey that all witches must undertake at the age of 13: to live a year of her life away from home.
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Kiki and her cat Jiji (voiced by the late Phil Hartman) arrive in a sprawling seaside city where she is encouraged to specialise and advance her magical ability. Her kind-hearted nature lands her a job at a local bakery where she runs a delivery service, transporting packages on her broom for the townsfolk. Kiki tries to fit into this new, unknown and hazardous world as well as make new friends, which she finds difficult because her drab black robe and status as a witch. In her analysis of the film in Maiden USA (2008), Kathleen Sweeney likens Kiki’s loss of magical ability to an “underlying loss of confidence” particularly towards people her own age. In her melancholy search for her own identity Kiki loses the little magical power that she has and needs to be reminded of her heroic nature to learn them again as part of her journey towards maturity. This is not exactly a black-hatsand-cauldrons interpretation of witches; magic seems to be largely restricted to Kiki’s flying ability and is hinted at in her superiors such as Kiki’s mother and in a brief encounter with an older witch. Instead, magic is a goal for the young witch, who is still starting out on her “career”. But beyond
that, Kiki’s Delivery Service uses magic as a complex metaphor for childhood. Early on in the film Kiki can fly her broom without even thinking about it, whereas after she loses her powers it becomes incredibly difficult. She also ceases to understand her magical cat and best friend Jiji, who can then only be heard to meow. In the original Japanese version it is revealed at the end of the film that whilst Kiki can once again fly her broom, Jiji
still cannot speak. This is clearly an allegory for Kiki’s maturity; she loses the innocence of her youth that gave her the childlike understanding of animals as she becomes an adult. Interestingly, this plot point was omitted from the 1998 Disney version and replaced with lines delivered by Phil Hartman, as the production team were afraid that children may find the ending distressing. Instead Jiji is heard calling Kiki’s name and then singing “meow” to mimic a cat. Needless to say this is something of an awkward change. This removes some of the harsh coming-ofage sentiment that underlies the film and replaces it with a more comfortable, albeit disingenuous, ending. It is a bit like making a new version of The Lion King (1994) where it turns out Simba’s dad was actually just off having a fun run with the wildebeest. The message is that all children must discard their immature idiosyncrasies along the difficult path of growing up. The magic metaphor can therefore be likened to ambition or dedication, demonstrated in Kiki’s adventure of leaving home for the first time in order to make her way in the world. Kiki’s loss of her magical ability seems strangely akin to a hesitant girl’s realisation that she is taking the wrong course. Kirsten Dunst’s vocal performance in this film is particularly good. Dunst was just 16 at the time and managed to capture the range displayed by Kiki’s character quite proficiently. The most memorable scenes include when Kiki reacts to other kids, especially girls, who are more used to expensive dresses and shoes that Kiki shows an abashed interest in, but is ultimately intimidated by. Dunst manages all the embarrassed gasps and frightened squeaks
of an insecure young girl that would have been unnatural for an older actress and too complex for a younger one. Phil Hartman does a great job as Jiji the cat, a character that largely exists for comic relief but in terms of the 1998 Disney version was also expanded. This version features more scenes with Jiji dialogue in the translation process in an effort to make them less boring for children. In a somewhat wasted opportunity to add funny dialogue, the result is that many scenes include inane commentary with Jiji describing whatever might be happening in a scene. Nonetheless the film is intended for children so it can be argued that the approach makes the film more appropriate for its audience. This is particularly evident in Hartman, who brings a lot of life to the role and fits the persona of the snarky cat sidekick well. The role of Jiji also happens to be the last voice acting role that Hartman was cast in before his tragic death (he was murdered by his wife in 1998), which resulted in the film being dedicated to his memory. Kiki’s Delivery Service is revered Japanese writer and director Hayao Miyazaki’s third feature length film. It was one of Miyazaki’s first big box office successes and helped launch Miyazaki and his animation studio Studio Ghibli to worldwide success. Studio Ghibli would go on to use more mature treatment of magic in their more well-known films such as Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
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D I A L STANDING ON O CEREMONY G U E T
he Olympics kicked off with the opening ceremony on Friday 27th July on the BBC, attracting an average rating of 24.24 million viewers in the UK alone. The Olympic opening ceremony consisted of about two hours of Englishness directed by Danny Boyle, the brain behind Trainspotting (1996) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
This was followed by even more hours of the competing teams, waving the flag of their country and taking photos with their phones, in a procession around the stadium to light the Olympic torch. The ceremony presented a brief cultural history of Great Britain, ranging from country dancing, the Industrial Age,
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Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Winston Churchill, Mary Poppins, Voldemort and British music, all tied together by the creative mind of Danny Boyle as Artistic Director.
Boyle certainly did an impressive job, but I could not help but wonder just how relevant the whole spectacle was. Would Chinese audiences understand the Brunel reference? Does our music come off as inherently British? Does Brazil even care for Morris dancing? Overall, I felt an overwhelming sense that they probably didnâ€™t.
For now though, it is worth considering the, ahem, magical spectacle created by Boyle. The ceremony showcased the English countryside from a giant structuring of rolling hills, to folk dancing and a ceremony “warm up” performance by folk singer Frank Turner. This was followed by a re-staging of the Industrial Revolution, complete with thespian Kenneth Branagh portraying Brunel whilst reciting a sequence from Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a factory rose from the ground. This bleak depiction of Industrial London lead to the diegetic forging of five very impressive giant Olympic rings that were then elevated above the stadium flaring off sparks. Eventually we are presented with a series of nurses with child patients, providing great exposure for the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Before long the children are faced with the evils of British fiction via the introduction of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and a giant Voldemort puppet wreaking havoc, with no one to protect them. Faced with a bizarre magical battle, this sequence enabled young and mature viewers alike to delve back into their childhoods.
With two of the greatest childhood villains of all time joining forces, the sorcerer and the catcher must be defeated by perhaps childhood’s most comforting image when hundreds of Mary Poppins fly in with their umbrellas, using their equally strong magic to destroy the one who shall not be named. However magical, the sequence was somewhat disjointed and may have only appealed to the childhoods of the western world, if beyond Britain at all. Boyle also managed to fit in The London Symphony Orchestra featuring Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean character fantasising about Chariots of Fire (1981), Emeli Sandé singing over interpretive dancers in a tribute to the 7/7 terrorist attacks, Timothy Spall reciting even more of The Tempest whilst dressed as Winston Churchill and Daniel Craig reprising his role as James Bond to escort Her Majesty The Queen to the ceremony, via parachute. The latter was arguably the most British moment of the ceremony; two great institutions – the Queen and Bond – joined forces to provide perhaps the most memorable and humorous sequence of the night.
The ceremony was a great spectacle and an achievement everybody involved should be proud of. The magnificent rings rising from the sparks may be one of the most iconic images of the ceremony, the exposure of Great Ormond Street Hospital no doubt helped the charity greatly, and the 7/7 tribute was one of the most heart-felt tributes I have seen in a long time. Interestingly, despite being a tribute to the victims of a terrorist attack, this heart-felt apparently came off as “boring” to the US broadcasting network NBC, who caused a great deal of controversy when they omitted the tribute from their airing of the event. In place of the tribute, they decided to use footage of Ryan Seacrest interviewing American Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Indeed NBC’s general coverage of the Olympics received a great deal of scrutiny. Aside from using the interview many have deemed “dull”, they also chose to air the ceremony several hours after it had finished. Additionally, they went so far as to block access to the sports online, meaning the American public could not view them until they were shown on the NBC. British viewers may have complained about Channel’s 4 coverage of the Paralympics in comparison to the BBC’s handling of the Olympics, but at least NBC were not responsible for coverage in the UK. The Olympic opening ceremony certainly had some spectacular moments. However for every moment of glory, there were a number
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of sequences that were arguably below par. The Arctic Monkeys provided one of the standout moments after the parade of nations. They performed some of their greatest hits, including an impressive cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”, while men with neon wings cycled in circles. In this humble writer’s opinion, however, there were two moments which stood out as notably poor: the mishmash of fictional characters in the Mary Poppins vs. Voldemort sequence and the far-too-long modern love story dance sequence set to the history of British music. I refer to the mishmash as Mary Poppins vs. Voldemort, because I cannot figure out what else it could have been. In what seems to be an excuse to flaunt icons of British films, Boyle presents a spectacle-based battle of fairytale good and evil, drawing on the nightmares of children throughout the past fifty years. However, seeing as the children are not running loose on the streets and Harry Potter is not visibly there, it can be assumed the Child Catcher and Voldemort are there to kidnap the children. And since Mary Poppins is the only one strong enough for the two, why not have hundreds of her? With a Mary Poppins army at hand, Voldemort is bested, and the children are saved from evil misfortune. However one views the sequence, it seemed to exchange sense with spectacle and, despite winning the battle, the Mary Poppins clones did not seem to do much more than stand and wave.
The modern-day love story sequence may be a controversial inclusion here, as it was accompanied by many notable moments of the ceremony. The reason for its inclusion, however, is that the dance felt unnecessary, considering how effective it may have been if it were a condensed portrayal of one of England’s great love stories: Romeo and Juliet or Pride and Prejudice perhaps. Instead, the story follows two characters catching each other’s eye whilst dancing in a club. Long story short, they lose each other and manage to find each other via the magic of mobile phones and social networking. The sequence loses intent when it is placed alongside the history of British music and bringing to light that the internet can trace its origins back to the UK - with a cameo from the Web’s developer Tim Berners-Lee. It makes sense to feature dance with music, as they jive to Wham! and slow dance to Bowie, even interspersing live performance (notably that of Dizzie Rascal). The dance acts as an attempt to link the effect the UK has had on the modern world. Quite simply, what is more accessible than music and technology? There’s no reason why Boyle shouldn’t boast about our achievement here. Arguably, the British excess here is forgivable. Language does not pose an issue as the characters are voiceless, British music has had an impact the world over, and there’s barely a patch of Earth untouched by the internet. So why was the actual dance not overtly British either? The storyline and choreography
came off as quite mediocre, especially considering the impact of dance on modern civilisation. This sequence had a real opportunity to include the relevant spectacle, wowing the viewers with the capabilities of the human body. The dance needed more focus on spectacle, illustrating the history of music rather than attempting to tie it together. It demonstrated the opposite problem of the Mary Poppins sequence, which relied too heavily on spectacle at the expense of plot. Both sequences tried to introduce a myriad of British pop culture, but both lost themselves in Britishness. Once the majority of the grand spectacle had finished, we were spoilt somewhat with the Parade of Nations, followed by the lighting of the cauldron; being lit by seven future athletes. Just as the ceremony was a nod to British past and present, the flame was a nod to British future. Overall, the ceremony was a successful spectacle, but beyond the spectacle it felt as though it lost its way. With so many attempts to flaunt the Great British culture, the ceremony was perhaps too British for foreign nations. However, the Olympics were a great achievement; the BBC outdid themselves with their coverage and the sports certainly motivated everyone into watching. Despite its success I could not help but feel that with so many watching worldwide, the ceremony should have focused more on the world, and less on Britain.
CINE OLYMPICS Team GB won 63 Gold medals at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Diegesis editorial team recommend films inspired (some more tenuously than others!) by this year’s array of sporting events on show.
ARCHERY CANOEING Due to the popularity of The Hunger Games book series and film, archery has reached new heights in popularity. Yet it is the Koreans who had the genius to put arrows in the title. War of the Arrows (2011) follows Nam-yi (Park Hae-il) as he takes out the Qing army with his bow while in search of his kidnapped sister Ja-in (Moon Chae-won). Nam-yi’s mastery of the bow is enough to make Robin Hood, Legolas and Rambo stamp their feet with envy, and is yet another striking example of East Asia’s command of the historical action epic movie [Sam Hall].
If you haven’t heard about the incredible success of this summer’s British Olympians then you must have been where Robert Flaherty was in 1922: following a family of Eskimos around the Arctic Circle. In Nanook of the North (1922), Flaherty captured a year in the life of this extraordinary family through the means of silent documentary. The film shows how the Eskimos remain untouched by the ongoing revolutions and advancements within the rest of the world. This family’s desired mode of transport was a canoe, something that Team GB excelled in this summer [Charlotte Birch].
TRIATHLON Released in 1985, The Goonies is a guilty pleasure for many who grew up in the eighties and nineties. Starring Sean Astin and Corey Feldman, The Goonies follows a gang of friends in search of pirate treasure, despite the fact its existence is only mere speculation. The gang must face trials, tribulations and criminals on the run whilst ensuring their friendship is still intact. So what has this got to do with sport? The film is a rarity in that it involves cycling, running and swimming from danger; it’s a triathlon movie if ever there was one! [Sam Hall].
SHOOTING Released in 2001 and based on the 1973 book detailing the Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig, Enemy at the Gates (2001) depicts the struggle of Russian soldiers facing the German invasion in World War II. The protagonists Vassili Zaitsev and Commisar Danilov, played by British actors Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes, find themselves on the frontline of the battlefield in 1942. Held as a national Soviet hero for his shooting skills, Vassili is moved along with Danilov to a snipering division, where his exploits as an accomplished marksman are challenged by German Major (Ed Harris), himself a sniper specialist. This brings about a series of thrilling and spectacular stand-offs between the sides. It is safe to say that snipers in a war and shooting at an Olympic range are not the same thing, but it certainly takes a lot of practise and patience to hit a target precisely, whether it is an enemy soldier or a colourful clay pigeon [Adam Flood].
Set in 1990s Belfast, The Boxer (1997) tells the story of Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis), recently released from prison where he was doing time for IRA-related activities. He returns home with the aim of establishing a boxing club that does not discriminate membership in terms of religious or political background. Danny is challenged by a local IRA authority figure who has not yet embraced the crosscommunity spirit. After dumping a valuable cache of explosives, Danny’s popularity with the local IRA is dangerously low. Danny’s fight against his former comrades provides the backbone of this daring, original and thoughtprovoking examination of the intricate differences between rival factions and the lengths they are prepared to go to achieve their aims. It is a chilling reminder of what might have been and an inspiration given Ireland’s recent boxing success at the Olympics [Ciaran Mullan].
TAEKWONDO Based on the popular video game, Mortal Kombat (1995) is a celebration and exhibition of a multitude of martial arts skills, including those of Taekwondo, a style favoured by character Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson). The best of the best from different realms compete for the fate of the Earth. Like the Olympic tournaments, this film shows the honour and discipline involved in martial arts, even if it is exaggerated into the supernatural. You will be yelling phrases like “Finish him!” and “Fatality!” for weeks after watching this cult classic, that is when you’re not belting out the legendary theme tune. To borrow words from the trailer “there is a warrior in all of us” so I challenge you to (watch) Mortal Kombat! Let the battle begin! Flawless victory [Yasmin Wall].
SWIMMING There are many films centred on sport that are very inspirational and heartfelt, following people who pursue their dreams and become the best they can be. One that is worth mentioning and definitely worth watching is On a Clear Day (2005). The film has an astonishing cast, which includes Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn and Sean McGinley. The critically acclaimed film won two BAFTA Scotland Awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay. It follows a middle-aged, workingclass man Frank (Mullan) who sinks into depression following his redundancy. On a search for something to restore his self-confidence after being laid off and renew a passion for life he decides to take on The English Channel. For Frank it is all or nothing: sink or swim [Claire Williams].
Every four years rowing is the sport we place the most hope, because we are almost guaranteed a gold medal. This year was no exception. With the rowing being such a strong source of hope for our nation, the most appropriate film comparison is the ending of Children of Men (2006). The world is on the edge of collapse. Theo (Clive Owen) and Kee (Claire-Hope Ashity) row out towards the ocean until they reach a buoy. There, they wait to be collected by an organisation they don’t even have confirmation exists. With her baby in her arms – the first baby born in 18 years – they are humanity’s last hope of survival as the England they have left behind is slowly collapsing. By rowing to be collected, they are rowing with hope of success, just as our rowers entered the Olympics [Lloyd Hann].
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Peter Weir’s award-winning Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) is set in 1805 during the Napoleonic wars. We follow the British ship HMS Surprise which is under the command of Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) who is fixated with a French warship named the Acheron. What proceeds is an intense cat and mouse game between the two ships with determination and obsession being the main themes throughout the film. Aubrey places the lives of his crew at risk and he himself is faced with the concept that his obsession may destroy his credibility and reputation. The film mixes fast paced battle scenes with slow paced drama about evolutionism. We see that life at sea did not always mean war but also meant discovery, awe and wonder. Overall the film presents sailing as a tough unforgiving lifestyle, one in which the sea can be both a best friend and a worse enemy [Bianca Garner].
When the police are after you and your one and only goal is to get your newly found alien friend back to his outer space home, what better getaway mode of transport to use than a bicycle, especially a flying bicycle. This infamous scene from Steven Spielberg’s ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) is almost as grand as the number of medals won by Great Britain for cycling in the 2012 Olympics. Both feats took time and effort to bring together and are something that will be remembered by many for years to come. The image of the bicycle flying past the moon has become a cinematic icon. It represents how one small boy was able to surpass the world’s expectations of him and become a hero, much like the athletes who came to the Olympics to race for their country and ended up leaving with gold medals [Anna Gurman].
TENNIS Team GB proved victorious in Tennis achieving gold and silver so to keep spirits high, Wimbledon (2004) is the perfect sporting Rom Com. Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) is a pro tennis player who has slipped down the ranks and admitted defeat. That is, until a chance meeting with Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) turns into a whirlwind romance around London. Lizzie gives Peter a reason to compete again but can their romance and career survive the tournament? Wimbledon marks the only time in history where scenes filmed during the 2003 Wimbledon tournament were used, along with real officials and spectators. This film brings together a true British sport and charming comedy. Also starring Jon Favreau, Sam Neill and Bernard Hill [Lucy Ravenhall].
Sex Pistols front man John Lydon once proclaimed The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) his all time favourite film. This is an athletics film about a different kind of victory; an “anti-Olympic” film if you will. Tom Courtenay plays Colin, a borstal inmate in the early 1960s. The film depicts how his hopes and dreams were scuppered by a tragic life, a crime he would live to regret and a prison Governor (Michael Redgrave) pushing him to become the long distance runner he never wanted to be. His victory is his own contentment over the respect of those around him [Sam Hall].
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TIME-TRAVELLER CHRIS MARKER, 29 JULY 1921*-30 JULY 2012 * or thereabouts
On 30th July 2012 Chris Marker passed away at the age of 91, leaving behind him a highly respected legacy of films and writings that changed not only the way we view films but also cinema’s ability to take us back in time. Facts about the filmmaker are scratchy, at best contradictory; even his birthplace and date of birth are disputed among fans and journalists. The facts we have by common consent are that Christian François Bouche was born in Villeneuve, France in 1921. He would later change his name to allow for universal appeal. Refusing to do interviews or even have his photo taken gave Marker and his work a mysterious quality. In his obituary for art and culture magazine Frieze, Jeremy Millar (2012) even went so far as to joke that Marker could have been a time-traveller since there is little evidence that can be found to give an idea of who he was or where he came from. Marker began his career as a journalist and was involved with the French New Wave film movement, later becoming a revered film essayist as well as an extremely talented and influential filmmaker. Marker mixed his creativity with his great passion for travelling, documenting the various countries he visited within his writing and later in his films. His travels resulted in creating such examples as the “essay film” San Soleil (1983) and the documentary A.K. (1985) about the legendary film director Akira Kurosawa. However, Marker’s most inspired work was the influential highly praised La Jetée (1962). Set in Paris, the film was a rare venture into the world of fiction for Marker and, with only a 28 minute running time, it is widely considered to be a masterpiece. This iconic work is composed of just black and white still photographs with the
exception of a very stirring scene (moving, in two senses of the word), which depicts the blinking of an eye. Running alongside the photography is a minimalist soundscape with a simple narration. Together with the haunting “Girl Theme” by Trevor Duncan, it creates a perfectly engaging compliment to the poignant scenes in the evocative film. The film has been fondly compared to Citizen Kane (1941) on account of its audio-visual presentation and filmic techniques together with an innovative and memorable narrative. La Jetée is unique in its composition and form. Set in a dystopian future Paris, a man is subject to various strange bleak laboratory experiments. The experiments work and the man is sent back in time in the hope to save the past. During his time he repeatedly encounters a woman from his past, which gives this dark narrative a beautiful and somewhat romantic feel. It is a simple narrative conceit running alongside a collection of emotive chiaroscuro stills. Marker made excellent films, particularly in the 1960s such as Le mystère Koumiko (1967), but is best remembered for La Jetée; this work alone affords an obituary. La Jetée is a touchstone for all budding film lovers and makers, no more so than Terry Gilliam, with his feature homage to Marker’s short: 12 Monkeys (1995). It would have been easy, lazy and perhaps more eye-catching to have entitled this obituary “Chris Marker - the man who influenced Terry Gilliam” but there is much more to Marker than that. After all, he changed the construction and idea of film with the blink of an eye.
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total action Tony Scott, 21 June 1944 – 19 August 2012
any directors come and go, some without a fleeting memory, but British director Anthony David Scott, better known as Tony Scott, was not so forgettable. During his career some critics were less than complimentary of his quick cutting style, but one thing was for certain, the style was all his own. His films are a heady mixture of visceral pleasure and adrenaline. Critics often gave Scott a lukewarm reception with reviews ranging from tepid to mild. This never really mattered because his fan base was so strong and his films nearly always proved popular and generated sizeable profits for studios. Scott forged important partnerships with actors such as Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise. Other major players that have worked with Scott include Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke, Keira Knightley, John Travolta, and Bruce Willis to name but a few. All spoke highly of Scott and hailed him as a key influencer in Hollywood. Arguably Scott aged like a fine claret and in recent years produced some of his most loved features. With a feature list to be proud of he has left a legacy that will most likely be remembered for years to come. In The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies (2006) David Bordwell describes Scott’s “bodacious” energy whereby the “fusillades of glossy graphics and hammering soundtracks” have become the director’s signature style. Tom Cruise perhaps left the most fitting description: “He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable”. What follows are just a handful of Scott’s 17 feature films and each entry offers a great piece of Scott’s directorial excitement and trademark frenetic style. Other key films include The Hunger (1983), Days of Thunder (1990), The Last Boy Scout (1991), Crimson Tide (1995), Spy Game (2001) and Man on Fire (2004).
Top Gun (1986)
If any film was to define the eighties then Top Gun would be it. Layered with power ballads, body oil, and chiselled pecs the film is a retro classic. Starring a bronzed Tom Cruise as a young whippersnapper chasing a career as a fighter pilot, Kelly McGillis provides the film’s love interest, and Val Kilmer presents the film’s grimacing bad guy. Top Gun made a star of Tom Cruise and also cemented Scott as a director who could draw in the crowds. There were rumours of a remake for many years and it is reported that Cruise and Scott were visiting possible locations for the follow up. A sequel may still happen but the cult status of the original will never be surpassed.
True romance (1993)
Written by Quentin Tarantino, True Romance is the stand out film for Scott that should have seen him put an Oscar on his mantle. It was a slower and more character-driven affair that limited the usual risky action that was so often synonymous with his work. Scott assembled an impressive cast that included Christian Slater, Christopher Walken, Patricia Arquette and Dennis Hopper, the latter providing one of
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the filmâ€™s most famous scenes with pitch-perfect dialogue. The film still remains exhilarating and was praised for its wild blend of action, violence and humour yet it was one of only a few of his films that did not perform well at the box-office.
ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998)
This is a modern day version of North by Northwest (1959) turned up to eleven. Will Smith leads in this classic the-government-are-corrupt thriller. The film relentlessly charges from one chase to the next but maintains a heart that separates it from other formulaic action thrillers. The films boasts an exemplary cast with Jon Voight, Gene Hackman, Jack Black, Seth Greene and Jason Lee all starring. Enemy of the State was another film that was met with mixed reviews from critics but yet again the fans spoke louder and turned up in their hoards. It was also another film that catapulted its lead star into the stratosphere and the already well-known Will Smith was given the chance to prove he could be much more than a comedic actor.
Unstoppable is a fitting last contribution from Scott to the world of cinema. The film received glowing reviews on its release and embodies his fast-paced style. It also finalised his working relationship with Denzel Washington who leads alongside Chris Pine. Loosely based on a true story of a runaway train it blended high-speed action and dialogue that had depth and also related to real-life situations. The reviews this time were glowing; Scott had achieved commercial and critical success.
GENTLE GIANT? MICHAEL CLARK DUNCAN, 10 NOVEMBER 1957-3 SEPTEMBER 2012 “Gigantic black feet” The apt description taken from the screenplay by Director Frank Darabont, of the first glance at John Coffey in The Green Mile (1999). Michael Clarke Duncan’s immediate appearance in the film is conveyed in such a mysterious and distorted way that the actor’s physical attributes – his height, size and race – are ominously fragmented. The audience are forced to make their initial judgements based on only viewing his scarred body from the neck down and on the reactions of the policeman looking at him. These techniques allow Duncan’s complex, powerful and magical performance to unravel so vividly and parallel the broad issues dealt with in the rest of the film. Importantly, this film role brilliantly encapsulates Duncan’s gentle giant persona, one where his large stature but shy and polite character seemingly counter each other. It is a role he never really surpassed. Duncan died in September 2012 at the age of 54 after suffering a heart attack. His physique and deep voice made him instantly recognisable in his acting roles and to a fair extent determined many of them. The Green Mile earned him multiple award nominations, including the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. As John Coffey, a large Southern African American man, he is sentence to death for abusing and killing two girls. He faces the electric chair in the room at the end of what the officers and inmates call “the green mile”, so called because of the green walkway leading to the execution room. The audience becomes aware early on in the film that Coffey is far from the threatening and murderous man that he is built up to be. Instead we learn he is a wellmannered but extraordinary man who has the magical ability to see evil in the world and heal others from it. It is these healing powers that have in fact resulted in his downfall as they are misread in the case of the two girls.
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The film itself deals with much broader historical and social issues, specifically the prejudices in America during the early 20th Century. This is where John Coffey has unsuspectingly found himself – in the wrong place and at the wrong time – and where his powerful abilities and, crucially, his appearance will ultimately decide his fate. This gentle giant role is therefore established in the film, allowing the audience and the policeman to understand that you should not judge a book by its cover. As cliché as this may be, ironically this notion suggests that Duncan himself was not cast solely based on his appearance. However looking at his other acting roles, this might not be completely true. He has played other quintessentially “big guy” characters in his career: a bodyguard in The Whole Nine Yards (2000), the head mercenary in Sin City (2005) and a mob boss in Daredevil (2002). This significantly suggests that whilst he has played other roles away from his distinct gentle giant persona, they all utilise his physical attributes. This is true also in his later work as a voice actor, in which his booming deep voice dominated his roles such as the Commander Rhino in Kung Fu Panda (2008), Sam the Sheepdog in Cats & Dogs 2 (2010) and Kilowog in Green Lantern (2011). In relation to his first appearance in The Green Mile, it might not be an unsolicited stretch to suggest that Hollywood had much of the same distorted view of Duncan as the audience did of John Coffey. Undoubtedly his physical attributes secured him roles but by that same token this appears to have hindered the variety of chances he had as an established actor. However, while Duncan will always be remembered as the gentle giant, his roles are far from simply circumstances of appearance. Duncan was a great performer; his hauntingly emotive performance as John Coffey in The Green Mile is testament to that.
“Michael Clark Duncan’s performance as John Coffey in The Green Mile is hauntingly emotive”
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#5 EDITORIAL TEAM BA (Hons) Film and Television Studies SAM HALL
Third year Sam has written for Diegesis since the first issue and has written an article for every issue to date. Sam joined the editorial board for Issue’s 3 and 5. Standing at 5’4’’, Sam is the world’s shortest giant, although the Guinness book of records are yet to acknowledge this stunning revelation. His favourite magical movies include Groundhog Day, Dark Crystal and Time Bandits.
YASMIN WALL Yaz is a second year and has
been involved with Diegesis from issue 4. She loves everything magic related and if she could have a magical power it would be telekinesis. Some of her favourites are the magical film Labyrinth and the TV show Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
BIANCA GARNER Third year “Bee” joined the
CLAIRE WILLIAMS Claire is a second year.
She joined the board for the CUT TO [obsession] issue, which she also wrote an article for. Her favourite magic related film is Hocus Pocus especially Bette Midler’s character, and she wishes she could make her hoover fly too.
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Diegesis team for the first time this year and has also written for the issue. Bee is proud of the fact that she knows all the words to the “Magic Dance” song from Labyrinth and plays it all the time in her car!
ANNA GURMAN Anna is a second year and gave writing and editing a go for the first time for this magical issue. She grew up living partly in the magical world of Harry Potter and partly in Narnia. She maintains that reality may be a nice place but she wouldn’t want to live there.
Lucy is in her third year and has previously written for CUT TO [obsession] but became a member of the editorial board for CUT TO [magic]. Whilst she waits for her acceptance letter to Hogwarts, she enjoys muggle magic from Derren Brown.
Adam is gripping to his student status and was the Assistant Managing Editor for this issue. Adam has been on the board since #4 and has also written for the magazine. Magic doesn’t fit well into his repertoire; he can’t perform magic tricks like Dynamo, he can’t hypnotise people into doing things like Derren Brown and he hates Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. But he does like white rabbits...
CHARLOTTE BIRCH Charlotte has now been granted graduate status, and has been on the magazine board since the CUT TO [blood] issue. In her spare time she floats around in a cape, waiting for Batman to recruit her as his next sidekick. But until then she enjoys baking with superman...
LLOYD HANN Third year Lloyd started with
Diegesis editing the Fade Out section of CUT TO [blood]. [magic] is his third issue. A sucker for cult and nostalgia, he loves shoddily made films such as The Room, and his favourite childhood magical films are Casper and Hocus Pocus, which he’s probably watched enough times to reach triple figures. Each.
TAMMY PAINE Tammy has just graduated from the Film and Television Studies course. She wrote for CUT TO [obsession] and joined the board for this issue. Tammy’s favourite magical film is the childhood classic Matilda, and is still a little bit scared of Miss Trunchball...
warp drive to www.diegesismagazine.com to read our back issues
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CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS State your claim on a space in the next issue. Have a look at our suggestions or feel free to pitch something else!
Outer Space: Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, Prometheus, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Solaris Space exploration: Apollo 13, Moon, Space Cowboys Science Fiction: Dr Who, Men in Black, The Matrix, the Quatermass films. Confined spaces: Buried, Phone Booth, 127 Hours, Reservoir Dogs, Panic Room, Rope, Devil. Identification with spaces: Offices (Office Space, The Office), classrooms (Half Nelson, Dead Poetsâ€™ Society) prisons: (Prison Break, The Prisoner, The Shawshank Redemption, The Prophet) Vast Landscapes: Lord of the Rings, Open Water, Westerns Spaces of Exhibition and Consumption: Cinemas, TV and the home, Drive-Ins Editing/cinematography and creating space Other films/TV with space in the title: Spaced, Innerspace, Kids space/kids in space: Zathura, Space Jam, The Jetsons, Wall-E, Marvin the Martian B-movies in space: Plan 9 from Outer Space, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, It Came From Outer Space, Invaders from Mars Aliens: Alien franchise, Mars Attacks, The Thing, War of the Worlds, Independence Day. send your pitches Claustrophobia, Agoraphobia
Issue 6 COMING 2013
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Diegesis CUT TO [magic] issue 5 2012, produced by students across the BA (Hons) Film and Television Studies degree at Southampton Solent Uni...
Published on Nov 17, 2012
Diegesis CUT TO [magic] issue 5 2012, produced by students across the BA (Hons) Film and Television Studies degree at Southampton Solent Uni...