CONTENTS Vol.04, No.1 | Spring 2019
Detail of Sansa’s wedding gown. Courtesy of Michele Carragher Embroidery, 2019.
iii LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Greg Chan
ARTICLES 01 FIVE SHOTS, TWICE DISAPPEARED Melanie Robson
18 SCREENS ON SCREEN Debjani Mukherjee
36 THE “PERFECT DISCORDS” OF BILLY WILDER’S COMEDY FILMS Julie Michot
INTERVIEWS 50 EMBRACING THE CINEMA OF MOMENTARY SENSATION Paul Risker
UNDERGRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP 60 FROM INNOCENCE TO EXPERIENCE Chantele Franz & Yasmeen F. Kumar
74 A HUNDRED YEARS OF JAPANESE FILM BY DONALD RICHIE Aaron W. Throness
REPORTS 78 CONFERENCE REPORT ON VISIBLE EVIDENCE XXV Jesse Schlotterbeck
REVIEWS 83 MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS AND I AM A RECOVERING FILM NOIR Joshua H. Wiebe
ANNOUNCEMENTS 93 OPEN CALL FOR PAPERS
58 IN MEMORIAM Ellen Grabiner
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ABOUT MSJ EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Greg Chan, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), Canada
Patrick Tambogon, Wilson School of Design at KPU, Canada
Kelly Ann Doyle, KPU, Canada
Janik Andreas, UBC, Canada
Richard L. Edwards, Ball State University,USA Allyson Nadia Field, University of Chicago, USA David A. Gerstner, City University of New York, USA Michael Howarth, Missouri Southern State University, USA Andrew Klevan, University of Oxford, United Kingdom Gary McCarron, Simon Fraser University, Canada
INTERNS Mary Abad, KPU, Canada Sanjay Singh Aujla, KPU, Canada Neil Bassan, UBC, Canada Samantha Larder, KPU, Canada
Michael C.K. Ma, KPU, Canada
The views and opinions of all signed texts, including editorials and
Janice Morris, KPU, Canada
regular columns, are those of the authors and do not necessarily
Miguel Mota, UBC, Canada
represent or reflect those of the editors, the editorial board or the
Paul Risker, University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Asma Sayed, KPU, Canada Poonam Trivedi, University of Delhi, India
Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual Narration
Paul Tyndall, KPU, Canada
is published by Simon Fraser University, Canada
REVIEWERS Kelly Ann Doyle, KPU, Canada
Jennifer Susan Griffiths, University of Georgia in Cortona, Italy
Phillip Grayson, St John's University, USA Jack Patrick Hayes, KPU/UBC, Canada Michael Howarth, Missouri Southern State University, USA
FRONT COVER IMAGE Courtesy of Ashley Sears. Fast Company, 2014.
Dan Lett, KPU, Canada
BACK COVER IMAGE
Osakue Stevenson Omoera, Ambrose Alli University,
Courtesy of Jake Hills on Unsplash
Ekpoma, Nigeria Carolina Mariana Rocha, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsvillle, USA Asma Sayed, KPU, Canada
SPONSORS Faculty of Arts, KPU, Canada KDocs Documentary Film Festival, Canada
Andrea Meador Smith, Shenandoah University, USA
Poonam Trivedi, University of Delhi, India
Paul Tyndall, KPU, Canada
COPYEDITORS Heather Cyr, KPU, Canada Kelly Ann Doyle, KPU, Canada Jennifer Susan Griffiths, University of Georgia in Cortona, Italy
ii Vol.04, No.01 | Spring 2019
ISSN: 2369-5056 (online) ISSN: 2560-7065 (print)
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear Reader, Does the brocade gown on our cover look familiar to you? Designed by Michele Clapton for Game of Thrones, this statement dress was worn by Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) at her wedding to Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) in Season 3 of the HBO series. Gold, the Lannisters’ trademark colour, overwhelms the recessive purple associated with the Starks, while the embroidery across the back of the dress (see image on the Contents page) intertwines the foreboding motifs of Sansa’s marriage: lions, direwolves, and pomegranates. Sometimes a character like Sansa can be elevated by costume design, especially when the garment adds nuance to the storytelling on screen. That her now iconic gown on a dress form is enough to evoke the Game of Thrones universe speaks to the power of Clapton’s visual artistry. Issue 4.1 proudly features an undergraduate student article on Sansa’s Game of Thrones style evolution written by recent KPU English graduates Chantele Franz and Yasmeen F. Kumar. Mentored by KPU English instructor/MSJ board member Dr. Paul Tyndall, our co-authors wrote the research essay for his film theory course and went on to present their findings at a Popular Culture Association conference. We are pleased to share Chantele and Yasmeen’s scholarship with an even broader audience that includes you. Equally fashion conscious is the Pacific Cinematheque’s film noir series, reviewed in this issue by Joshua Harold Wiebe as a retrospective focusing on the screening of My Name Is Julia Ross. Another feature of this issue bound up in the aesthetics of the frame is Dr. Ellen Grabiner’s ‘centrefold’ on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is a companion piece to her video essay that appears on MSJ’s online platform and our official YouTube channel. Turn to pages 58 and 59 to view this special visual essay. Updating you on the latest in the field is a dispatch from Visible Evidence XXV, an international meeting of documentary film and media specialists. MSJ correspondent Dr. Jesse Schlotterbeck takes us to host institution Indiana University for his conference report, which begins an ongoing series on professional development in film and media studies. If you have participated in a recent conference in the field, consider submitting a report on the experience; the next call for papers deadline is January 5, 2020. Looking ahead, I am excited to announce that Issue 4.2 will be our first themed edition. The special collection will be on Asian representation in film media. Currently in development, it will be released at the end of December. Please follow MSJ on Twitter or Facebook for updates. Sartorially,
GREG CHAN | Editor in Chief
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Chantele Franz is a Kwantlen Polytechnic University graduate with a Bachelors of Arts in English. Through her studies, not only has she been able to explore her love of literature and film, but was also able to co-develop a guest lecture with Dr. Paul Tyndall and fellow classmate Yasmeen Kumar for KPU’s Art History department. The lecture was subsequently presented at the Far West Popular Culture Association’s 2018 Las Vegas conference and created a foundation for her co-authored article, included in this journal. Currently, Chantele is co-directing a modern production of Shakespeare’s King Lear which will be staged at the Cultch.
Ellen Grabiner is Associate Professor and Chair of the Communications Department, Simmons University. She is a dissertation director for the Institute of Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. She has published articles in Philosophy Now and Film Quarterly and is the author of I See You: The Shifting Paradigm of James Cameron's Avatar. Grabiner lives in Cambridge, MA, with her 12-yearold pit bull.
YASMEEN F. KUMAR
Yasmeen Kumar graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2019 with a Bachelors of Arts in English, minor in history. After taking a course on literature and film with Dr. Paul Tyndall, Yasmeen developed a passion for film studies. In 2018, Yasmeen and, co-author Chantele Franz, along with Dr. Tyndall, attended the Far West Popular Culture Association’s annual academic conference in Las Vegas to present on the significance of costume in HBO’s Game of Thrones. The three also presented their work as guest lecturers in an ARTS 1100 course at KPU. Yasmeen plans to pursue an MA in history.
Julie Michot is a Senior Lecturer in English at the Université du Littoral. She has mainly written about Hollywood film and is a co-author of a chapter in a Hitchcock Anthology (Critical Insights collection, Grey House Publishing, 2017). She has also co-edited six volumes of conference proceedings and is the author of a research monograph on diegetic music in Billy Wilder's films (Billy Wilder et la musique d' écran : filmer l' invisible, Éditions et Presses Universitaires de Reims, 2017). She is currently completing a book on Rear Window to be published by the Éditions Universitaires de Dijon in September 2019.
Debjani Mukherjee received her Ph.D. in 2017 at the University of Auckland. Her thesis looked at how the entry of the multiplex movie theatre in post economic liberalized India changed cinemagoing as well as Indian popular cinema, exploring how the material aspects of a changed exhibition infrastructure and the experiential terrain of its spaces have engineered this shift in the entire psychogeography of Indian spectatorial itinerary. She is interested in the current transformations in screen culture and the phenomenology of mediated spaces, with a key interest in the comparative analysis of emerging and transforming media.
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Paul Risker is an independent scholar, freelance film and literary critic, and interviewer. Outside of editing MSJ’s interview and film festival sections, he mainly contributes to PopMatters, although his criticism and interviews have been published by both academic and non-academic publications, that include Cineaste, Film International, The Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and Little White Lies. He remains steadfast in his belief of the need to counter contemporary cultures emphasis on the momentary, by writing for posterity, adding to an ongoing discussion that is essentially us belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves.
Dr. Melanie Robson is a film scholar and tutor at School of the Arts & Media at UNSW Sydney, and she teaches screen studies at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. She is co-founder and President of the Sydney Screen Studies Network. Her current research investigates the aesthetic, political and ethical role of the long take in contemporary European cinema. She has broad research interests in film style, temporality and staging in Europe and Asia.
Jesse Schlotterbeck is Associate Professor of Cinema and Narrative Journalism at Denison University. His scholarship focuses on American film genre, in particular musicals, documentaries, biopics, and film noir. Recent work appears in the Quarterly Review of Film and Video and the anthologies Heavy Metal and the Movies, Howard Hawks: New Perspectives, Film Noir Prototypes: Origins of the Movement, and Film Noir: Light and Shadow.
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AARON W. THRONESS
JOSHUA H. WIEBE
Aaron is a third-year student at the University of British Columbia, completing a BA in Asian Area Studies. His interest and research focuses on imperial Chinese political history; Chinese political development; and the teaching of Chinese as a second language (TCSL). Aaron has conducted and presented research investigating successful pedagogies in TCSL, linguistics, and Chinese history. Aaron has over 12 years of language training in Mandarin Chinese, having studied locally in Vancouver and overseas at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Joshua Harold Wiebe is a graduate student at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University. His research has been presented internationally, and his current project focuses on the history of factories in/ and cinema.
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Five Shots, Twice Disappeared:
Staging Memory through the Long Take in The Haunting of Hill House (2018) BY MELANIE ROBSON | University of New South Wales
ABSTRACT The mini-series The Haunting of Hill House attracted substantial critical acclaim and perpetuated a developing cycle of formally transgressive horror television, which includes American Horror Story, Bates Motel, and Hannibal. True to this cycle, Haunting employs recognizable visual tropes of horror to illuminate a psychological examination of its characters. Each episode is structured around two distinct time periods marked by flashbacks and flashforwards—the former depicts the Crain siblings as children, growing up in the haunted Hill House; the latter reveals their adulthood, traumatized and fractured from their childhood experiences. This structure draws the focus away from the haunted house itself, towards a complex examination of trauma. This paper focuses on the sixth episode, “Two Storms,” which focuses on Nell—the aftermath of her death in the present, and a night when she physically, briefly disappeared as a child. Unlike other episodes, structures its narrative around five significantly long takes. I argue this formal shift enables an increased complexity to the show’s examination of trauma not just through narrative means, but formal as well. This argument opens up two parallel lines of analysis. First, using Edward Branigan’s work on flashbacks and subjectivity, I explore how each long take’s staging establishes the flashbacks as shared, combined subjective memories for the Crains, and how the specific temporal transitions are executed reveal the emergence of their traumatic past. Second, drawing on contemporary horror scholarship, I explore the episode’s source of horror. I chart the use off-screen space (rather than an identifiable physical ‘monster’) as a new potential threat; the camera expels characters off the lateral edges of the frame, making them also disappear diegetically. Using this analysis, this paper shows how the narrative exploration of family trauma extends into the stylistic and formal elements as well, requiring us to reconsider our understanding of the flashback, subjectivity and framing throughout the series.
n October 2018, Netf lix released the muchanticipated The Haunting of Hill House, created by Mike Flanagan. Based on Shirley Jackson’s eponymous 1959 novel, the 10-episode mini-series followed a plethora of recent television series in the horror genre, including The Walking Dead (2010-), American Horror Story (2011-), Bates Motel (2013-2017), Hannibal (20132015), and Scream: The TV Series (2015-). This recent horror television cycle has attracted considerable critical attention, but only a handful of scholarly works examining these shows have emerged. Due to its recent release, The Haunting of Hill House has not received any scholarly
attention. It did, however, attract immediate critical and audience acclaim, owing to its familiar generic tropes and its narrative approach (Bernstein; Fear; Zinoman; Idato). This approach involves structuring each episode around two distinct time periods marked by flashbacks and flashforwards—the former depicts the Crain siblings as children, growing up in the haunted Hill House; the latter reveals them as adults, traumatised and fractured by their childhood experiences. While this narrative structure has been similarly employed in shows such as American Horror Story, its execution differs in The Haunting of Hill House. This structure marks a point of
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Five Shots, Twice Disappeared
departure from other film and television haunted house narratives by drawing the focus away from the house itself as haunted space and towards a complex examination of the memories of the individuals who lived there. As television critic Jason Zinoman puts it, the “apparitions [encountered by the family] can seem like the manifestation of a fragile mental state” (n.p.). In this vein, the hauntings experienced by the Crain children figure as a metaphor for their losses, anxieties, addictions, and instabilities that later plague them as adults. While each episode employs the flashback to explore traumatic memory, this narrative device adopts an additional function in the series’ sixth episode, “Two Storms.” In this episode, four adult siblings—Theo (Kate Siegel), Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Steve (Michiel Huisman)—and their father, Hugh (Timothy Hutton), gather to view the body of their sister and daughter, Nell (Victoria Pedretti), who took her life in the previous episode. The family members meet in Shirley’s funeral parlour, where the funeral will take place the following day. A long tracking shot through the funeral parlour introduces each family member encountering Nell’s open casket. Within minutes, the episode’s formal departure from others in the series becomes clear: the whole 50-minute episode (except for the final few minutes) is staged around a series of five long takes. The long takes alternate between the two settings of the funeral parlour (with the adult Crains) and Hill House (with the child Crains), in one instance physically tracking between the two time periods. The flashback portions of the episode depict a night when a storm raged outside the house, a chandelier fell from the ceiling, and both Nell and her mother, Olivia (Carla Gugino), physically disappeared for a brief period. Thus, the function of the narrative device becomes twofold: to explore memory and its effect on the present, and as a platform for formal innovation. As this paper reveals, these two functions work in tandem to strengthen the themes of haunting, trauma, and loss throughout the episode. In the context of contemporary American television, “Two Storms” is formally progressive and was also a financial and logistical risk. This risk was generated by the complex choreography required to execute the episode’s
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five long takes. Such shots require longer rehearsal time, they increase the risk of error and the likelihood of reshoots, and they demand the construction of specialized sets. Via extensive discussion on social media, Flanagan has reported the immense stress this particular episode placed on crew, equipment, and budgetary allowances (n.p.). For this reason, long takes of the magnitude and complexity seen in “Two Storms” are a rarity in contemporary American television. The episode’s visual splendour and its apparent logistical risk, then, ensure it stands out as both visually and technically remarkable. Undoubtedly, the long takes allow the episode to operate as the series’ showpiece; a special episode used as marketing leverage that also asserts the legitimacy of horror television by employing typically cinematic techniques such as the long take. This asserted legitimacy is typical of the cycle of recent horror television, which Stacey Abbott labels prestige horror television (123). For Abbott, shows such as Hannibal and Bates Motel exemplify this cycle because they blur the generic lines of horror, and they promote a “rich and textured aesthetic vision” (123). Two further factors support this label of prestige, and thus the capacity for formal transgression. First, many of the cycle’s shows have a showrunner bestowed with an auteur status, owing to their background in film, which has historically perpetuated the perception of prestige (Jowett and Abbott; Wells-Lassagne 129-131). Flanagan established his auteur status, and his unique authorial distinction, with horror films Oculus (2013) and Hush (2016). Second, the proliferation of streaming services and changed viewing practices has created a “progressively competitive broadcast landscape,” in which the increasing popularity of horror has enabled a greater capacity for formal experimentation (Abbott 120). These factors substantially impact the formal transgression of film technique in place throughout The Haunting of Hill House. “Two Storms” takes this transgression a step further by structuring the episode around five long takes. I argue the substantial formal shift adopted in this episode enables two key revelations pertinent to the show’s character development. First, the way the episode stages time shifts across long takes enables the flashbacks to be read as
memories originating from multiple family members. These are complex, combined memories that cannot be tied to one specific subjectivity, and which prompt the viewer to reconsider how subjectivity is constructed across the series more generally. Second, by weaving together the two time periods, the episode reveals a clear duality. “Two Storms” offers a way of thinking through Nell’s dual disappearance: her disappearance in the present as a result of her death (even though she is physically present), by reflecting on a time when she physically disappeared as a child (even though she was still alive). Both these revelations contribute to representing shared family traumatic memories through the form of the long take, narrated via the generic tropes of horror, such as disappearances and the exploitation of off-screen space. The key point of departure for this episode, then, is that it offers both narrative and formal means of considering its central
rumbles outside. Hugh has inexplicably travelled back in time from the funeral parlour to Hill House. This illusion of time travel is made possible by the long take, tracking along with Hugh down the hall, and seamlessly stitching the two time periods and two locations together. Hutton’s slowing in pace as he rounds the corner into the Hill House corridor evidences his character’s surprise at finding his new surroundings. He had been walking confidently up to that point, but as he wanders through the familiar hallway, he looks around, examining the curious time shift. Hugh enters the entrance hall and a large chandelier suddenly drops to the ground near him. The episode’s first cut occurs as the chandelier hits the ground. After this first cut, Hugh witnesses his younger self (Henry Thomas) standing at the top of the staircase, exclaiming, “Oh man!” as he surveys the damage to his house and proceeds to descend the stairs.
Through the long take and staging, Flanagan establishes a non-conventional flashback style that operates as a combined memory for all the Crains simultaneously, such that Nell’s disappearance is recognized as an event that impacted the family members equally. theme of trauma and loss. Through formal innovation, the horror of the episode and the show in general is explored through means other than the mise-en-scène and narrative structure; rather, the horror is relocated to the staging of the camera itself.
CONSTRUCTING NARRATIVE AS SHARED SUBJECTIVE MEMORY Towards the end of Shot One, fifteen minutes into “Two Storms”, Hugh (Timothy Hutton) declares to Shirley that he’s going to find a bathroom. He leaves the side of Nell’s coffin in the funeral parlour and walks down a hallway, passing a pile of empty coffins. After walking through a doorway at the end of the hall, the lighting suddenly darkens, the wallpaper changes, and thunder
The formal strategy used to transition into a subjective flashback differs significantly from previous episodes of The Haunting of Hill House. In earlier episodes, flashbacks to the Crains's time at Hill House are framed distinctly as memories originating from one specific character, which forms the focus of the episode. These memories are transitioned into via a cut, normally following the character seeing or hearing something that evidently reminds them of a moment from the past. The first five episodes of the series revolve around one Crain child each. The previous episode, “The Bent-Neck Lady,” for example, examines Nell’s life-long haunting by a female ghost with a deformed neck and, in the process, it exposes Nell’s resulting trauma from her individual experience of Hill House, which ultimately culminates in her death. Each flashback in that episode is framed as Nell’s memories,
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Fig. 1 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). Hugh (Timothy Hutton) watches a younger version of himself (Henry Thomas), marking a transition into
flashback, 15:49. Netflix, 2018.
placing her experience at the centre of the narrative. In the first shot of “Two Storms,” which transitions into a flashback via long take, the episode similarly narrates Hugh’s memories, this time to examine his trauma at the loss of his youngest daughter. The point of transition into flashback adheres to what Edward Branigan terms subjective memory. Branigan argues there must be some element of the shot that encourages an interpretation related to character memory, which ties the memory to a particular character as the point of origin (75). The viewer is encouraged to appoint Hugh as the memory’s point of origin: first, because of the unusual staging of his journey from the funeral parlour to Hill House. The gradual transition of décor marks a dream-like quality in the mise-en-scène, thus signalling an entrance into Hugh’s mind. Second, just after the chandelier drops from the ceiling, the camera begins a sideways track beginning with Hugh’s (Hutton) head in frame, then moving left to settle on his younger self (Thomas) (Fig. 1). This transition between two versions of the same character, staged alone in the same physical space, transparently frames this moment as subjective memory. The intrusion of the present on the past as a form of f lashback is frequently used to examine repressed
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memories and traumatic pasts in film and television. Notably, this technique is used extensively in Taylor Hackford’s Dolores Claiborne (1995), in which characters from the past appear in the present, signalling the transition into memory. Such flashbacks imply the substantial impact of memory on the present—a memory than cannot be easily recalled, but one that lies dormant in the subconscious of the character. Of all the episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, this form of flashback only occurs in “Two Storms,” and the transition between Shots One and Two is the only time in the series when two versions of the same character exist in the same physical space (Fig. 1). This role bestowed upon Hugh speaks to his particular position in the narrative. He is the only living character who is an adult in both past and present. Despite his evident instabilities in the present, his memories are framed as more reliable and more harrowing throughout the series; he is, for example, the only character who vividly remembers the loss of his wife and her attempted poisoning of their children, while his children’s memories are dominated by ghosts. While his children struggle to decipher their memories throughout the series, Hugh can recall his with clarity, albeit also with significant reluctance. Thus, it is important that it is Hugh who marks the initial transition into the past. The substantial weight of
his testimony in this episode is equated with the burden of his memories compared to his children. In other words, the particular night depicted in the episode is significant in his memory, and the method of transition into the flashback marks it as such. The clear subjectivity from Hugh’s POV established in this first flashback is complicated, however, by subsequent stagings and shot transitions throughout the episode. While the second shot explicitly begins as Hugh’s memory, the end of the shot brings this reading into question when Hugh and Olivia run upstairs to search for Nell, who just disappeared. Shirley and Theo scatter into other rooms, also searching for their sister. Steven is left in the entrance hall with a distressed Luke, the former reassuring the latter that he learnt how to look after his siblings at “Big Brother School.” Steven proceeds to stare at Luke, saying, “Luke. Luke. Luke?” before the second cut occurs. The connection between Shots Two and Three is formed in a sound bridge as young Steven’s voice morphs into older Steven’s voice chanting Luke’s name, trying to get his attention in the funeral parlour. We realize at this point that the moment immediately preceding the last cut was adult Luke’s memory. This memory’s point of origin is marked by adult Luke’s glassy-eyed stare ahead and his ignorance of Steven’s provocations. This revelation provides a challenge to the original suggestion that this is Hugh’s memory, which is emphasized by the framing at the beginning of the shot. The entirety of the second shot clearly establishes the complexity of memory subjectivity throughout the episode. In his doctoral thesis, Lawrence Luchoomun presents a taxonomy of various kinds of cinematic “representations of anteriority” that are useful for considering Flanagan’s flashback method. Luchoomun distinguishes between two forms of f lashback: f lashback-for-narrative and flashback-for-memory. The former can be subjectively motivated, but its key purpose is to elucidate narrative events that occurred in the past, rather than accurately represent subjective memory. He explains, “Flashbackfor-narrative is neither reducible to the memory of the recounting subject, nor to the imagination of the listening subject. It is presented by an authorial hand for the benefit of the spectator” (57). As such, these kinds of flashbacks
have focal inconsistencies, where the flashback narrative content “exceeds the possible knowledge of the recounting or remembering subject” (33). The flashbacks in “Two Storms,” on one hand, adhere to the flashback-for-narrative. Although the first flashback has a clear subjective point of origin in Hugh, the flashbacks offer narrative detail that thematically support the events occurring in the present. Additionally, they certainly have focal inconsistency, evidenced by Hugh’s frequent exiting of the room throughout the flashbacks, ensuring the events represented exceed his possible knowledge. On the other hand, the moments examined so far evidence that this focal inconsistency is employed explicitly to subvert the flashback convention. Flanagan wants to encourage recognition of these flashbacks as subjective memories. This technique is further supported by the events of the middle of Shot Two. Olivia orders Shirley to take Theo and Luke into the kitchen to make cocoa to distract them from the storm. Olivia is left sitting on the stairs with Nell, centre frame (Fig. 2). This moment is curious because these two characters share a trait that negates the possibility for them to remember at all—they are both dead in the present time. This particular instant, then, cannot be a memory generated in the diegetic present; it exceeds the possible knowledge of all living characters. It might be assumed that this moment confirms the flashback as a flashback-for-narrative, since it is evidently detached from any possible subjective memory. The deliberate staging, however, suggests this moment is not intended to merely elucidate narrative detail as flashbacks-for-narrative normally are: all the children who leave are chosen arbitrarily and exit simultaneously, leaving only Olivia and Nell. (We might question, for example, why Olivia sent Luke to the kitchen when he was equally as scared as Nell). Rather, this moment is the director’s explicit expression of his concept of memory. Flanagan wants the viewer to either question the possibility of it still being a memory, or to deliberately distance it from the strictures of memory. If we more specifically consider Shot Two’s narrative trajectory, the complexity of the subjective memory is revealed. What begins explicitly as Hugh’s memory transforms into the impossible subjectivity of either Olivia or
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Fig. 2 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). Olivia and Nell sit alone on the stairs, 19:02. Netflix, 2018.
Nell, and it ends as Luke’s memory. The subversion of subjective memory convention is made possible by the long take comprising the shot’s entirety. This formal choice makes it impossible to detect the ‘switch’ between subjectivities. The shot’s key revelation is that this confusion of subjectivities is deliberate. The long take is employed to blur the lines between subjectivities. The logic of Hugh’s memory is intended to be disrupted and diverted. Through the long take and staging, Flanagan establishes a non-conventional flashback style that operates as a combined memory for all the Crains simultaneously, such that Nell’s disappearance is recognised as an event that impacted the family members equally. In doing so, Flanagan allows these flashback sequences to operate not just as memories, in the conventional sense, but also as metaphors for and formal manifestations of the Crain family’s present grief over Nell’s death.
HAUNTINGS OF THE PAST The horror genre and representations of psychological states have long had a close connection. Linda Belau argues this is because most horror texts function on two core levels of meaning. First, “the surface level containing the horror elements themselves—aliens, supernatural
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beings, sadistic murderers etc.”, and second, “the more latent material embedded deeper in the text and presented more indirectly…[containing] the psychical material” (105). Classic horror films such as Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Alien (1979), Belau argues, are driven by psychological malaise (105). For Belau, they exemplify two different kinds of dual-meaning narratives. Rosemary’s Baby examines “the internal workings of a single character,” charting Rosemary’s psychological unravelling (Belau 105). Alien “externalizes the psychic subplot as an allegorical commentary on the larger symbolic or social context,” through its use of sexual symbolism to explore human monstrosity and moral transgression (Belau 105; see Mulhall 17-23). Drawing on this tradition, several producers of horror television shows such as Bates Motel and Hannibal have adopted these psychological elements from the filmic conventions of the genre and reworked them into the episodic form. These elements often manifest within the formal techniques of the show. Belau describes the opening scene of the Bates Motel pilot (“First You Dream, Then You Die”), when Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) arises from his bed, and his declining mental state is foreshadowed by “canted camera angles, distorted shallow focus, and manic handheld camera movement” (109). This pathologizing of characters via
visual style, following the lead of horror film, has become a defining feature of contemporary horror television. The Haunting of Hill House similarly embeds the examination of a character’s psychological state in the form and conventions of the horror genre. Its particular method of representing traumatic memory is through f lashbacks. Aris Mousoutzanis argues that nonlinear temporality in the narrative is a common device for exploring psychological trauma in both horror and science fiction television (90). Drawing on a Freudian framework, he contends that nonlinear narratives are well-suited to the “rhythms of traumatic temporality: one common post-traumatic symptom is the constant re-enactment of the traumatic incident in patients’ nightmares and hallucinations” (Mousoutzanis 92). Largely, the two core levels of meaning defined by Belau emerge in The Haunting of Hill House in the past and present respectively: the past contains the ghosts and spirits haunting
examination of trauma, since it allows the narrative to introduce a past moment that is subjectively motivated by a character but has perhaps also been repressed in their memory. Thus, much like Belau describes, this technique offers a way of externalizing the internal workings of a character, producing a dual-meaning narrative. “Two Storms” uses a similar form of flashback-for-memory. Memories are not so much triggered by an event or a material prompt, but more than that, they are brought into being by an event beyond the character’s control. When Hugh walks down the hallway into Hill House in Shot One, and through the door leading into the house between Shots Three and Four, a subjective memory is enacted by a specific character, but it is done unintentionally. In these two moments, Hugh is physically ‘discovering’ memories, rather than deliberately recalling them. A slightly different, but related, process occurs in the memory transition between Shots Four and Five. At
Character projection is a central device used throughout The Haunting of Hill House, particularly in the frequent appearance of ghosts seen only by singular characters. Hill House, which frequently intrude on the present in the form of repeated hallucinations. In the present, the older characters’ psychological instabilities can be read as a parallel narrative to their childhood hauntings. One time period produces meaning for the other. By considering the specific method used to mark the temporal transition, we can see how the Crains's trauma is revealed not in one time period or another, but in the dialogue between them established by the flashback. In addition to Luchoomun’s discussion of flashback-for-narrative, he also proposes another form of flashback, which he calls flashback-for-memory. He explains, flashback-for-memory “is usually triggered by a material prompt” (26), or “sometimes a similarity between the present situation and some aspect of the past” (27). In the latter instance, the film itself establishes an association between two moments, not necessarily being actively remembered by the character. This technique is ideally suited to the
the end of Shot Four, young Hugh and Olivia discover Nell has reappeared in the entrance hall. They walk towards Nell with a flickering, failing flashlight, shining it on her terrified face (Fig. 3). Hugh’s flashlight flickers for the last time, shrouding the scene in darkness. The darkness conceals the cut between Shots Four and Five. The latter shot begins with another light flickering as adult Luke lights a candle, illuminating his face, and Hugh is behind him (Fig. 4). By starting the final long take shot with a close up of Luke, Flanagan again assigns Luke’s subjectivity to the end of the last shot. But, much like Hugh’s unintentional journey into memory, we do not see Luke in an active state of recollection here. Each entrance into and emergence from the subjective flashbacks undoubtedly originate and terminate with specific characters, but they are not evoked through an active process of remembering where the past is framed as temporally distinct from the present. Rather, the editing
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Fig. 3 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). Nell is rediscovered before Hugh's flashlight fails and the flashback ends, 46:38. Netflix, 2018.
Fig. 4 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). The illumination of Luke and Hugh mirrors that of Nell's face in Figure 3. 46:51. Netflix, 2018.
between the shots is performed to collapse time to create continuity between past and present. Staging them this way enables an exploration of the characters’ shared memories that have also been repressed. Mousoutzanis reads this form of flashback as aligned with the Freudian concept of deferred action, in which individuals appear
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unaffected (and perhaps unaware) of a traumatic incident (92). Exposure to a similar incident in the future, however, triggers a memory of that first incident in the past (Mousoutzanis 92). Used as a narrative device, this concept often determines the narrative temporal structure such that the characters’ trauma is examined through
Fig. 5 | “The Twin Thing” (The Haunting of Hill House). Luke encounters a ghost from his past—a projection of his traumas, 52:22. Netflix, 2018.
the flashback. This is a common technique used across The Haunting of Hill House, but the constant seamless transitions in “Two Storms” evoke this concept of deferred action more explicitly. The characters’ memories cannot be actively recalled, but have a substantial continuous impact on their lives.
particular place, since this same ghost appeared to Luke as a child in Hill House—the house is haunted, but not the streets where Luke is standing. Thus, we can infer this is a character projection; the man is “the product not of a glance but of a gaze inward” to Luke’s traumas (Branigan 133).
The Crains's trauma is additionally signalled through bestowing the camera with a particular role in the production of meaning. At various times throughout the episode, it projects the characters’ fears into the mise-en-scène. This is what Branigan calls character projection, which occurs when “a character’s mental state is made explicit— beyond mere presence and normal awareness” (132-133). Character projection is a central device used throughout The Haunting of Hill House, particularly in the frequent appearance of ghosts seen only by singular characters. In “The Twin Thing” Luke is pacing the sidewalk, waiting for Steve to pick him up by car. As Luke turns around to pace further, the ghost of a tall, thin man appears behind him, floating along at the same pace (Fig. 5). The figure’s identity is marked by the presence of a bowler hat on his head, which Luke owned as a child and which the man stole. Evidently, the man is not really a ghost, in the sense of a spectral figure of the afterlife that haunts a
Repetitions of this character projection device also occur in “Two Storms.” For example, when we see Olivia standing next to Hugh in the funeral parlour. Again, the projection is framed as a manifestation of trauma: Hugh admits later in the episode that Olivia’s ghostly presence is a coping mechanism for him, but the use of the long take enables this representation of trauma to also be expressed specifically through the camera work. One such instance is in the employment of a circling camera. This technique occurs twice in the episode—once in Shot One when Hugh first arrives at the funeral parlour, and the second in Shot Two when the family are gathered around a box of flashlights. In the first instance, the sequence begins as Shirley’s husband, Kevin (Anthony Ruivivar), opens the front door to Hugh. He steps forward, surveying his children, who he hasn’t seen grouped together for many years. The camera begins circling in an anti-clockwise direction around Hugh, revealing his children in their
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Fig. 6 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). Hugh's character projection—his offspring appear in their childhood forms, 11:50. Netflix, 2018.
Fig. 7 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). With another circular camera sweep, Hugh's children reappear in adult form, 12:07. Netflix, 2018.
childhood form sitting on the couch in front of him (Fig. 6). Evidently, this is not so much a memory as a paternal perspective of how Hugh sees the people assembled in front of him—as still his children. It does, however, mark a shift of narrator within the one shot from the unidentifiable point of narration earlier in the shot, to
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Hugh. As Hugh stumbles over his words the camera performs another circle around him, this time revealing his children in their adult form (Fig. 7). From here, until the end of the shot (marked by the appearance of young Hugh), the camera, and thus the narration, is tied to Hugh’s perspective. This is confirmed by his walking
up the aisle of the funeral parlour towards the casket, revealing Nell in her childhood form lying there. The staging of this first circling camera evidences the crucial relationship between the logistical complexity of the episode’s production and its representation of traumatic memory. The circling camera allows for both real-world and diegetic disappearances to occur. As the camera turns away from the children while Kevin lets Hugh through the front door, the adult actors are replaced by their children counterparts such that when the camera circles around, they are revealed sitting on the couch. As the camera sweeps around again, the actors perform the same swap in reverse, revealing the adult actors when the camera returns for a second time. While this is occurring, adult Nell is being replaced by younger Nell in the casket in the adjoining room. While these actor swaps actually necessitate the circling camera for their success (they need to occur off-screen), both techniques mirror Hugh’s state of mind. The circling camera and the adults-replaced-by-children mark Hugh’s confusion in this scenario. This technique signals the beginning of Hugh’s triggered traumatic memories by visualising an alternating image of the people who really stand in front of him (in adult form), and their state when the traumatic event happened to Hugh (in their child form). These circling camera techniques also offer a way for both Hugh and the viewer to consider Nell’s disappearance. As the children appear and disappear when the camera circles, it fundamentally destabilizes both the time period of the episode and Hugh’s mental state. The revelation in this first shot of Nell as a child lying in the casket combined with her later disappearance from Hill House collapses and conflates these two time periods. Perhaps, for Hugh, the only way to process his youngest daughter’s death is to recall the last time she disappeared during that stormy night at Hill House.
RETHINKING OFFSCREEN SPACE The thematic and narrative element of disappearances is explored, in a formal sense, through staging and framing. One of the key strategies for staging disappearances
in “Two Storms” is by making use of offscreen space and the edges of the frame. By formulating particular choices about framing, Flanagan both pre-empts and stages Nell’s and Olivia’s disappearances during the episode not just for the other characters in the diegesis, but for the viewer as well. This episode marks a departure from other episodes of Haunting in its use of offscreen space, which requires us, initially, to examine how offscreen space has been theorized in horror film and in cinema more generally. In André Bazin’s essay, “Painting and Cinema,” he theorises the edges of the cinematic frame through comparison with the frame of a painting. He argues, The outer edges of the frame are not, as the technical jargon would seem to imply, the frame of the film image. They are the edges of a piece of masking that shows only a portion of reality. The picture frame polarizes space inwards. On the contrary, what the screen shows us seems to be part of something prolonged indefinitely into the universe (Bazin 168). Bazin’s final sentence, indicating the infiniteness of the film’s world beyond the edges of the frame, lies at the core of many filmmakers’ staging practices. By staging glances offscreen—a primary example of which is a shot/ reverse-shot—or characters entering from the lateral edges of the frame, the filmmaker establishes a palpable sense of realism. A well-established film convention is the affirmation, through staging, that the viewer is presented with only a “portion of reality”. The edges of the frame do not mark the edges of the film’s world. In horror, this convention is employed to create realism and also to conceal the source of terror threatening the characters on screen. Scholar Adam Charles Hart traces this generic trope to the slasher films in the 1980s, arguing filmmakers deliberately kept the ‘monsters’ offscreen “until a climactic confrontation with the protagonist” occurred (337). Cecilia Sayad further notes this confrontation often comes from “the abrupt intrusion of figures” from the edges of the frame, confirming the immediate offscreen space as potentially concealing the film’s threats (55). Both scholars contend the found footage subgenre has perpetuated the importance of
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offscreen space in horror over the past couple of decades. Whereas in the slasher film, the viewer could rely on the monster eventually emerging from the edges of the frame, in found footage, “the display of the monster is even further marginalized” (Hart 337), sometimes never appearing onscreen at all. “It is a relatively recent development,” Hart continues, “to make the victim the privileged horrific spectacle while keeping the monster almost totally offscreen” (337). Despite the increasing centrality of the onscreen victim, the offscreen monster is no less important, even if not visualized. For Hart, this space in contemporary horror film is less the site of a specific monster than it is the site of a potential threat. He explains, “the scenographic space outside the frame is best understood less as one inhabited by material objects than it is a space of threats, a paranoid space constantly sending signals of anxiety to the audience and, seemingly, the characters as well” (339). This ensures the offscreen space—the indefiniteness beyond the edges of the frame—remains a vital component of staging in horror film, despite the decreasing specificity with which the ‘monsters’ are characterized. “Two Storms” maintains this tendency of marginalizing the monster and using the offscreen space as a site of potential threat. Unlike the found footage films
described by Hart, however, this episode of Haunting positions the edges of the frame as posing a very different threat. I want to argue here the threat posed by the offscreen space in “Two Storms” is not the potential for a monster to move onscreen, but rather the threat of the characters disappearing off the edges of the frame. Nell’s and Olivia’s disappearances during the flashback sequences occur as they are expelled from the edges of the frame, and simultaneously disappear from the diegesis, too. Nell’s disappearance occurs during another instance of a circling camera, this time towards the end of the second shot. Hugh, Olivia, Steven, Luke, and Shirley are sitting in the middle of the entrance hall around a box of flashlights. Nell and Theo stand holding hands near the staircase. The camera circles around the family three times as they discuss the storm, each time revealing Nell’s and Theo’s feet at the edge of the frame (Fig. 8). On the last circle, Olivia directly addresses Nell and the camera dollies back to reveal Theo with her outreached empty hand (Fig. 9). In this instance, the circling camera operates as a build up to the climax of the shot. As Theo and Nell’s feet are so carefully included in each circle of the camera, the viewer is prepared for Nell’s disappearance. Each time the camera circles, moving Theo and Nell out of frame, it rehearses Nell’s
Fig. 8 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). Nell's feet are kept in frame (top left) to confirm her presence, 21:31. Netflix, 2018.
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disappearance until it occurs for real out of view. Nell’s disappearance is a carefully staged trick played on the viewer: the long take promises the viewer a prolonged, privileged access to the episode’s diegesis, and yet we still miss the moment of her disappearance. As with the previous shot in the funeral parlour, in which the children are swapped off-screen, the trickery of the staging now has more significant consequences. Just like the family, who are also constantly present through the shot, the viewer’s presence does not guarantee their witnessing the source of horror in the shot. The way Nell’s disappearance is staged requires a reconsideration of the role played by the edges of the frame. Despite the continuity offered by the long take, it is not possible for the viewer to witness the various disappearances and reappearances enacted in the episode. This is because the edges of the frame themselves enact the characters’ disappearances. By establishing this possibility early in the episode, Flanagan signals to the viewer a need to rethink the potential threats to the characters. Hart points to a similar tendency in other contemporary horror narratives, arguing, “The viewer’s understanding of the narrative must include a conscious acknowledgement of the limits of the frame as a semi-diegetic device…Such a structure requires that
characters as well as audiences adopt a paranoid style of viewing in reaction to the constant but uncertain signals of danger coming from unseen or offscreen space” (339). The key distinction between what Hart describes and what occurs in “Two Storms” is, in the latter, the characters are uninvolved in this process. Although they are aware of the other characters’ disappearances, they do not know how they occur and thus cannot adopt this same kind of paranoia. The conscious acknowledgement of the frame adopted by the viewer, however, is a crucial component of understanding the episode’s staging of disappearances as the episode’s primary source of horror. In other episodes of Haunting, Flanagan’s staging demands the viewer adopt a paranoid style of viewing relating to other aspects of the mise-en-scène, concealing the bodies and faces of ghosts behind furniture and in the shadows of deep space. Conversely, in “Two Storms,” the threat no longer lingers in the mise-enscène. The protracted use of the long take allows for different formal strategies of horror to be implemented: the length of the shot offers a kind of stability and safety to the onscreen mise-en-scène, placing the potential threat at the edges of the frame, exploiting the camera’s capacity to both include and discard characters from the shot.
Fig. 9 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). The camera tracks back to reveal Nell has disappeared, 21:42. Netflix, 2018.
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Fig. 10 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House).Olivia stares down the corridor, beginning the shot/reverse-shot, 42:49. Netflix 2018.
Flanagan’s strategy of using offscreen space finds its most effective employment in Shot Four, when Olivia disappears. The camera follows Olivia and Hugh upstairs to search for the missing Nell in the bedrooms. Hugh departs from Olivia, walking around the corner out of shot, and thus, from here, the camera is aligned with Olivia’s subjectivity. It follows her through each bedroom, never allowing her out of shot. The only departure from Olivia’s subjectivity is when the ghost of an old lady appears on the bed, of which Olivia is oblivious, and it is evidently staged for the viewer. The climax of this sequence occurs as Olivia sees the door handle of a closed door rattling. She opens the door to the ghost of a boy in a wheelchair. Olivia leaves the shot just as the young boy wheels himself out of the bedroom, and the camera pans left to reveal Hugh returning to the corridor. The camera effectively performs a shot/reverse shot here—from Olivia looking down the hallway (Fig. 10), to Hugh looking back in her direction (Fig. 11). This is a conventional technique, albeit performed by a long take instead of through continuity editing. But the conventionality of this technique is disrupted when it is revealed, a second later, that neither spouse saw the other. Olivia has disappeared as Nell did earlier. At this precise moment, two key affirmations are made for the
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viewer, which illuminate two separate discussions developed in this paper: first, another switch of subjectivity (or focal inconsistency) occurs; and second, another (dis) appearance is enacted, this time by Olivia. Regarding both affirmations, the technique used earlier in the episode to make Nell disappear by expelling her from the edges of the frame prepares the viewer for what occurs here. Olivia is deliberately kept in shot for the full duration of Hugh’s absence, deliberately staging her as present. This ensures that when she finally leaves the shot for the first time it signals to the viewer a meaningful disappearance—a disappearance not just from the shot, but from the diegesis as well. Unlike Nell’s disappearance, however, this sequence promotes a more conventional haunted house aesthetic, including the appearance of ghosts out of sight of the characters, darkly-lit hallways, and rattling door handles. But the horror in this sequence is neither in the ghosts that appear, nor in the jump scares elicited by the window breakages, but by a fundamental disruption of our sense of horror convention in both the use of offscreen space and cinematic subjectivity. The curiosity and shock for Hugh of his daughter’s and wife’s disappearances is staged for us in cinematic form using the fundamental
Fig. 11 | “Two Storms” (The Haunting of Hill House). Hugh looks back down the corridor, completing the shot/reverse-shot, 42:59. Netflix, 2018.
principles of assigning and then disrupting subjectivity as it is aligned with particular characters. Just as the presence of the characters both onscreen and in the diegesis are slippery and unstable, so too is the viewer’s sense of subjectivity.
CONCLUSION The long take is perfectly suited to enacting disappearances in horror films and television. An awkward disjuncture exists between the constant presence of the camera and the threat of driving a character offscreen. It offers an apparent contradiction in the sense it provides both greater freedom and limitations. On one hand, the long take allows Flanagan to expand the Crains's world and the possibilities of the flashback; it creates temporal continuity, a physical expansion of the set created for the show, and greater potential for rethinking cinematic subjectivity. But on the other hand, Flanagan’s specific employment of the technique promotes retheorization of the edges of the frame. The edges of the frame operate as the apparent limits of the Crains's world. Once the characters are explicitly cast out of the frame, they disappear from the diegesis too. This subverts the conventions of horror films that make
use of off-screen space in the opposite way: in countless examples, the monsters lurk offscreen, ready to make their appearance in the frame. We can return here to Bazin’s proposal that the film screen shows us “something prolonged indefinitely into the universe” (168). Despite the continuity implied by the travelling long take, the edges of the frame, which make characters disappear, problematize Bazin’s conception of the frame. In “Two Storms,” characters are intentionally staged to remain onscreen, whether in the present or in memory; what is onscreen provides a defence against the horror of disappearing. If much of Haunting’s horror is derived from what lurks in the mise-en-scène—an apparition we might not consciously see—the horror in “Two Storms” emerges from what might be cast out of shot and disappear without our witnessing it. “Two Storms” is a compelling case study of contemporary “prestige” horror television. True to the cycle, the episode’s formal transgressions allow both a breaking down of generic boundaries and a use of stylistic elements to express a character’s inner turmoil. The use of time shifts in conjunction with horror elements such as ghosts allows a psychological element to be appended to the core horror themes. This is certainly true of all
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The protracted use of the long take allows for different formal strategies of horror to be implemented: the length of the shot offers a kind of stability and safety to the onscreen mise-enscène, placing the potential threat at the edges of the frame, exploiting the camera’s capacity to both include and discard characters from the shot. episodes in The Haunting of Hill House, but what sets this episode apart from others in the series is that its formal departure in the form of five long takes enables not just aesthetic differences and an authorial distinction, but also different connections to be made between characters and parallel narratives not possible through other formal means. We have seen how its unique form of f lashback—shifting between subjectivities
and subverting the concept of memory—as well as its playing with the convention of offscreen space draws on the essence of the long take. Crucially, it allows for a new layer of complexity in the construction of the Crains's memories to be revealed.
WORKS CITED Abbott, Stacey. “Masters of Mise-en-Scène: The Stylistic Excess of Hannibal.” Horror Television in the Age of Consumption: Binging on Fear, edited by Kimberley Jackson and Linda Belau, Routledge, 2018, pp. 120-134. Alien. Directed by Ridley Scott. Brandywine Productions / Twentieth Century-Fox Productions, 1979. American Horror Story. Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision / Ryan Murphy Productions, FX, 2011-. Bates Motel. Created by Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin. Carlton Cuse Productions / Kerry Ehrin Productions, A&E, 2013-2017. Bazin, André. “Painting and Cinema.” What is Cinema? edited by Hugh Gray, 1967, vol. 1, University of California Press, 2005, pp. 164-172. Belau, Linda. “Family Ties and Maternal Things: Bates Motel as Family Romance for the Post-Oedipal Era.”
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Horror Television in the Age of Consumption: Binging onFear, edited by Kimberley Jackson and Linda Belau, Routledge, 2018, pp. 104-119. Bernstein, Arielle. “How the Haunting of Hill House Conveys the Horror of Family.” The Guardian, 26 October 2018, theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/ oct/26/haunting-hill-house-netflix-family-horror. Accessed 17 Dec. 2018. Branigan, Edward. Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film, Mouton, 1984. Dolores Claiborne. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995. Fear, David. “Why ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ Strikes a Nerve.” Rolling Stone, 23 October 2018, rollingstone.com/ tv/tv-features/the-haunting-of-hill-house-review-737658.
Flanagan, Mike (@flanaganfilm). “I’ve gotten a lot of questions about ep 106 of @haunting . Netflix released an awesome little BTS video, but for those that want more information, here’s a little thread: Episode 6 was part of the very first pitch for the show, promising an episode that would look like one shot.” 5 November 2018, 2:30AM. Tweet. Hannibal. Created by Bryan Fuller. Dino De Laurentiis Company, NBC, 2013-2015. Hart, Adam Charles. “Millenial Fears: Abject Horror in a Transnational Context.” A Companion to the Horror Film, edited by Harry M. Benshoff, John Wiley & Sons, 2014, pp. 329-344. Idato, Michael. “The Haunting of Hill House Explores Childhood Trauma and the Power of the Unseen.” Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 2018, smh.com. au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/the-haunting-of-hillhouse-explores-childhood-trauma-and-the-power-ofthe-unseen-20181213-h19377.html. Jowett, Lorna and Stacey Abbott. TV Horror: Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen, IB Taurus, 2013. Luchoomun, Lawrence. Mental Images in Cinema: Flashback, Imagined Voices, Fantasy, Dream, Hallucination and Madness in Film. 2012. University of Roehampton, PhD dissertation.
Mousoutzanis, Aris. “Temporality and Trauma in American Sci-Fi Television.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First Century Programming, edited by Melissa Ames, University Press of Mississippi, 2012, pp. 90-100. Mulhall, Stephen. On Film. Routledge, 2002. Rosemary’s Baby. Directed by Roman Polanski. William Castle Productions, 1968. Scream: The TV Series. Created by Jay Beattie, Jill E. Blotevogel and Dan Dworkin. MTV, Netflix, 2015-. “The Bent-Neck Lady.” The Haunting of Hill House, directed by Mike Flanagan, season 1, episode 5, Netflix, 2018. “The Twin Thing.” The Haunting of Hill House, directed by Mike Flanagan, season 1, episode 4, Netflix, 2018. The Walking Dead. Created by Robert Kirkman. AMC Studios, AMC, 2010-. “Two Storms.” The Haunting of Hill House, directed by Mike Flanagan, season 1, episode 6, Netflix, 2018. Wells-Lassagne, Shannon. Television and Serial Adaptation, Routledge, 2017. Zinoman, Jason. “‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ on Netflix, Is a Family Drama with Scares.” New York Times, 11 October. 2018, nytimes.com/2018/10/11/arts/television/ netflix-the-haunting-of-hill-house-review.html.
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Screens on Screen:
Aesthetics and Affect of the Hybrid Screenworlds of Three Indian Films BY DEBJANI MUKHERJEE | University of Auckland
ABSTRACT This article explores the incorporation of new media screens in filmic narratives of the Indian screen and their influence in crafting a new cinematic experience. In examining these digital intrusions, this paper locates the contemporary Indian cinema screen in and as part of a post-globalized hypervisual and connected world, which articulates a new imagination and links itself to the present and ubiquitous digital screenscape of urban life. A close reading of three Indian popular films–3G - A Killer Connection (2013), Table No. 21 (2013), and Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (Love, Sex and Betrayal, 2010)–, which integrate a range of new media screens in their narratives, reveals how the intrusion of the digital into the original filmic screen not only influences its aesthetics but also establishes a psychological territory that shapes and affects the sensory experience of film. This interlacing of the digital and the cinematic expands the spatiotemporal coordinates of the film experience, illuminating the cinema screen in a range of possibilities.
he current ubiquity of the digital screen, which facilitates a variety of media experiences in different devices and different environments, has become an integral part of the way we experience the world around us. This assemblage of flickering screens, a veritable “screen explosion” of “surfaces made of liquid crystals, of plasma, and of LED’s, as flexible as a piece of paper, interconnected, reacting to…touch and…voice” (Casetti 162), insinuates itself as a sinuous presence alongside the flow of contemporary urban life, making screens not just a visual and aural phenomenon, but also a haptic, almost sensuous one. We carry the screen, move it around, wear it on our bodies, and it becomes an extension of us, embedded within our lives. Francesco Casetti observes that this profusion of screens, working as “nexuses of interconnected circuits,” lay out the matrix of our present screen world, effecting “a diffusion of content on many platforms (spreadability), an interconnection of reception points (networking), and a reactivation of experiences in many situations (relocation)” which has also led to a material mutation of the screen, a transformation not just in the technological
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sense but also in the conceptual sense (162). All this portends inevitable changes in the cinematic experience, as the cinema screen transforms from being uniquely placed in a cinema hall into one materialized location among the many other screens that intersect our lives. The cinema screen becomes a node in this screenscape of urban existence, connected to the “lightning rods” (156) of other screens. Miriam Hansen observes “a palpable, seismic shift” in the way that the cinematic apparatus today, influenced by digital technology, articulates and organizes individual and social experience (22-23). She suggests that it is not just that the production of moving images has changed, but that this change relates to the transformation of just about everything surrounding the cinema – the amazing reorganization of everyday experience in terms of spatiotemporal coordinates, modes of sensory perception and attention, cognition, affect and memory, sociability and the circulation of knowledge. (22-23)
Hansen notes that as content and communication gain priority over the materiality of the medium, the profusion of and collusion of various audiovisual media have introduced a situation where cinema itself disappears into other media. But apart from the obvious medium-specific changes in cinema, as production shifts from photo chemicals to digital coding coupled with digital technologies of delivery and circulation, she is more concerned about what these changes mean for the film experience (22). As the original filmic screen within the cinema hall is caught in the profusion and mutations of various forms of audiovisual media, all inexorably driving towards convergence, the cinematic implications of these changes foment deep alterations within the matrix through which the cinematic
are changing the dynamics of the original filmic screen, de-isolating it from the darkness of the auditorium, and placing it within the connected screenscape of contemporary life. This connected screenscape is a jumbled network of dislocated but pervasive screens that stretch out in all directions – on billboards, living rooms, car dashboards, photo frames, ATM machines, game consoles, mobile devices, and shop windows, among other things. These screens, luminous islands of space and time, are at once connected and disconnected, intersecting this traversal of urban space at various points in a pattern of intervention both predictable and unexpected by turns, inserting themselves in the flow of urban life in a dynamic collusion of moving images and sounds. It is a screenscape that links
experience is articulated and organized (23). Casetti observes that now
and splinters disparate spaces and times, centering and re-centering our bodies across time and space, co-opting the spectator within a space-time continuum that is multilayered and transformational.
the movie screen no longer stands by itself… because of outside influences, its very nature is changing. We can no longer observe it as we did before, nor can we expect it to offer us the same kind of images as it used to. (156) This article considers three contemporary popular Indian films – 3G – A Killer Connection (2012), Table No. 21 (2013), and Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (Love, Sex and Betrayal, 2010) – which integrate and skillfully thread the various avatars of the digital screen into and through their narratives. All three films are deeply reflective of the zeitgeist, mirroring the flux of a changing society as it seeks to align itself to a globalised world. Their narratives are rife with the anxieties and challenges of stepping into a ‘connected’ world, and all three films, resonating with a deep sense of disquiet and foreboding, are insistently marked by an awareness of the screen as a pervasive, unrestrained force that enfolds, intervenes, and interrupts the flow of life. The occurrence of digital screens in the cinematic narratives of these films can be explored as part of this contemporary ubiquity of the digital, where the intrusion of the digital into the very materiality of film, influences its aesthetics on one hand, and on the other also establishes a psychological territory that shapes and affects the sensory experience of film. The three films offer themselves as good test cases to explore how the intrusion of various forms of new media
The screenscape thus becomes a composite geography of images mobilized through time and movement, displayed through a multiplicity of viewing positions – a giant force field of screens that one physically traverses every day and engages with at an array of narrative junctures, negotiating multiple frames, effecting the joining or disjunction of divergent visions. Bolter and Grusin observe the different kinds of “viewing” that digital visual media affords its users, to the “situated viewing” of the virtual environment where the viewer changes her field of view without changing her own situation (244-45), or the “interrelated or connected” self of the web whose “windowed style” reflects the multiplicity of the fragmented self, where the “sense of presence of oneself to others and of the self to itself comes not through visual perception…but through the feeling of being connected to others” (258). In 3G and Table No. 21, the literal intrusion of the other screen into the characters’ lives upsets the normal balance. It disrupts their world, throwing them into a screen-induced parallel realm, where the familiar is scrambled into an unfamiliarity that is strange and frightening. In 3G, a haunted mobile phone unfolds a malevolent space filled with ghosts and apparitions. A young couple on holiday loses their phone and buys a second-hand mobile phone, which turns into a portal through which
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a ghost intrudes into their lives. In Table No. 21, another young couple on holiday, lured by the prospect of winning big prize money, become participants in a reality game show that is live streamed on the web. Filmed by multiple closed circuit cameras as well as other digital cameras, they are both required to perform increasingly difficult ‘tasks’ to get to the next level, which inexorably puts their lives at risk, but they are trapped by their signed agreement with the show’s organizer and unable to get out. In both films, it becomes the protagonists’ challenge to unhook themselves from the screen world that they have hurtled into (willingly or unwillingly) and find a resolution to their situation. Both 3G and Table No. 21 unveil secondary screen spaces within their narratives that encroach upon and interrupt the lives of their protagonists, bringing to the surface their deep-seated anxieties and fears about life in the multi-screen digital age. In both films, the secondary screen world is not just a technological feat of silicon and photo sensors for the two sets of protagonists, but a palpable, living entity within which their very survival is at stake. In fact, in both films, the other new media screens, ‘live’ and interactive, form the fulcrum of the narrative, pivoting the action that takes place in the main screen space. The inciting incidents occur within the secondary screen spaces, which are consciously demarcated territories of action within the main screen space. But they are differentiated by their size, shape and resolution of images and insistently identified and tagged with their own set of markers like the time counters and icons denoting location, battery strength, date and such on the CCTV and digital camera screens of Table No. 21 and similar markers of the mobile phone screen of 3G. With a set of actions in one screen space driving traffic in the other, the narrative flow of the three films rest on the integration of the two screen spaces, and the manoeuvrability that it affords to the action in transiting from one screen space to the other. But the two films offer differing levels of integration between the screen spaces, primarily because of the different kinds of secondary screen space that each film adopts within its narrative world, and the exigencies of the storylines woven around those intruding screen territories. The nature of the secondary screen space
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is thus thrown into sharp relief, its behavioral pattern dictating the ‘look’ of the film, its narrative flow, and the kind of immersive environment that it can provide. Unlike 3G and Table No. 21, the pattern of alternation between the main and secondary screen spaces does not occur in Love, Sex Aur Dhokha. Instead, what functions as secondary screen spaces in the former, constitutes as the sole screen space in the latter. Using three different consumer level digital formats for its three interconnected stories, the events of the protagonists’ lives play out on the screens of a digital camcorder, a set of store surveillance cameras and spy cameras successively. Instead of a dynamic interaction between different screen spaces that highlight their differences, Love Sex Aur Dhokha completely relocates a specific digital environment and its DIY aesthetic to the organized interiors of the cinema hall, opening out and magnifying the intimate and confined spaces of camcorders and surveillance camera screens to the bigger scale of the cinematic screen.
THE INTRUDING SCREEN OF 3G – A KILLER CONNECTION (2013) In the film 3G – A Killer Connection, the agency of the intruding screen of the mobile device is overt, as it engages the protagonists seemingly without any human prompt, driven by a self-generating energy that seems relentless, all-knowing, even indestructible. It switches on and off by itself, bringing in images and messages from an indeterminate location and time, terrorizing the young couple in the film and turning their lives upside down. Sam and Sheena go to Fiji on a holiday, where Sam buys a second-hand mobile phone from a local shop after accidentally dropping his own phone in the sea. Shortly thereafter, Sam starts receiving flirtatious video calls on his new phone from an unknown woman in the middle of the night (Fig. 1). Soon, the video calls start showing graphic footage of the same woman being murdered, and Sam (Neil Nitin Mukesh) and Sheena (Sonal Chauhan) spiral into a frightening world they cannot make sense of. Sam starts being stalked by the ghostly presence of the woman in the video, with the phone even acquiring the agency to independently change its location; it seems to be
Fig. 1 | SThe ghostly mobile phone in 3G-A Killer Connection, 23:35. Next Gen Films, 2013.
indestructible, turning up intact even after the couple’s numerous attempts to destroy the phone. Unable to trace the unknown number from which the calls are being made, the couple decides to find out about the woman in the video clip by tracking down the original owner of the phone. The rest of the film details their search, even as Sam slowly descends into schizophrenia, often switching between his normal persona and a ‘trance’ state. After a string of murders, all committed by Sam in his ‘trance’ state, the mystery is finally unveiled when it is revealed that the woman in the video clip was murdered by her fiancé after he discovered her explicit videos online and found out about her double life as a call girl. The fiancé filmed himself murdering her on his phone and then hung himself, but not before mailing the phone off to one of her clients, setting off a chain of murderous events that culminates in Sam’s buying the phone and consequently being possessed by the dead man’s vengeful spirit. The film’s ending suggests the possibility of the murders continuing, as Sam remains possessed by the spirit of Mong Andrews, the dead man.
space where the viewer assumes that things in image space possess a continuity outside the frame into off-screen space. The digital space of the mobile phone is plugged into infinite virtual space, a space that is more abstract than offscreen cinematic space. Therefore, it is apt that it becomes the portal through which the specters of the astral world intrude into reality. As the narrative progresses, however, the film eschews this stark demarcation and effects a fluid integration between the two screen spaces, with the ghosts of the past gliding seamlessly into cinematic screen space.
In effecting this illusion of spectral duplication, the film initially uses the conceptual difference between digital and cinematic spaces to effect a narrative strategy by which the digital space of the mobile screen doubles as metaphorical space through which the past can be accessed and ‘ghosts’ laid to rest. Images in digital space are not assumed to continue beyond the frame, unlike in cinematic
[i]n cinematic and ‘realist’ environments the spectator/user is drawn into the world that seems to exist on the other side of that screen/interface… In contrast, in abstract interfaces the off-screen information is seemingly coming out towards the user: windows and menus pop up…they seem to come out towards her. (159)
This literal transference occurs in two ways. One is in the way objects ‘pop up’ from digital space into diegetic film space. For instance, when travelling by car and watching a football game on his phone, Sam is suddenly hit by a random football that comes hurtling from nowhere through a window of the running car (Figs. 2-5). This recurs in the sequence where Sam and Sheena, again travelling in a car, are involved in an identical car crash to the simulated car crash of the video game that Sam was playing at the same time on his mobile phone. Per Persson observes that
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From a soccer ball to a car crash, random objects and events thus pop up into the ‘real’ space of the cinematic screen as the protagonist engages with the mobile screen. In effect, in this direct engagement with the mobile screen, the protagonists of the latter space also seem to be able to download the digital story world or aspects of it into their own space. With this stylistic materialization of the concept of the ‘download’ that simulates the atmosphere of an immersive digital environment, the film gives a digital spin to a cinematic experience. The other means of creating transference from digital to cinematic space is more subtle, as when the murdered woman’s ghost just shows up next to the protagonist Sam within the cinematic space (Figs. 6-9). Her transference from digital to cinematic space is not effected through any overt indication, but remains implicit. She first appears in the sequence when he, searching for the ringing phone and locating it under the bed sheet, then pulls up the sheet only to confront her frightening apparition. In the next sequence, as Sam and Sheena engage in foreplay, Sam suddenly finds himself with the ghost of the woman and not his wife. This is interesting because, from this point onwards, the ghosts also seem to become projections of Sam’s imagination, but less directly Sam’s own than that of the dead woman’s fiancé, whose persona Sam begins to take on in his ‘trances’.
Figs. 2–5 (top to bottom) | As Sam watches a football game on his
phone, a football materializes out of thin air to hit the couple (3G), 35:21/35:28/35:30/35:29. Next Gen Films, 2013.
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Sam’s frequent switching to the other persona becomes a device by which the ghosts start inhabiting the cinematic space more naturally and acquiring more agency. In fact, in the climactic sequence towards the end when the couple unravels the mystery of the ghostly phone, the narrative device of Sam’s possession by the spirit of the dead man allows a destructive parallelism between the murder of Mong’s fiancée, reconstructed by the couple in detail, and the re-enactment of the same sequence of events with Sam’s hapless girlfriend Sheena. Thus Sam as Mong, the fiancé, relives the memory of the murder of his girlfriend as flashback, and at the same time also attempts to re-enact the same sequence of events with his own girlfriend. Parallel editing alters between memory and the present, constructing a scene where the past is simultaneously accessed as memory as well as transmogrified into present event.
3G’s storyline about a rogue phone carrying a murderous spirit articulates an unease and an insistent anxiety with a past that still sits in the margins of contemporary technological urban life. A mobile phone, enabled for rapid transmission of high-speed data, is transformed into a carrier of a malevolent spirit from the past. The mechanical configuration of metal parts inside the phone becomes a conduit into and out of the etheric realm of the supernatural. Technology thus becomes the medium via which the paranormal intrudes into the normal, bypassing the technological gateways that regulate and track the flow of data. The couple’s attempts to destroy the phone – trying to break it into pieces, throwing it into the sea or leaving it behind in public places – are always unsuccessful. The mobile phone, seemingly invincible, always returns to Sam and Sheena, intact and insistently ringing, calls coming in from some unknown location. The ghosts thus not only evade control but insinuate themselves into the present and thereby complicate it. In the film’s narrative, the past does not seek closure, but instead aims to rupture the façade of the present and perpetuate its existence. The smartphone thus becomes the interface between the two realms of the material and the spirit world. As the doorway through which ghosts unspool from their location in the past and impinge onto the present, the screen becomes a two-way reflector that creates an “experiential collage” (Pallasmaa 81) of the normal and the paranormal, of presence and absence, of reflection and fusion. The protagonist Sam, in his trance state, always sees himself as the reflection of Mong Andrews (Asheesh Kapur), the murderous fiancé of the dead woman, on the screen of his mobile phone (Fig.10). Thus, his phone screen becomes not just a portal or permeable gateway, but also a mirroring surface evoking spectral illusions of estrangement and rupture. Pallasmaa observes that in “our technologised world [which] contains ever more elements of illusion, immateriality and a-causality”, glass is “the ultimate material of this modern dream world…the source of the illusory world of transparency, reflection and mirroring” (80). The glass screen of the mobile phone, in being simultaneously transparent and reflective, malleable and hard, becomes capable of expressing multiple essences
Figs. 6–9 (top to bottom) | Transference of the ghost from the digital
space of mobile phone to cinematic space (3G), 27:42, 27:46, 31:55, 32:22. Next Gen Films, 2013.
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Fig. 10 | The phone screen as both portal and mirror (3G), 1:56:25. Next Gen Films, 2013.
of its materiality. It becomes an illusory landscape conjuring images of desire and fear, of cruelty and horror, of enticement and estrangement. As a location that externalizes the invisible realms of the supernatural and also gives shape to the internalized experiences of its principal protagonist, the screen becomes a force field of associative imagery capable of inciting a powerfully emotive and affective connection with it. It becomes a location of instantaneous exchange between the ethereal and the corporeal, enabling Sam’s experience of himself as the Other—the materially non-existent—, facilitating an exchange of life force of the physical world with the astral world. In this screen-within-the-screen paradigm, the interlacing of the two screens thus creates the film’s story world. The past materializes into the present in this flow from digital space to cinematic space, creating the juxtapositions and conflict between the old and the new, between then and now. In enabling this transference of the remains of the past, the digital screen not only makes the past visible but also enables its transubstantiation into the present, as spirits step through the phone screen, possessing bodies or materially reconstructing themselves within the coordinates of present time and space. In fact, 3G uses the concept of the permeability of the digital screen to disrupt the order of its diegetic space and to reinscribe the relations and identities of its narrative world. Abstract space, existing beyond the
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periphery of the mobile phone screen, finds expression in a formation of images and meaning on the digital screen. It thus forms a temporal and spatial continuum with diegetic space, generating an experiential singularity between the two spaces, mediated by the agency of the digital screen.
GAME-PLAYING: THE DIGITAL SPIRIT OF TABLE NO. 21 (2013) In Table No. 21, a young couple, Vivaan (Rajeev Khandelwal) and Siya (Tina Desai), winners of a lucky draw, win a trip to Fiji and a week’s stay in a luxury resort. Subsequently, Mr. Khan (Paresh Rawal), the mysterious owner of their holiday resort, offers them three million dollars to participate in an interactive online game show. The show named ‘Table No. 21’, requires them to perform a set number of tasks arranged in order of increasing levels of difficulty; the rules of the game also dictate that they cannot leave the show midway. Hooked to lie detectors, and tracked by cameras at every step, Vivaan and Siya start playing the game, hosted by Mr. Khan and streamed live on the web to the show’s 8 million viewers (Fig. 11). But the couple soon realize that the game demands more of them than they had bargained for, as the tasks start revolving around their deepest fears and phobias, uncovering their darkest secrets, even putting their lives at risk. Bound by the rules of the game and unable to leave, the
Fig. 11 | Live streaming of the game in Table No. 2, 25:08. Next Gen Films, 2013.
couple find themselves trapped in a horror they had willingly walked into. The denouement reveals that the whole concept of the game show was an elaborate ruse designed to trap them and make them relive the mental trauma that Vivaan and Siya, as seniors in college, had meted out to Mr. Khan’s son, a freshman who lost his mental balance thereafter. In concept and design, Table No. 21 adapts a digital game to a cinematic environment. Games in avatar-driven digital environments are similarly designed according to levels of difficulty, with each level demanding more of the user in navigating and surmounting the given obstacles. Table No. 21 adapts this digital environment to the cinema, replacing the avatars with live characters, and investing the omniscient control of the player in a digital game into a character who owns and directs the game show to its climactic end. The participants’ free will is taken away at the beginning of the game when they sign a contract, leaving them bound, avatar-like, within the confines of the game and at the mercy of the master-inquisitor who takes them through the eight levels of the challenging game. In the film, a string of second screens stake out the main action of the story world, slicing into the cinematic screen space at regular intervals, spotlighting certain sections of the screen action. These digital spaces exist in contiguity with the cinematic space, their borders lax and
permeable, allowing the action to transit between the spaces. Two sets of digital spaces can be seen in the film: the first being the digital spaces filmed by the digital cameras and uploaded ‘live’ to the screens of the worldwide web, and the second being the string of digital cameras, both movable and fixed, filming the action and visible throughout the film (Figs. 16-19). Although what is explicitly seen on screen are these two sets of spaces, conceptually the image world of the film extends into millions of screens of the worldwide web, generating an off-screen space that spirals out into the abstractness of virtual space. Table No. 21 carries this consciousness of manifold screens in its story world, marked by the ‘hits’ scored on the space of its ‘live’ computer screen surface. Just as users of online digital games and immersive environments are inflected by the awareness of a screen-filled virtual space, this film, too, is steeped in awareness of an off-screen network of screens, interconnected in virtual space. This is integral to the cinematic experience that the film aims to foster, as the narrative revolves round an online game show played by participants in a simulated environment. Thus the very spirit of Table No. 21 is digital rather than cinematic, incorporating as it does the architecture of a digital environment into a film experience, with its scattering of digital spaces from the ‘live’ computer screen to the string of ‘live’ surveillance camera screens and handheld digital camera screens. In the first task that
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requires Vivaan to kiss Siya in a public place, the sequence starts with the three characters in an interior space. As Vivaan, Siya, and Mr. Khan, the host of the show, are seated opposite each other and engage in a question and answer session that precedes the task, the scene edits the conversation between them by using conventional shot/ reverse shots. But it frequently intercuts the scene with long shots from the surveillance cameras fixed around the place. They capture the action from five different angles, interrupting the smooth flow of cinematic space, their black and white grainy surfaces also detailing the camera number, location, and a ticking time code (Figs. 20-25). As the scene shifts to the exterior, a range of handheld digital cameras film Vivaan and Siya as they kiss in the middle of Suva’s busiest street. These cameras frame the pair from a variety of angles and distances, their frames providing information regarding their battery and exposure level, their shooting mode, and other technical information (Figs. 20-25). This scene frenetically cuts back and forth between the cinematic space and the gamut of digital spaces, all framing the same action, with movement, gaze and match on action maintaining continuity between the different cameras. The presence of the digital cameras as operating devices are underlined and made markedly visible within the cinematic space, as the scene involves and integrates their act of filming with the main action of the two protagonists.
Figs. 12–15 (top to bottom) | The digital screens of Table No. 21, 24:45,
47:27, 27:34, 45:31. Next Gen Films, 2013.
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Table No. 21 thus structurally integrates visually different screen spaces within one continuous space. The rapid back-and-forth from digital to cinematic space is stitched together by the conventions of film editing, which bridge the spatial break between the two kinds of spaces and generate visual flow. The film underlines the presence of both the digital screen spaces as well as the digital cameras filming them. The former appear markedly different in their visual aesthetic from the surface of the cinematic screen space, and the latter bring to the forefront the presence of their apparatus as essential to the experience of their spaces. In this stacking together of digital and cinematic spaces in its story world, the film thus brings into the cinema hall the everyday screens that populate the life of its audience, inflecting the once inviolate cinematic screen with pieces of the digital.
By entangling digital space with cinematic space and casting them into a spatiotemporal continuity, the film raises interesting lines of inquiry into the nature of the perceptual sensibility that such a visual dissonance generates and how it is fed back into a new experience of cinema. In effect, while the action in the digital space and that in the cinematic space is continuous, structurally threading both spaces, the film plays with the difference in the perceptual sensibility of these two modes by emphasizing the dissonance between the two sets of images. The highly saturated, icon-heavy digital camera images and the decidedly grainy, low resolution, text-laden images from the surveillance cameras are juxtaposed against the low contrast but ‘warm’ cinematic image. The image world of the series of digital spaces function almost as hypertexts for the action in the cinematic space, giving out information on location, camera number, time elapsed and recording mode among other details on its screens. This data-heavy digital space unwraps the artifice of the image, laying bare as it does the technical work of the recording device. Its ticking time code tracing time on its surface makes time visible, in contrast to the cinematographically synthesized time of the cinematic screen space. This visual dissonance generates ‘interruptions’ on the surface of the cinematic screen, breaking the flow of the cinematic space. Though the action moves ahead in time, these interruptions open up windows of suspensions, simulating a sense of recall, of return. In this pattern of intersection between digital space and cinematic space, even while the narrative moves forward, these recurrent digital doorways ‘replay’ the action in a retrospection of associations, enveloping the spectator in “a mental virtuality” (Bellour 17), generating circles of extension that radiate out to the entire film.
Figs. 16–19 (top to bottom) | Shot construction interlacing cinematic
space and digital space of CCTV cameras – Pearl Bistro scene, 24:24, 25:10, 25:51, 25:12. Next Gen Films, 2013.
REALITY CINEMA OF LOVE, SEX AUR DHOKHA (LOVE, SEX AND BETRAYAL, 2010) If Table No. 21 subtly tweaks the cinematic experience with its mash-up of digital and cinematic space, Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (henceforth referred as LSD) completely subverts the notion of a ‘cinematic experience’ by bringing in consumer-level digital cameras to tell its
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Figs. 20–25 (left to right) | Shot construction interlacing cinematic space and digital space of digital camcorders – Street Kiss scene, 27:20, 27:21,
27:44, 28:11, 27:55, 31:28. Next Gen Films, 2013.
story of three interconnected narratives. The conventional cinematic screen space disappears in this invasion of the digital, as a succession of three different digital media formats, each with its own images and aesthetics, unfold their narratives on the cinema screen. The three interconnected narratives, themed around love, sex, and betrayal, are shot on a digital camcorder, store security cameras, and a spy camera respectively, with the viewer warned in advance in a sort of a mock-announcement at the beginning of the film about possible occurrences of shaky camera movements, low light and out-of-focus conditions in the film. LSD plays around with the conventional concept of cinematic experience not just by its complete rejection of film as a medium but also by its refusal to employ the usual cinematic conventions in explicating its narrative. Its avowed intention, contained in the same mock-announcement, is to present “a new kind of cinema,” which it christens “reality cinema,” made possible by a careful selection of the most “sensational
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footage” from hundreds of “security cameras, phone cameras, spy cameras, home cameras, secret cameras” from all over the country. LSD’s “reality cinema” favors the darkness of the cinema hall, but eschews both the traditional materiality of the cinematic medium and its aesthetic conventions. Shot entirely on consumer-level digital video, the film transposes neatly onto the cinematic screen the Do-It-Yourself video aesthetic that sits snugly on television, computer or mobile screens. Its three stories that deal with honour killings, sex tapes, and sting operations illustrate the conflicts and dichotomies of an urban India trying to find its moorings in the globalizing present. Its topology of interconnected spaces of varied digital video formats from the digital camcorders to the surveillance cameras and spy cameras unfold a screenscape that is already familiar to the urban Indian. The camera lenses watch, their record buttons blinking red, as lovers and murderers, voyeurs and swindlers, abusers and scandal-mongers
Fig. 26 | “Blockbuster Love,” 3:45. Balaji Motion Pictures, 2010.
pass before their screens and play out their stories. LSD completely avoids the conventional cinematic techniques of camera movement and editing that have been used to render the fictive space coherent and consistent. Instead, the camera remains fluid and free-floating, as in the first and the third narrative, functioning as extensions of the protagonists, or it remains uncompromisingly fixed in its space as in the case of the store security cameras in the second narrative. The first narrative, “Blockbuster Love,” tells the story of two young lovers (Fig. 26) who elope and marry despite the disapproval of the girl’s family and are later brutally murdered by the girl’s family. The camera, a digital camcorder, belongs to the boy Rahul, who is a film school student with a penchant for recording his life. The camera remains turned on throughout, faithfully recording the events as he casts the girl in his graduate film, falls in love with her, and finally gets killed by the girl’s conservative family. In the most viscerally powerful section of the first narrative, where the young lovers are brutally killed, the sequence starts off with Rahul, the young boy, switching on the camera in the car to record their meeting with
the girl’s family. It is dark outside, but the overhead light in the car is switched on, and the camera is placed at an awkward angle after some deliberation. After a brief exchange, the overhead light is switched off, and the camera, though it keeps running, goes to black. A few seconds later, when the car suddenly stops, the screen, which was running black, is suddenly switched to night shot mode (by Rahul), and what unfolds next is brutality that is gruesome and shocking. As the camera keeps running, we see a group of men kill the couple and dump their bodies in the ground (Figs. 27-30). The sequence is set up in such a way that the unexpectedness of the attack delivers maximum impact. The camera, until now, has remained an available presence, handled casually, a close accessory in the character’s life and witness to his thoughts and feelings. Its manner has been freewheeling, unpremeditated, unstructured, recording on the spur of the moment, producing a dynamic and restless flow of images on its screen in a flurry of extreme close-ups, abrupt pans and zooms. This spontaneity breaks when the camera slips out from its protagonist’s grasp and lands on the ground with its frame askew. It still continues to record, but the dynamism of the frame
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is focused on the violence of the images on screen. Its night shot mode drains the colour from the screen, capturing the murder scene in a hazy, desaturated glow, the killers appearing as specters of the night. This sudden disintegration of the image marks a moment when the kinetic energy of the camera changes to a stillness, a physical stasis that is counteracted by the ensuing frenzied movement of the images on its screen. It also marks the rupture of the close alliance between camera and subject, signaling a breakdown, a fragmentation of its earlier design of visual movement and narrative engagement. This break also signals the approaching end of the narrative, as the visible camera settings marking the edges of its screen in a reminder of battery level and time elapsed, indicate the eventual running out of its battery charge. LSD plays with the contrast between the differing digital media of the three story segments, highlighting the fixedness of one with the mobility of the other, playing with point of view and the resultant nature of their screen dynamics. All the three stories are interconnected, with the principal characters of the three narratives entering into the diegesis of all narratives at some point. The shooting incident of the third narrative, “The Fame Game,” also takes place within the diegesis of the second narrative, “House of Sin.” The same scene is thus presented twice, in the different story segments, from the point of view of different types of digital cameras. The second segment, “House of Sin,” is shot through a series of store security cameras placed in vantage positions within a small twenty-four hour convenience store. It tells the story of the seduction of a salesgirl by the store security supervisor who, unbeknownst to the former, secretly uses a store surveillance camera to film their tryst, selling the resultant sex tape for money.
Figs. 27–30 (top to bottom) | Digital camcorder view – shots from the
murder sequence – “Blockbuster Love” (LSD), 31:29, 32:13, 33:21, 34:56. Balaji Motion Pictures, 2010.
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In “House of Sin,” the shooting sequence starts off with a man suddenly shooting another man in the small café section of the convenience store, and then running away in the ensuing melee. As his female companion raises an alarm and starts crying, the salesgirl rushes to help the wounded man sprawled on the floor, and the scene ends with the ambulance carrying the injured man away (Figs. 31-34). The entire scene is stitched together from the footage of the three security cameras around the store.
The surveillance cameras capture the terrified customers and employees running for cover, but also show the salesgirl, displaying great presence of mind, helping the injured man and calling for an ambulance. The third narrative, “The Fame Game,” filmed entirely through concealed cameras, revolves around a sting operation conducted by a local news channel. A dancer, helped by a reporter for the channel, secretly records a pop star soliciting sex in return for a starring role in his music video. The news channel presses for more sensational footage, which results in the reporter getting shot (Figs. 35-28). The shooting incident, presented earlier from the point of view of the surveillance cameras in the second narrative (“House of Sin”), now occurs again in the third narrative “The Fame Game,” but this time the scene is captured from the concealed cameras in the woman’s handbag and the reporter’s backpack. The dancer and pop star arrive for their rendezvous at the small café of the convenience store; the dancer informs the pop star that she has filmed their earlier meeting where he is seen demanding sex for roles in his music videos and is filming this meeting as well. The man tries to snatch the handbag with the camera, and then pulls out a gun, and, in the fracas, shoots the reporter who had rushed to assist the dancer (Figs. 35-38). This same event, shown from different points of view and two different digital camera formats, illustrates the contrasting screen dynamics of the two segments. In “House of Sin,” since the surveillance cameras are static, the movement of the different characters and the rapid cutting back and forth between the different cameras creates the dynamism within the frame. In “The Fame Game,” since the action is presented from the point of view of the concealed cameras in the dancer’s handbag and the reporter’s backpack, the dynamism of this scene is totally different, derived from the movement of the camera generated by the characters’ handling of their bags. The film, therefore, derives its visual rhythm not from conventional camera movements or editing techniques but from the vitality of its screens. It is a vitality that is almost kinesthetic, existing as it does as physical extensions of its protagonists’ selves into space. The cameras swing, shake, get propped up on tables or chairs, carried in bags, hidden between the pages of a book, or in moments of communion
Figs. 31–34 (top to bottom) | CCTV camera views – shots from the
shooting sequence –“House of Sin” (LSD), 1:34:13, 35:08, 1:17:37, 39:13. Balaji Motion Pictures, 2010.
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between camera and protagonist, turned to face their handlers. In the second narrative, “House of Sin,” even though the in-store surveillance cameras are fixed, the protagonists adopt the camera as a sinuous presence in their lives, allowing it to dictate their behaviour, to shape and mark them. The camera eye is thus right in the centre of things, privy to everything. This generates intensity and spontaneity, with the camera as a deliberate physical presence creating a sense of perceptual richness and involvement for the spectator (Fig. 39-44). LSD’s narrative space, spread across this spatio-material arrangement of three different digital media formats, is a frenetic, busy place. It pulsates with the kinetic energy of its watchful cameras, fomenting a definite perceptive as well as a cognitive and physiological pattern in its reception. Digital screens, flickering in the array of devices that the acceleration of new media has spawned, produce new ways of seeing. In the interplay of the human eye and the metadata-driven digitized screen, the interface technology via which this metadata is transmitted to our motor-sensory system generates new feedback loops and traces of circulation. Ute Holl cites Wolf Singer’s research in neuropsychology to suggest that the perception of images on the web, which depend to a large extent on user engagement, is a complex procedure where there is “an ongoing and indecisive back-and-forth between visual data, frame and image, layers and layers of information before an image and a homogeneous field appear” (Holl 166). The “digitized brain,” in making sense of ‘fragmented meta-data’
Figs. 35–38 (top to bottom) | CCTV camera views – shots from the
shooting sequence –“House of Sin” (LSD), 39:11, 39:14, 39:17, 39:23. Balaji Motion Pictures, 2010.
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has to make up its mind, taking its time, switching levels, before it decides which gestalt, background or movement can be coherently distinguished…[Its] behaviour describes the problem of an attitude within an oscillating topology in a field of vision” (167-168). Holl’s exploration is primarily concerned with the difference in the perceptual behaviour between the old mode of watching cinema in a hall, where one is physically aware of the others watching alongside, and the new mode of watching it on the web, where the audience has to stop and “realise that they are an active part of a structure. (168)
Figs. 39–44 (left to right) | The screens in “Love, Sex Aur Dhokha,” 1:40:22, 1:41:27, 1:41:25, 1:41:47, 1:30:19, 57:50. Balaji Motion Pictures, 2010.
But LSD presents a slightly different scenario. In importing digital media into the specifically organized setting of the cinema hall, it changes the psychological and physiological dynamics of its reception. The digital spaces it showcases via its narratives unfold in a different space and in a different context than those of the diegesis. The cinematic experience is generally assumed to exist under a set of fixed conditions: the specific interiors in a theatre (which includes the screen), the arrangement of seating rows, the inviolate darkness, and the uninterrupted time of a screening session (Hansen 23). To this we can add the materiality of the medium, and the unfolding on the screen surface of a narrative woven together by cinematic techniques and conventions. The spectator stitches
together all these separate elements into one indivisible whole by voluntarily placing her/himself within the sensory-affective matrix constructed by the screen within the theatre, and engaging with it in an interplay that summons the cognitive processes of attention, memory, imagination and emotion, thereby conjuring a film experience that is not on screen but in that sensory-affective matrix where the screen image meshes with individual and collective spectatorial life. The space of the cinema hall therefore, is considered an important factor in contributing to a cinematic experience, and LSD, in relocating the digital environment of its three narratives to the specifically arranged interiors of a cinema hall, allows it to be viewed in the “silence, MISE- EN - SCÈNE
Screens on Screen
darkness, distance, projection for an audience, in the obligatory time of a session that nothing can suspend or interrupt” (Bellour 15). The film imports its digital world into the “experience of film (as a) totality of suspended time that lasts for a projection” producing “in the film an assembling of memory in a sole place, no matter how dispersive it may be or how diverse all the places it invokes” (17). In its projection for an audience in the theatre, the digital gets absorbed in the collective social experience of cinema, instead of being engaged in a web-based digital experience, which despite its pluralistic nature of being “one of many” (Holl 164), nonetheless remains a solitary experience, albeit one inflected with the awareness of the ‘mass’ viewership. But even when we agree that LSD’s relocation is inflected by the ‘cinematographicity’ of a cinematic setting and undergoes an experiential alteration, the change it effects is actually a two-way process. On one hand, it effects a transubstantiation of the perceptual patterns of the digital experience into a cinematic one by its relocation to a cinematic setting. On the other hand, it also engineers a big shift in the cinematic experience by taking the digital to the cinema screen – both in terms of the materiality of the medium and its aesthetic conventions – for a digitally familiar contemporary audience. In eschewing the use of 35mm film and consciously constructing an image world that is in direct contrast to conventional film aesthetics and grammar, LSD moves away from the medium-specificity of film, transposing onto the cinema screen a digital aesthetic that it borrows from television formats and DoIt-Yourself videos on the Internet. LSD’s “reality cinema” thus becomes a resonating space, at once enmeshed in the surrounding cinematic environment of its relocation, as well as engineering a shift in the film experience. It brings a certain complexity to the film experience, as LSD’s digital cinema is neither just a production category, nor an impersonation of a celluloid aesthetic in any manner. Though relocated within a cinematographic setting and hence part of a certain ‘cinematographicity,’ the filmic environment does not completely subsume the phenomenological differences of its varied digital formats. The film may have used digital video to film its narratives, but it does not display the
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high-definition video aesthetics of the enormous range of HD cameras that many films are shot in nowadays, with precision of details and a wide tonal range even in extremely low light conditions. LSD’s digital cinema uses consumer-level digital video, which, while “thematiz[ing] the diffusion of such filming apparatus in everyday life and in social relations” (Gopal 186), also works by re-scaling the everyday digital space into the cinematic space. It opens out the digital world from the intimate, confined spaces of its monitors and devices and projects it onto the grander scale of the cinematic space. All three films discussed in this article carry the digital to the cinematic environment, bringing in a new sensibility and aesthetics associated with it. While 3G and Table No. 21 bring in digital spaces and assimilate or juxtapose them within the cinematic space, LSD abjures the materiality, the aesthetics and technical conventions of the cinematic medium and instead up-scales the intimacy of the digital medium into the more expansive space of the cinematic setting. Bolter and Grusin has coined the term “retrograde remediation” to describe “how a newer medium is imitated and even absorbed by an older one” (147). Though they are specifically referring to the usage of digital graphics in live action film, the integration of digital screens into the diegetic space of the cinematic screen can also be considered in the same vein, where the cinema screen in absorbing and making visible the new media screens on the film surface, remediates it in a self-conscious way. The digital is juxtaposed in varying degrees of integration in the diegetic space of the three films, their structural assimilation across the surface of the films fostering varying levels of awareness of the medium. While the digital spaces in 3G and Table No. 21 exist as a pivot of action, driving traffic and unfolding inciting incidents of the story world, in LSD the cinematic space gives way to a series of digital screens where the cinematic conventions and aesthetics is replaced by a digital style and ethos, and where the reality effect achieved is not just by the narratives on screen but also by the style of usage of the medium itself. Such interlacing of the digital and the cinematic succeeds in expanding the spatiotemporal coordinates of the film experience, illuminating the cinema screen in a range of possibilities.
WORKS CITED 3G – A Killer Connection. Directed by Sheershak Anand and Shantanu Ray Chibber, performances by Neil Nitin Mukesh and Sonal Chauhan. Next Gen Films, 2013. Casetti, Francesco. The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come. Columbia UP, 2015. Bolter, J. David, and Richard A. Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press, 1999. Bellour, Raymond. “The Cinema Spectator: A Special Memory.” Screen Dynamics: Mapping the Borders of Cinema, edited by G. Koch, V. Pantenburg, and S. Rothöhler. Österreichisches Filmmuseum, 2012. pp. 9-21. Gopal, Sangita. Conjugations: Marriage and Form in New Bollywood Cinema. U of Chicago, 2011. Hansen, Miriam. “Max Ophuls and Instant Messaging: Reframing Cinema and Publicness.” Screen Dynamics: Mapping the Borders of Cinema, edited by G. Koch, V. Pantenburg, and S. Rothöhler. Österreichisches Filmmuseum, 2012. pp. 22-29.
Holl, Ute. “Cinema on the Web and Newer Psychology.” Screen Dynamics: Mapping the Borders of Cinema, edited by G. Koch, V. Pantenburg, and S. Rothöhler. Österreichisches Filmmuseum, 2012. pp. 150-68. Love, Sex Aur Dhokha. Directed by Dibakar Banerjee, performances by Rajkummar Rao, Anshuman Jha and Neha Chauhan. Balaji Motion Pictures, 2010. Pallasmaa, Juhani. The Embodied Image: Imagination and Imagery in Architecture. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Persson, Per. “A Comparative Study of Digital and Cinematic Space with Special Focus on Navigational Issues.” SICS Technical Report:Workshop on Personalised and Social Navigation in Information Space, March 1998. pp. 150-166 <soda.swedish-ict.se/2241/1/SICS-T--9802--SE.pdf> Accessed 5 May 2017. Table No. 21. Directed by Aditya Datt, performances by Rajeev Khandelwal, Tina Desai and Paresh Rawal. Next Gen Films, 2013.
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The “Perfect Discords” of Billy Wilder’s Comedy Films BY JULIE MICHOT | Université du Littoral-Côte d’Opale, Boulogne-sur-Mer
ABSTRACT Very few researchers have dealt with diegetic music in Billy Wilder’s cinema. The aim of this article, which concentrates on the director’s comedy films including those considered as minor, is to show that source music is omnipresent in Wilder’s work, and that without it, his movies would not have the same flavor, impact and universality. Source music is indeed inseparable from Wilder’s language in terms of rhythm, wit, but also from a metaphorical or lyrical point of view. This paper is also a way of making my research known in English-speaking countries since I recently published a monograph in French on the subject.
illy wilder had a passion for jazz and he attached the utmost importance to music in his movies. He used to say: “I cannot whistle, I cannot sing, I cannot play the piano. I am totally unmusical. But I am musical as far as the song or the music for a picture is concerned. In that I am very, very finicky” (Crowe 107). Indeed, from the beginning of his career, he chose to work with some of the greatest soundtrack composers; what would his dramas and films noirs be without the collaboration of Miklós Rózsa or Franz Waxman? But Wilder was also a celebrated scriptwriter and director of comedy films in which diegetic music plays a key role. In a number of his movies, protagonists are atypical musicians or singers; in others, romantic tunes are in fact not so romantic after all; and finally, source music can be such an obsession that it turns into background music, the melodies the characters hear or hum becoming a leitmotiv and affecting the story in a practical way.
My analysis deliberately omits Wilder’s only musical, The Emperor Waltz (1948), as well as his most famous and certainly most analyzed comedy involving professional musicians, Some Like It Hot (1959), to concentrate on his other comedic movies, whether acclaimed or undervalued. Though very little has been written on music in Wilder’s cinema, I argue that diegetic music is fundamental at all
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levels in the language of Billy Wilder’s comedy films – by giving the action its tempo, introducing humor, but also from a metaphorical or lyrical point of view.
UNMUSICAL MUSICIANS If Wilder confessed he was no musician, many of his comedy film characters, although they sometimes sing or play an instrument for a living, do not have real talent either, which makes them quite original. In The Fortune Cookie (1966), Sandy (Judi West) is a failed artist who started her career on television singing commercial jingles for a linoleum company in the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” She then leaves Cleveland for New York, and her husband for “Gus Gilroy and his Gaslighters,” but this group is no more successful than she is. As for Pamela’s ex-boyfriend Bertram in Avanti! (1972), he plays the guitar in a band called “The Four Apostles.” She says he “is also a terrific composer, … writing a rock musical called Splash … about the sinking of the Titanic,” which does not sound very promising either. More interesting still, Pamela (Juliet Mills) proudly shows Wendell (Jack Lemmon) a photograph of the group (Fig. 1). The bass player standing on the extreme right looks a little like Frank Zappa, who was a brilliant
Fig. 1 | “The Four Apostles” from Avanti!, who are seen for a couple of seconds, and never heard, 1:02:07. MGM DVD, 2006.
musician. The long hair and straight faces of the four make them resemble Aphrodite’s Child. Vangelis belonged to Aphrodite’s Child and he was a great composer too; Demis Roussos was another member of the band and he was not overly acclaimed. Bertram, who is in the foreground, precisely bears some resemblance to Demis Roussos, which is certainly no coincidence. In addition, Bertram’s guitar has nothing to do with the beautiful hollow body electrics made by prestigious American companies like Gibson, Guild, Gretsch or Rickenbacker; instead, it rather looks like the medium-range instruments manufactured in Europe in the 50s, that were not popular across the Atlantic in the 70s at the time Bertram’s picture was taken. Finally, the position of the men’s fingers on the necks of their instruments does not correspond to any existing chord, which means that they are not actually playing; the image looks contrived and in fact, it could even be wondered whether they can play at all (Michot 33-34). Therefore, it seems that Wilder enjoyed making fun of musicians, and he also liked debunking myths: he is quite ironic towards a literary character universally famous for his many qualities, and towards a real-life singer who was also a movie star and a lady killer. In The Private Life of
Sherlock Holmes (1970), the detective (Robert Stephens) appears to be a rather weak man who finds it hard to solve mysteries without Dr. Watson’s help; he is a drug addict, and cannot play the violin well, although he has the reputation of being gifted. That may be why the famous ballerina (Tamara Toumanova) who asks Holmes to be the father of her child offers him a Stradivarius in exchange. In fact, in this film, the violin is relevant as an object and a metaphor: “[It] is always associated with sexuality;” it should be remembered too that “Holmes’s first love was the daughter of his violin teacher” (Gemünden 160). That explains the presence of the Stradivarius in the script, for Wilder’s Sherlock is neither a perfect detective nor an accomplished musician, so what would he possibly do with such a beautiful instrument? In another film yet another myth is smashed, this time with the consent of the person involved. Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) opens on Dean Martin singing “S’Wonderful” at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, the way he could have done it in real life during a performance of the Rat Pack. In fact, an actual record of his Italian Love Songs is used as a prop in one of the scenes (Fig. 2). It is clear that the singer and actor, whose character name
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Orville is, in fact, obsessed by music. He is a piano teacher who gives his lessons in his home, in the middle of his living room, and who wears a sweater with Beethoven’s prominent portrait on it; he also has a Bach sweater and a Brahms sweater in his wardrobe. His foolishness and the inanity of his ditties are there to prove that everything can be bought since the two friends will eventually become famous when Dino sings one of their songs on television… after having slept with Orville’s wife. Orville is an eccentric musician and a grotesque character, which is not the case for Ariane (Audrey Hepburn), the heroine of Love in the Afternoon (1957). That said, she does have something in common with him: the pianist of Kiss Me, Stupid is a very jealous and paranoid man, always
Fig. 2 | Early in the plot of Kiss Me, Stupid, (33:38), Zelda has not
yet found out what kind of man Dino really is. Scan of an original production photograph.
Dino in the movie is actually the star’s birth name, indulges in self-mockery by playing “a caricatured version of his own image” (Simsolo 85). Later on indeed, we understand that the ageing playboy is a bit old-fashioned to young and attractive Zelda (Felicia Farr), who used to be one of his greatest fans. The film’s totally fictitious characters are in no way forgotten by Billy Wilder, who was well known for his wit: the director said of Cliff Osmond, one of his favourite supporting actors, that he had “the musical ear of van Gogh” (Wilder and Karasek 314). Interestingly, in Kiss Me, Stupid, Cliff Osmond plays the part of an obscure lyricist who thinks he can become famous with songs like “Pretzels in the Moonlight.” His friend Orville (Ray Walston), who writes the music, is also convinced that they are geniuses; that is why he casually sings “I’m a Poached Egg” while following Dino to the toilets. Orville is silly enough to be convinced that it is a clever way to attract the crooner’s attention; but of course, the effect is quite the opposite and Dino only feels like running away.
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spying on his wife, and thus, he cannot concentrate on what his pupils are playing; in the same way, Ariane finds it hard to focus on her music, simply because she is in love. The girl is a cello student – not at the Sheboygan Conservatory of Some Like It Hot, but at the Paris Conservatory which is a “good school” too. Unlike Josephine (Tony Curtis) and Daphne (Jack Lemmon), Ariane did not get “time off for good behaviour,” so she spends her days carrying her instrument, practicing at her father’s home or rehearsing with the other students in an orchestra. Ariane is not an amateur and cannot really be called an “unmusical” musician; rather, she is an “unusual” one. The only occasion on which she plays incorrect notes is when she places some articles about Frank Flannagan’s private life on her stand and reads them with passion instead of the sheet music (Fig. 3). The originality of the girl also lies in the fact that she is not telling Flannagan (Gary Cooper) the truth about her age, her life and her sexual experience, and so she has to hide her cello when visiting the playboy at the Ritz. This is not easy since its case is almost bigger than she is. However, the case proves quite useful: Ariane hides her face behind it so as not to be recognized by one of her father’s clients (John McGiver) (Fig. 4), and she also hides objects inside: in particular, an ermine coat she has borrowed and will wear in Flannagan’s suite to impress him. So, the function of the cello case is altered and allows a well-behaved young girl to turn into a kind of femme fatale.
Wilder’s choice of Tristan and Isolde by Wagner for the opera house sequence of this romantic comedy is significant. Charlotte Chandler remarks: “Appropriately, that opera is about a casual relationship that grows into undying love, and is set in Ireland, Flannagan’s ancestral home” (194). Once again, Ariane’s behaviour at the opera is not expected from a music student. She attends the performance with Michel (Van Doude), her friend from the Conservatory. While the boy is carried away by the music and cannot help “conducting” the orchestra from the balcony, thus annoying his neighbours with his many gestures, Ariane is not that absorbed, especially when she sees Flannagan in the audience below. From then on, her main preoccupation is to watch him, and she keeps using Michel’s theater binoculars, to the latter’s
Fig. 3 | Ariane’s love for music is quite forgotten from the moment she
meets Flannagan (Love in the Afternoon), 44:55. Scan of an original production photograph.
great displeasure (Fig. 5). Incidentally, Frank Flannagan is not captivated by the beauty of the music either – as a matter of fact, he will later tell Ariane that he was planning to take his new conquest to the Folies Bergère and that the opera tickets were bought by mistake. If the “Friends of Italian Opera” in Some Like It Hot are actually uncultured mobsters, Flannagan is no music lover himself; the playboy is rather restless, looking at the audience around him although he is sitting in the first row, right in front of the orchestra pit. Likewise, Ariane does not pay much attention to the music or to what is happening on the stage, but for different reasons. This point is quite interesting, being reminiscent of a film by Ernst Lubitsch, Wilder’s mentor. In the opera house sequence of Trouble in Paradise (1932), Monescu (Herbert Marshall), the elegant thief, spends his time looking closely at a rich widow’s jewels through his binoculars (Fig. 6). Much of the scene is shot in subjective camera and not one reverse shot is used to show us the performers. Similarly, in Wilder’s movie, most shots are of the audience and we barely see the members of the orchestra. Whether in Trouble in Paradise or Love in the Afternoon, an opera is a pretext for the meeting of a man and a woman, and source music serves as a clever and explicit backdrop for Monescu’s intentions and Ariane’s feelings. And yet, Lubitsch’s musical choices for his love or seduction scenes were not always as classical, and in that, he also influenced Wilder tremendously.
Fig. 4 | The cello case is successively a hindrance and an ally for
Ariane in Love in the Afternoon, 41:21. Scan of an original production photograph.
ROMANTIC INTERLUDES? Gypsy bands and music can be considered as Lubitsch’s trademark since they are central in many of his films, having a lot to do with love stories. Interestingly, in The Shop Around the Corner (1940), there is hardly any source or background music and the only melodies come from the cigarette boxes that play “Otchi Tchernye” (“Dark Eyes”) when opened. Their recurrent presence becomes a running gag whose topper is the scene in which
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Fig. 5 | An explicit subjective shot from Love in the Afternoon, 1:08:48.
Carlotta DVD, 2016.
Fig. 6 | Lubitsch has always been Wilder’s mentor: a subjective shot
showing what catches Monescu’s attention in the opera house sequence of Trouble in Paradise, 21:20. Criterion Collection DVD, 2003..
the dishonest clerk (Joseph Schildkraut) is pushed into a pile of those music boxes that all start playing in an ear-piercing cacophony. “Otchi Tchernye” is a traditional Russian song with a Gypsy tune; in this film, it is also performed by the orchestra at the café when Klara (Margaret Sullavan) has her failed rendezvous with her mystery correspondent. The choice of such a tune is not surprising in a movie whose action takes place in Budapest. And yet, Lubitsch was so fond of Gypsy bands that he introduced them in some of his other stories even though they were not set in Eastern Europe; Angel (1937) is one notable example. The introduction of a Gypsy band happens in a Wilder film too. In Love in the Afternoon, a quartet of Gypsies consisting of two violins, one accordion and one hammered dulcimer, is inseparable from Frank Flannagan (Fig. 7).
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Like the champagne, the quartet is one of the playboy’s usual seductive tricks and it seems that he would never be able to be so successful with women without those musicians: they “[set] the mood for [his] seductions” (Chandler 194) and “[follow him] everywhere, providing a romantic soundtrack for all his pursuits” (Crowe 345). The musicians’ presence, however, is certainly more humorous than truly glamorous – as is the case, to some extent, with the disheveled violinist playing behind a door in The Prince and the Showgirl (Laurence Olivier), released on the same year. Indeed, in Love in the Afternoon, nothing is left to chance and timing is perfect: the Gypsies always arrive as scheduled, slipping away at the end of the evening without forgetting to place a “Do Not Disturb” sign at the door. In one of the scenes, they rush to Flannagan’s suite on a non-diegetic “martial drum rhythm” (Chandler 194), which is meaningful. Every night, the pieces they are asked to play are the same, in the same order: they start with the staccato-paced “Hot Paprika,” then perform some Liszt, Lehár and one or two czárdás. As the evening goes by, the rhythm of the music slows down: at five to ten exactly, “Fascination” is played and, invariably, Flannagan and one of his many conquests dance cheek to cheek while the first violin gets closer to them. At the end of “Fascination,” the couple is left alone – at last – since it seems there is nothing more the Gypsies can do. At one point, the four musicians go as far as following Ariane and Frank in a rowboat on the river. What is so romantic about that? A funny fact is that the Gypsies even follow the businessman (who is alone, for a change) to the Turkish bath (Fig. 8). The musicians have kept their suits and their bow ties on, which must be very uncomfortable – they are sweating streams – but which shows that they are real professionals and would do anything to please Flannagan. And yet, such a setting is not plausible at all; indeed, the musicians would never take their instruments to a hammam for the excessive heat and humidity would ruin them. Besides, in just a few minutes, the strings – violins and hammered dulcimer – would be out of tune and it would be impossible to tune them again for several days. As to the accordion, its bellows would fill with water vapor
and it would soon be unplayable. Towards the end of the scene, the first violinist suddenly stops playing, empties his instrument of water, and then goes on performing with passion; but in reality, a fiddle full of water no longer produces any sound. Thus, technically, the Gypsies would never be able to play the whole of “Fascination” in such extreme conditions. Wilder must have known it, especially as the members of the band were, in fact, actual Hungarian musicians (Crowe 147), but the director certainly did not mean to be credible since Love in the Afternoon is first and foremost a comedy. Beyond its witty and even farcical aspect, the scene is interesting because it proves that contrary to Flannagan, who always uses the same tricks to impress women, the Gypsies can adapt to all kinds of situations. Incidentally, during one of Ariane and Frank’s dates at the Ritz, the musicians suddenly realize that what they are playing, “C’est Si Bon,” is too lively, so they immediately switch to “Fascination.” The Gypsies are surely less predictable than their employer, but most importantly, they can be associated with the chorus in classical Greek plays, witnessing the action and commenting on it. They pay great attention to the lovers’ behaviour, which means that they are once again being rather intrusive, and that the couple’s intimacy is almost non-existent. In the last shot of the film, the musicians stay on the platform while Ariane and Frank’s train is drawing away. They play “Fascination,” this time as a farewell song: “Since the quartet was associated with Frank’s seductions, they have been left behind for good” (Phillips 194). Flannagan indeed does not have to pretend anymore and he proves to the girl that he is really in love with her. For the first time in his life, he behaves in a sincere and romantic way, and thus, he no longer needs the Gypsies’ help. Another small musical ensemble, although not a Gypsy one, is an essential ingredient for David’s successes with women in Sabrina (1954) (Fig. 9). Each time they give a party, the rich Larrabees have a sestet playing and their younger son David (William Holden), after a few dances with a beautiful girl, always uses the same technique: he asks her to go to the deserted indoor tennis court and meets her there with a bottle of champagne after
Fig. 7 | Flannagan’s peculiar definition of intimacy in Love in the
Afternoon, 1:16:40. Scans of original production photographs.
having told the combo to play “Isn’t It Romantic?” When the chauffeur’s daughter, Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn), sees her dream come true and attends the party, she dances amorously with David and they are so fond of each other that they go on dancing even after the music stops. But that is where romanticism ends. Actually, Linus, the elder brother (Humphrey Bogart), places the family business above all else and wants David to marry the daughter of a rich industrialist. As David is ready to slip away with the champagne, Linus, fully aware that David has glasses in the back pockets of his trousers, asks him to sit down. Instead of David, Sabrina is met by Linus who drinks with her, dances with her, and even kisses her. In the meantime, a cross-cutting allows us to see David, who is having the glass fragments removed from his bottom and is complaining – not because it is physically painful,
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Fig. 8 | The tireless Gypsy musicians of Love in the Afternoon, 1:44:48. Scan of an original production photograph
but because he can also hear the orchestra play the song. However, Linus and Sabrina’s dance is not that romantic either: indeed, Linus does all this for the Larrabee company, and tries to deal with the girl and buy her off. Over the following days, he goes on entertaining her while his brother is recovering, with the aim of getting David out of her mind. “Music might help,” and he brings a portable phonograph as they go sailing so that Sabrina can play several records; she discovers, on that occasion, that Linus is in fact more sentimental than she thought. The “cold businessman,” as he calls himself, was not planning to seduce her at all, and yet, that is what happens eventually: quite unexpectedly, they fall in love and leave for Paris. This unlikely love affair thus begins in a strange way with a tune programmed by David the playboy but performed
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at a point when he will never have looked so ridiculous; the song even helps his own brother seduce the woman he is crazy about. Although Orville, the pianist of Kiss Me, Stupid, is ridiculous too – and nearly all the time – he manages to be romantic once thanks to a long piece of music he composes for his wife and performs for Polly, the prostitute (Kim Novak), who is sitting by his side on the bench (Fig. 10). This scene is the exact inversion of a sequence in The Seven Year Itch (1955) where Richard (Tom Ewell) is trying to seduce his gorgeous neighbour (Marilyn Monroe) by playing the piano. Interestingly, That Uncertain Feeling by Lubitsch (1941) is also the story – not of a man – but of a woman (Merle Oberon) who, after six years of marriage, wonders if she is still in love with her husband (Melvyn
Douglas), and who is seduced by the talent of a classical pianist (Burgess Meredith). His arpeggios seem to be tickling her and the more he plays, the less she can resist. At one point, she even asks him to stop because of the effect his music has on her. In The Seven Year Itch, Richard is convinced that the second piano concerto by Rachmaninoff is some kind of universal seduction weapon, and he can even see himself performing it while his neighbour is so shaken that she can only fall into his arms. He thus plays the record of that concerto when she comes to his apartment. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between his imagination and reality. Indeed, the girl is not that sophisticated and prefers Eddie Fisher to “good old Rachmaninoff.” Richard Armstrong writes that “Wilder revels in the vulgarity of a character who dunks potato chips in champagne and recognizes classical music because it lacks a vocal” (Armstrong 74). The other funny aspect is that Richard is, in fact, unable to play the piano; all he can perform is “Chopsticks”; nothing is simpler than that, and besides, the girl can play it too. So, they start playing together and, since that type of music makes her “goose-pimply,” Richard stops and tries to kiss her. He only succeeds in making a fool of himself, and they both fall from the bench, which makes one more failed romantic interlude (Fig. 11). If the girl played by Marilyn Monroe is insensitive to what many would consider romantic music, a number of Billy Wilder characters, on the contrary, are rather obsessed by specific songs – whether sentimental or not – to the point that a particular tune becomes pervasive: it is a kind of Ariadne’s thread that precipitates the action and works as a structural plot device.
“INSTRUMENTAL” MUSIC The most obvious example of a Wilder comedy film in which music affects the whole story and gives it its rhythm is, of course, Some Like It Hot. However, in other movies, a few songs do have a concrete role to play in the script, though they sometimes seem to have little significance at first. In Buddy Buddy (1981) for instance, while preparing his suicide, Victor Clooney (Jack Lemmon) plays the cassette on his transistor radio of a rather romantic song
Fig. 9 | In the same way as the playboy of Love in the Afternoon, David
would not manage to seduce so many women without the help of a group of musicians in Sabrina. Paramount DVD (2016) and scan of an original production photograph.
whose choice is not coincidental: its title is “Cecilia,” and Victor wants to kill himself because he has been left by his wife, “Celia.” Interestingly, the communicating hotel room is not soundproof, so contracted-killer Trabucco (Walter Matthau) can also hear the music while preparing his rifle to shoot a witness down. The contrast between this soppy tune and the situation is striking. Exactly when the music stops, Clooney hangs himself. The timing is perfect: the end of the song symbolically corresponds to the definitive end of a relationship and to the end of the man’s life, but Victor fails because the water pipe of the bathroom is not strong enough to support the weight of his body.
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The “Perfect Discords” of Billy Wilder’s Comedy Films
Fig. 10 | One of the only romantic scenes in Kiss Me, Stupid, 1:33:56. MGM DVD, 2015.
Such a scene cannot be compared to the many sequences in Some Like It Hot where Wilder, directing Jack Lemmon, uses music in a very clever way – we can think of Osgood (Joe E. Brown) and Daphne dancing tango, or of Jerry/Daphne shaking his/her maracas “so that comic dialogue [is] not swallowed up by the audience’s reaction” (Arens 49). Indeed, Wilder’s last film Buddy Buddy, was definitely not his best and he was not happy with it. And yet, the suicide scene shows that source music was rarely absent from his stories. Incidentally, this farcical mood is reinforced by the recurrent presence of the Mexican chambermaid (Bette Raya) who is never surprised at anything and keeps singing “Cucurrucucú Paloma” no matter what happens. Another suicide attempt involves music, this time on a far less humorous note. In The Apartment (1960), Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) and Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), her married lover, always meet in the same Chinese restaurant where the pianist plays “their” tune, “Jealous Lover.” When Fran gives Jeff a record of that song for Christmas and receives a hundred dollars in return, she understands that she does not matter. Alone in someone else’s flat on Christmas Eve, she plays the record Jeff left there, and intentionally takes too many sleeping pills. The deeply melancholic “Jealous Lover” is also the theme song of the film and can be heard on the opening credits and also in the final
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sequence, when Fran, understanding that Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is in love with her, runs to his apartment. The tune is thus both diegetic and non-diegetic, and it gives the movie its sweet-and-sour taste. In Avanti! too, melancholy and tenderness mix, and Neapolitan music has a lot to do with it. Wendell and Pamela have come to Ischia to bury his father and her mother, who were lovers, and they choose to reenact one of their nights at the hotel as “a tribute to them.” The orchestra plays Willie and Kate’s favourite tune and then comes closer to their table to perform a song called “Caterina,” in homage to Pamela’s mother. The young woman is so touched that, at dawn, she is still there, the musicians playing while she is singing and drinking champagne with them, which of course is reminiscent of the Cuban band in Some Like It Hot. Pamela is humming “Senza Fine” (“Never Ending”) and non-diegetic music progressively takes over. That tune is of particular importance: it is heard all through the film, whether as source or background music, and constitutes its theme song, used for the opening and closing credits. At the very end of the movie, Wendell thus leaves Pamela on “Senza Fine,” which tends to suggest that they will meet again, probably as their parents always did. This motif is instrumental in giving the film its delicate nuances and lyrical aspect.
According to a witness of the car crash, Willie and Kate even died in music: they were found in each other’s arms, with the radio playing “Hello, Dolly” – which is not Italian but is nonetheless romantic. At the funeral, there is music again since the orchestra of the hotel has come to the cemetery to perform Willie and Kate’s favourite tune for the last time (Fig. 12). Billy Wilder explained: “I bought six Italian songs that will be the themes throughout the film. They will act as the base of the score. But the music mustn’t be invasive, as much as a certain number of songs naturally belong to the film (the orchestra, the funeral, etc.)” (Ciment 76). This makes Avanti! a perfect example of harmony between diegetic and non-diegetic music. The fact that source music sometimes becomes background music is, of course, not unique to Billy Wilder’s films; a typical case is The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) when the British prisoners arrive at the camp whistling “Colonel Bogey March,” and an accompaniment is then added and faded up. But Wilder’s originality lies in the fact that, in at least two of his movies, he does the opposite, and characters whistle the tune of a non-diegetic music they are not supposed to hear: it is the case of Captain Pringle (John Lund) in A Foreign Affair (1948) when he goes up to Erika’s (Marlene Dietrich) apartment – or what is left of it – and of the main character of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes when he leaves his brother’s (Christopher Lee) club. Oddly enough, it seems that Wilder never mentioned that specificity in his interviews and preferred to discuss the – more traditional – use of diegetic tunes in a film’s soundtrack. In particular, Wilder was proud of Kiss Me, Stupid where the pieces played at the piano “[become] the score of the movie” (Crowe 156). Gene D. Phillips indeed remarks that “[Previn] adroitly integrated into his score themes from the songs that Ira Gershwin had provided” (273). This feature is essential since it highlights the importance of music for the characters as well as Orville’s obsession with classical piano composers, and also with his own stupid songs. The same kind of process is at work in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes: when the irritated detective puts his fiddle away after having played
Fig. 11 | The gulf between Richard’s fantasies and reality in The Seven
Year Itch, 30:24/53:25. 20th Century Fox DVD and Cinémathèque française website.
one or two incorrect notes, an identical tune can be heard, but this time as orchestral music: Of central importance for the film [is] the score by Miklós Rózsa, which buil[ds] on a violin concerto written in 1953 for the virtuoso Jascha Heifetz that Wilder liked very much. Using a violin concerto [is] … an obvious choice for the violin amateur Holmes, and throughout the film, diegetic and non-diegetic violin music is used as a structuring device. (Gemünden 160) Thus, Wilder’s choices were, of course, based on his own tastes, and it is not surprising to find that he drew part of his inspiration from his favourite director when it
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The “Perfect Discords” of Billy Wilder’s Comedy Films
Fig. 12 | In Avanti!, the Neapolitan musicians adapt as easily as the Gypsies in Love in the Afternoon, 2:12:16. MGM DVD, 2003.
comes to the intermingling of source and background music. In Angel by Lubitsch, the romantic evening of Maria (Marlene Dietrich) and Anthony (Melvyn Douglas) starts in a restaurant where a Gypsy band plays for them. They then kiss in a private dining room to non-diegetic music, which reproduces that of the Gypsies. Later on, Maria performs that tune on the piano of her English manor with her husband Frederick (Herbert Marshall) by her side; Frederick is far from imagining what this particular piece of music means to his wife and in fact, it is as if she were openly cheating him by playing the piano. Likewise, when the husband calls the lover, his butler answers the telephone and then tells Anthony, but Anthony is precisely playing that tune on the piano and will never get the phone. The husband can hear the music, but Lubitsch chooses not to show his reaction; instead, he ends the scene with the subtlety of a fade to black preceded by a close-up on the lifted telephone handset, accompanied by the off-screen melody. In this Lubitsch movie, music is central in suggesting Maria and Anthony’s thoughts and emotions. In the same way, some of Wilder’s characters cannot resist the power of a particular tune, and its haunting presence acts as a
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kind of musical voice-over. When Sabrina comes back to Long Island, she sings “La Vie en Rose,” which she heard an accordionist play in a street of Paris. The lyrics of the song and the way she sings it are a sign that she will no longer live by proxy. This tune is also decisive in making Linus fall in love with her and is regularly heard as background music too, especially in the last scene of the film. In Love in the Afternoon, the same Audrey Hepburn cannot get “Fascination” out of her head. Just after having met Flannagan for the first time, she comes back home; very slow non-diegetic music takes the place of her humming, and dreamy Ariane has a “silent dance in the hallway with her cello” (Crowe 146), which is a visual, musical and poetic way of showing whom she is still thinking of. The young girl is thus completely “fascinated” by Flannagan and by the tune which becomes an essential component of the movie’s score: in the last shot, “the strains of ‘Fascination’ swell sublimely to a peak as Waxman marshals the full orchestra for the film’s finale” (Phillips 195). Interestingly, “Fascination” was “one of Wilder’s favourite songs from his student days in Vienna” (191). It is worth noticing that towards the end of Love in the Afternoon, Flannagan the playboy happens to realize
that he is in love, most likely for the first time in his life, as Gypsy music fills his suite: he is listening to a recording left by Ariane of her phony list of lovers over and over again while his private quartet is playing “Hot Paprika” in a loop. The repetitive pattern of the passage gives it great rhythm, all the more so as Frank and the musicians “pass the liquor cart back and forth, from room to room” (Crowe 345) in a kind of ballet; finally, the music stops since the Gypsies end the night as drunk as Frank is. Once again, Billy Wilder proves what he can do with a tune and no dialogue at all; Cameron Crowe notes that “most writers would have simply put [the leading man] at a bar, talking to a bartender. They are not Wilder” (146; 345). A tempo similar to that of “Hot Paprika” can be found in One, Two, Three (1961). The film has a very different aim since ideologies of all kinds – not love affairs – pervade it, and Wilder satirizes Communists as well as Capitalists. Incidentally, MacNamara (James Cagney), a Coca-Cola executive, explains how he “got loused up by Benny Goodman” (though indirectly) because the artist did not show up for a concert, which led to his own “[exile] to South America.” Thus, MacNamara wants to take his revenge, and he uses music to his own advantage. By manipulating stupid people, he intends to get what he regards as a well-deserved promotion. When he arrives at an East Berlin hotel to meet three Russian businessmen, Peripetchikoff (Leon Askin), Mishkin (Peter Capell), and Borodenko (Ralf Wolter), the general atmosphere is that of a tea dance: the orchestra, formed of seven elderly people, is playing “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” which the conductor (Frederick Hollander) is singing, rather solemnly, in German. First, his way of performing cannot compare with Audrey Hepburn’s lively version of that same song in Sabrina; second, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra happened to record it. The director’s sense of humor is also obvious in the presence of “a young man steering an older woman around the dance f loor”, “an implicit reference to the Hotel Eden, where Wilder squired elderly matrons around the ballroom in 1929” (Phillips 251). MacNamara promises to “give” the three Russians his gorgeous blonde secretary, Ingeborg (Lilo Pulver), if they can get Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholz) out of jail. So,
one of the Soviets becomes quite enthusiastic and asks for “more rock’n’roll.” The funny response of the musicians, who suddenly seem to be waking up, is the “Sabre Dance” by Khachaturian, which already opened the film and hinted at its tone and speed. The piece certainly has a fast pace, but has absolutely nothing to do with rock’n’roll. In fact, this scene is more than just a joke since Wilder simply hated rock music (Crowe 167-168; 215). As Ingeborg is dancing on the table (Fig. 13), Borodenko bangs on it with his shoe in rhythm – another allusion, this time a political one, to Khrushchev who is said to have pounded his shoe in protest on his desk at the United Nations. Because the walls of the room are trembling, a big picture of Khrushchev precisely falls out of its frame and reveals a portrait of Stalin that had been left underneath. The three Communists are going to be corrupted in the same way as the three Comrades (Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart and Alexander Granach) in Lubitsch’s Ninotchka (1939) when they visit Paris, stay in a luxury hotel and have three girls and an orchestra come to their suite – which is not
Fig. 13 | Music is an essential ingredient to fool the Russian characters
in One, Two, Three. pinterest.fr.
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The “Perfect Discords” of Billy Wilder’s Comedy Films
surprising since Wilder co-wrote the screenplays of all his films and also that of Ninotchka. Earlier on in One, Two, Three, we discover, in MacNamara’s office, “a cuckoo clock featur[ing] a flag-waving miniature figure of Uncle Sam while playing ‘Yankee Doodle’ every hour on the hour” (Phillips 250). The striking clock is a running gag and makes one of the Russians furious at what he calls “cheap propaganda,” but above all, this “subversive” tune will be the driving factor behind Piffl’s arrest by East German authorities. Indeed, the young Communist, totally unaware of the real nature of the clock, accepts it as a wedding present from the unscrupulous MacNamara. This is just the beginning of Piffl’s nightmare since the Stasi interrogates him using an American novelty song as an instrument of torture. Psychological torture turns into physical one: the young man is exhausted and shouts he wants to sleep. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” becomes even more unbearable when the LP is played at an EP speed, and Piffl eventually confesses that he is an American spy although he is not. And yet, beyond its absurdity in the choice of the song and in the exaggerated effects it produces, the scene in fact is not that funny; ironically, since the film was released, the US Army itself has been accused of employing musical torture on certain occasions. In any case, it seems that Wilder had never gone so far in using music for practical reasons, and in expressing his distaste for rock and pop at the same time. Thus, it is not surprising to see “Itsy Bitsy…” associated with such suffering, while in some of the director’s other movies, the recurrence of tunes like “Fascination” or “La Vie en Rose” will also make a character “surrender,” but in a much more positive and pleasant way.
CONCLUSION To the question: “What should a score do for a film?” Billy Wilder used to answer: “It should be invisible, of course. Sometimes not” (Crowe 214). This remark could appear to be self-contradictory; and yet, it perfectly summarizes the director’s own vision of the role of music in a movie. With the exception of Irma la Douce (1963), originally a stage musical adapted into a film with hardly any songs left (Arens 51), Wilder’s works generally include 48 Vol.04, No.01 | Spring 2019
relevant diegetic tunes. In particular, most of his comedy films seem to be immersed in a constant flow of music that becomes an integral part of the story, influencing the characters’ decisions or expressing their intimate thoughts: just like the editing, source music turns to be “invisible” and nonetheless vital in giving the film its distinctive tone and color, and making the audiences like it and remember it. Jazzman Matty Malneck, “who served as musical adviser on [Love in the Afternoon], said Wilder … knew how to integrate a song into the action, so that it heightened a moment” (Phillips 191). And indeed, the director was certainly more musical than many of his awkward characters: thanks to his intuition, inner sense of rhythm and dexterity at playing with a tune, he was able to articulate the different movements of a film. If Wilder mainly used his favourite style of music, he also enjoyed introducing what he considered stupid songs as grotesque counterpoints. Born in Austria-Hungary from Jewish parents, he spent many years in Vienna and lived in Berlin and Paris too before immigrating to Hollywood. This rich cultural background probably accounts for such eclecticism in the choice of source music, Wilder’s comedy films being clearly a universal language able to cross national, cultural, and ethnic boundaries.
WORKS CITED Angel. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Paramount Pictures, 1937.
Love in the Afternoon. Directed by Billy Wilder, Allied Artists Pictures Corporation, 1957.
The Apartment. Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1960.
Michot, Julie. Billy Wilder et la musique d’ écran: filmer l’ invisible, Éditions et Presses Universitaires de Reims, 2017.
Arens, Katherine. “Syncope, Syncopation: Musical Hommages to Europe.” Billy Wilder, Movie-Maker: Critical Essays on the Films, edited by Karen McNally, McFarland, 2011, pp. 41-55. Armstrong, Richard. Billy Wilder, American Film Realist, McFarland, 2004.
Ninotchka. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939. One, Two, Three. Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1961.
Avanti! Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1972.
Phillips, Gene D. Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder, University Press of Kentucky, 2010.
The Bridge on the River Kwai. Directed by David Lean, Horizon Pictures, 1957.
The Prince and the Showgirl. Directed by Laurence Olivier, Warner Bros., 1957.
Buddy Buddy. Directed by Billy Wilder, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1981.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1970.
Chandler, Charlotte. Nobody’s Perfect: Billy Wilder: A Personal Biography, Pocket Books, 2003.
Sabrina. Directed by Billy Wilder, Paramount Pictures, 1954.
Ciment, Michel. “Apropos Avanti!” Billy Wilder: Interviews, edited by Robert Horton, University Press of Mississippi, 2001, pp. 70-80.
The Seven Year Itch. Directed by Billy Wilder, 20th Century Fox, 1955.
Crowe, Cameron. Conversations with Wilder, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 1999.
The Shop Around the Corner. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1940. Simsolo, Noël. Billy Wilder, Cahiers du cinéma, 2011.
The Emperor Waltz. Directed by Billy Wilder, Paramount Pictures, 1948.
Some Like It Hot. Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1959.
A Foreign Affair. Directed by Billy Wilder, Paramount Pictures, 1948.
That Uncertain Feeling. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Ernst Lubitsch Productions, 1941.
The Fortune Cookie. Directed by Billy Wilder,The Mirisch Corporation, 1966.
Trouble in Paradise. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Paramount Pictures, 1932.
Gemünden, Gerd. A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder’s American Films, Berghahn Books, 2008.
Wilder, Billy, and Helmut Karasek. “Et tout le reste est folie”: Mémoires, Robert Laffont, 1993.
Irma la Douce. Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1963. Kiss Me, Stupid. Directed by Billy Wilder, The Mirisch Corporation, 1964. Lally, Kevin. Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder, Henry Holt & Co., 1996.
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Embracing the Cinema of Momentary Sensation:
An Interview with Genre Filmmaker Mickey Keating BY PAUL RISKER | University of Wolverhampton
Fig. 1 | Mickey Keating. The Hollywood Reporter, 2013.
“The worst thing an artist can do is repeat themselves” says writer and director Mickey Keating. It was less than a decade ago when the fifty-four minute home invasion drama, Ultra Violence (2011), sparked what has since been a creatively productive spell for the young filmmaker. Across a five-year span beginning with Ritual in 2013, Keating wrote and directed five features: Pod (2015), Darling (2015), Carnage Park (2016), and Psychopaths (2017). He is currently in pre-production on his next feature, Crooks. While his filmography is one of contrasting tones of genre, violence remains a prevalent characteristic running through his work. The horror film Ritual begins in the aftermath of a home invasion, albeit a motel room, following a violent act of self-defence, as Lovely (Lisa Summerscales) kills a man who has attempted
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to kidnap her. Meanwhile, in the psychological horror Darling, Lauren Ashley Carter plays the caretaker of an old house, whose predecessor committed suicide by throwing herself off the balcony. Under Darling’s care, the house becomes the scene of a number of murders, and she becomes trapped in the fateful cycle of self-harm. Carnage Park and Psychopaths only see a continuation of violence, from the former’s protagonist caught in the cross hairs of a sniper after a bank heist goes awry, a nod to the films of Sam Peckinpah, to the latter’s tale of a group of psychopaths encountering one another in a single night. In conversation with MSJ, Keating (Fig. 1) discusses cinema within our “disposable society,” the moment in cinematic storytelling, and the need to rediscover the cinema of the 1970s.
PR: Why filmmaking as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment? MK: Well, it’s funny because I never wanted to do anything else from when I was very little, and so the first thing that really hit for me was Indiana Jones, which I was obsessed with. I begged to see The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) when I was six years old and from that minute on I wanted to be Indiana Jones, and, as I grew up, I just loved characters, and I would also draw a lot. Then one day it just kind of clicked; I found this old video camera that hardly worked in the attic and so we started filming stuff. I remember filming my first movie and the video camera was so old it broke, and I was devastated [laughs]. And feeling that level of devastation, I just knew that I wanted to make more movies, and it has been crazy right from then on.
PR: Have your experiences as a filmmaker influenced the way you watch films as a spectator? And how has the practical experience of directing a feature film impacted your own appreciation of films and their filmmakers? MK: I feel like making movies is its own entity, but still, in my approach to this day, I always try to watch films as a spectator. Although I know how fake blood and effects work because I have done them myself, so to view them as a spectator and then say, “Well, why don’t my films look like that?” or “This is really inspiring for me, how can I invoke that kind of emotion in my own films?” That’s always the interesting challenge and additionally, from that stand point, I’ve always been obsessed with movies. I don’t have a back up plan or another hobby, and so I view them with the approach of saying from the get go, “If this is what I want to do and these are the emotions that I can feel while watching someone else’s film, I have to master these myself and I have to train.” And I have to think about why I think a movie like Boogie Nights (1997) (Fig. 2) looks so incredible – okay, I have to learn about those lenses. Why I think Hitchcock is so effective to me – okay, I will need to learn all about the cinematic language. And the thing that’s such a thrill to me is even being exposed to the filmmaking process, and the dramas that beleaguer that, whenever I can find a movie that rekindles that magic and makes me feel twenty two years later that I still love cinema: its almost like a drug. And that’s what you are always searching for, I feel [laughs].
Fig. 2 | P.T. Anderson on the set of Boogie Nights. Huck Magazine, 2015.
PR: Looking back on the way in which we experience films when we are young compared to adulthood, there was a lack of a tendency to over-intellectualize in which we felt a movie in a way that age deprives us of. While we can reminisce and search for that feeling to attempt to reconnect with it, this defines those formative years of discovering cinema as a special period. Would you agree that our relationship with cinema evolves from a feeling and sensory experience, to one that becomes intellectualized with age? MK: Oh absolutely, and that’s why I think going back to that magic of when I find a movie, and when you make your own films; I feel there’s a separation that you can see all your fingerprints, brush strokes on your painting, right? And it’s magical when you can find a movie that doesn’t make you think of that in that technical way and doesn’t make you say, “Oh, well that’s a really good effect,” or “Oh, I’m completely captivated.” When you are young watching films because you have no comprehension of how many camera set ups there are, and how much time it takes to light a scene, it’s this very pure sense. Nowadays in big budget movies we try to capture that magic and sensation, and I feel like we run the risk of movies becoming very face-value, and more shallow, in a sense, by trying to capture that magic. And I do think that there is a value in creating films that almost require you to open them up more, that require you to unpack them. A great example I just saw is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (2017). You sit there watching that, and it just grabs you, and you realise that you need to watch this film again because there is so much to unpack.
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Even though it is a simple story, there are a lot of things to think about and things that you want to see again. So I feel the best case scenario for a movie is to present itself in multiple ways to even the most jaded of us film watchers, so it forces you to revisit it again. I feel that in the disposable art culture that exists today, that’s a requirement for movies to have a longer shelf life.
PR: Do you think there was that necessity in cinema forty or fifty years ago, or would you attribute that to a fairly new way of thinking? MK: Yeah, absolutely. It all started in the 80s – at least for American cinema - the concept of creating something that is not just a film, but is also a product and a way to draw in the largest swathe of audience possible to sell your commerce. Since the 80s American cinema, and there have been great movements especially in independent cinema, but I feel cinema has been more geared towards, as [Michael] Haneke says, that it’s almost a cattle factory. You just bring the audience in and shove them out, and then that’s really it. We see that in the way I feel like social media culture can celebrate a movie doing horribly at the box office, or getting terrible Rotten Tomatoes reviews, and it has almost gone beyond cinema to become a spectator’s sport. So that’s a bummer, and, slowly but surely, we’ll get back to that world of 70s-style attempts to make sensational cinema. I just watched that documentary by Wim Wenders, Room 666 (1982) where he asks filmmakers about television versus cinema. [Rainer Werner] Fassbinder brought up a great point where it’s like there seems to not be this willingness to embrace the cinema of sensation, that kind of movement in cinema. I hope we get back to that because it is an important and interesting style of filmmaking for me, personally.
PR: Continuing this thread of discussion, in the context of your body of work, how do you perceive the way your filmmaking or storytelling relates to your desire for this type of cinema? MK: Well, it’s funny because, as a filmmaker, I am very intrigued by situation more so than broad stories. It’s almost like I equate it to you cut the brakes on the car and it doesn’t matter where the car’s going, or why it’s going to wherever it is. But you cut the brakes on the car and you
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watch the chaos that happens inside [laughs], and you infold it like that. So inherently what fascinates me throughout my films is this idea of watching what happens in a moment. I keep dodging them recently, but I just caught up with these Marvel movies like Wonder Woman (2017) and Logan (2017). While they are technically well made, it’s just like an interesting scene and then a scene explaining why it’s important to the context of the story, and then an interesting scene and more exposition. I just get so bored by that because — how do I describe it? You are not watching a situation, you are watching characters being hurtled from one scene to the next in order to achieve something that is a greater context. I am fascinated by moments, by behaviour, by the bad decisions that we make [laughs]: those very frantic moments.
PR: The shower scene within the context of Psycho (1960) recalls the cinematic form – a frame, a scene, a camera movement at a time. Film is fundamentally a series of moments combined, and as much as cinema may often try to dramatise the every day, storytelling can be equally powerful when it honours the natural ebb and flow between drama and those mundane moments that are typical of everyday life. MK: It definitely is, and that’s what intrigues me. I read an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson and when he thinks back about movies, he never remembers the plot of a film, but the moments that incite this emotional feeling within him. That’s an interesting way to look at it, and I totally agree with you. It’s all about moments, and my problem with a lot of cinema [is that] - they are such a slave to the overall context of the story that all of these individual things get lost. And that’s why a filmmaker like Scorsese is so interesting because you almost feel it’s like watching a boulder or a snowball rolling downhill getting bigger and bigger. You don’t know where it’s going to go or where it’s going to end up, but because that’s life and it’s comprised of individual moments where you can be making tomato sauce and also seeing helicopters, he embraces that. To just follow, like you said, those building blocks and seeing where the characters go on this journey is exciting to me, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with each one of my films. Tarantino talks about writing and how he never outlines, he just follows the character from one individual moment
Fig. 3 | Darling, 1:07:51. Glass Eye Pix, 2015.
to the next, and I think that’s very appealing because then you get individual bursts of emotion and surprises from the character, as opposed to saying, “Alright, because it’s page 17 we have to have some plot.”
PR: Each of your films, from one to the next, has a different feel that makes you an interesting filmmaker to watch. This may be perhaps a consequence of your approach to not focus on overall plot, but to focus first and foremost on a moment that the film is then formed around. MK: I think that’s a good thing, and the worst thing an artist can do is repeat themselves. There are things that have always intrigued me and exist throughout my movies, but I love cinema so much that there are a lot of different films and stories that I want to tell that are completely different from one another. When I look at a character or actor from one film to the next, they are almost unidentifiable. They blend in, and that’s exciting because it’s like saying, “Oh my God, that’s the same man or woman that is playing all these different crazy characters.” That can also apply to the work of a filmmaker too,
and for me, first and foremost, the art should speak for itself more than the filmmaker. Growing up with a generation of, particularly, horror filmmakers, I feel like horror got into this bad habit of directors being bigger than their movies, and talking up their movies way more than their movies were delivering. The idea of becoming a celebrity director, not just in horror, became a big notion in general in the 90s and 00s. At the end of the day, that’s why I don’t do directors’ commentaries and “behind the scenes” because, when I die, my movies will still hopefully be in the ether, and they are the ones that should do the talking — not so much me.
PR: With Darling (2015) being the only film you have shot in black and white, how does this change how you consider telling the story, if at all? MK: What was so interesting was when I wrote Darling (Fig. 3), I could only see the film in black and white, and I feel like it was never a world that was going to be in colour
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Fig. 4 | Psycopaths , 0:40:47. Glass Eye Pix, 2017.
because that’s not how I saw it; that’s not how I wrote it. All the movies that I was inspired by weren’t in colour except for Robert Altman’s Images (1972) and That Cold Day in the Park (1969). But beyond those films, that’s how I wanted to tell that story. I feel like a lot of filmmaking is prepped, but a lot of it is that instinct. And to go against your gut instinct, or to compromise and not film it the way you see it in your mind’s eye, then it is really not worth it. So the only way it dictated the aesthetic was that if I didn’t do it, then the movie probably wouldn’t have been made [laughs]. But with each film, it’s the way that I see it, and I create these scripts, and when I go through the storyboards, first and foremost, I storyboard everything, and the movie tells me how it is supposed to be. I never think about the storyboards before the end and it unfolds in front of me. Whether it is inspired by what I’m watching at the time or what I want to do, or things that I have never been able to do before that I’ve always wanted to, filmmaking for me is a very organic process in that regard; you go with your gut and hopefully people like it [laughs].
PR: Would you describe the filmmaking process as a journey of discovery in which you discover the film in the final cut? But, specifically, moving from Darling to Psychopaths (2017), I’d describe the latter as a psychedelic film that has a chaotic feel. Even if you try to apply some form of order to it, the film will continually try to defy you, and, if there is order, it is order not out of, but within the chaos. MK: First and foremost that’s what we wanted Psychopaths (Fig. 4) to be, and I think that’s why people are either 54 Vol.04, No.01 | Spring 2019
really onboard with it, or they are infuriated by it [laughs]. So I feel it’s a two part thing. All of the movies that I have made, I’ve had a strong idea of what I wanted going in. So I storyboard, we pick out the music, but then what happens and that is so exciting for me is just to be able to let the actors have all these ideas, and have as much preparation as possible to then be able to find them with the actors as we are making it. Then, when we go into editing, I definitely have an idea, and my editor from the minute I have an inception of an idea for the film, she’s the first to know about it, and so that way when we start cutting, we say the film tells us when it’s done. A great example is Darling, which we found a lot of in the edit. What I learned is you can write a script with the best intentions, but when you are shooting the movie, happy accidents occur. Some bad accidents occur, and you cut them out, but happy accidents too. We embrace that, so going in with a battle plan, we also do something very unusual — we cut out of order. That way we cut the scenes we are very excited about first and then find ways to build up to that, and so the way a film builds up to itself in a script can differ from the edit. We could just have an assembly cut of exactly how it is written within three days of the movie being wrapped, but what we have fun with is letting the film tell us how it is supposed to be. We then screen it for people, and we don’t necessarily ask for too many notes on how to change things, but, when you watch a film with other people, you really get a sense of where they’re squirming and where they’re not paying attention. You feel in your own self where the movie is lagging, and so yeah, that embrace of letting the movie tell you it’s done is something we abide by.
PR: Darling and Psychopaths are films that are made in the edit, whereas Pod (2015) took shape more during the writing and shooting phases. Carnage Park (2016) may lie somewhere in the middle, taking shape in each phase. How accurate is this interpretation? MK: Well, it’s always case-by-case. I feel like Darling and Psychopaths are very interesting in terms of the edit because with Darling, and a little bit but more so with Psychopaths, you know that eventually she’s going to throw herself off the balcony, or these psychopaths are all going to come together or not. So that creates a lot of freedom
in the context to jump back and forth and tell the story that way: to be a little bit looser with the narrative and to just follow this journey; whereas, it’s actually interesting with Carnage Park because that movie was the film that narrative-wise, you knew that they were going to come to a head, and it was going to be a cat-and-mouse game. But that was the one that changed the most from edit to script because the script was written in a very non-linear fashion, and then, when we started editing, scenes started moving up, and ideas in the script that were non-linear, looped back on itself or were cut, or readjusted. So yeah, it’s usually a case by case, but Psychopaths, particularly with the edit, was a long cut because it was all about finding the pacing and jumping back and forth between all these characters. I wish I had a set guidelines to all the films, but the crazy thing about art is that it’s always different [laughs], and that’s part of the reason I think it’s so exhilarating: because every movie is a different experience. Every movie has its highs and its lows, and sometimes you feel beat up and sometimes you feel ecstatic, but it’s always that journey that is the most exciting to me.
PR: Is the fascination with the creative process, whether it be film, art or music, the fact that it is learning a language which will never fully reveal its secrets to us, but one which we can’t help but pursue? MK: Absolutely, and it is always chasing that muse because why do some of the masters of filmmaking, Brian De Palma, or even Hitchcock, to an extent, or Billy Wilder, how do they clearly master the art form throughout their career, of how to tell a great movie, and then why do they sometimes have their Raising Cain (1992) or something like that? And so it is like chasing that drug of making the perfect movie, of knowing how to speak the language, but also finding the happy accidents, catching the lightning in the bottle and allowing your life to not interfere with the very organic process. It’s a traumatic experience and I’m probably going to drop dead at sixty [laughs] because it’s very difficult, and Altman said it was like making a sandcastle. You build up a sandcastle and then the ocean comes and knocks it down, but for some reason you keep building sandcastles. That excitement
and that exhilaration of when it’s right and when it works is everything, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world. And that’s the endless pursuit of the muse — I feel that is art in general.
PR: I recall interviewing Terence Davies who spoke about every artist’s need for a reaction, which can be a painful experience because, as Martin Scorsese has spoken about, you can never predict their response. MK: There are two ways to look at it because if you make a movie exactly for every single audience member, you are fucked. I’m sorry, excuse me for my language, but you know you’ll never please everybody, and I feel my inclination and sensibility as a storyteller and artist is that I am convinced that they don’t know what they want. They know that they’ve seen a poster and a trailer and a title, but they don’t know what to get out of the film until the film shows itself to them. So I think my sensibilities are very inclined to say, “Well I’m going to present this very strong concise vision to you and then we are going to talk about it. Whether you love it or whether you hate it, that doesn’t matter, the fact that you’ve seen it, that’s the most important part. And your interpretation of the conversation I’m trying to present, that’s the most exhilarating thing for me.” So that’s why I think it goes back to the idea that the worst thing a director can do is to go into a film without having a vision or for the wrong reasons, whether it’s for money, or whether it’s because this will win the audience or be a blockbuster, box office hit. That’s the wrong intention. If you go into a film just to be able to say that you are going to make this because this is something you have to say to an audience and show people: that’s when effective filmmaking comes through. Now sometimes the thing that you want to say, or the way you are feeling in terms of this part of your life, it doesn’t gear up with what people are feeling. Maybe it’s too cynical; maybe it’s too experimental. It can be any number of reasons why. But to go in with that pure intention like David Lynch said when Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) tanked, “Yeah, people didn’t like it, but I’m very proud of it. This was my vision and hopefully people will revisit it.” And what happened? Now everyone is claiming it is a masterpiece [laughs].
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Embracing the Cinema of Momentary Sensation
PR: When I interviewed British filmmaker Carol Morley for The Falling (2014), she explained, “You take it 90 percent of the way, and it is the audience that finishes it. So the audience by bringing themselves: their experiences, opinions and everything else to a film is what completes it.” If the audience are the ones that complete it, does it follow that there is a transfer in ownership?
to the distributor, I never want to see those shots ever again. All I want to do is make a new movie with better shots, with more striking imagery because you find you’ve grown in the process. The things that you were very proud about on day three, now you want to make a new movie, to make that film I just made look like a postage stamp in comparison [laughs].
MK: Absolutely. I always equate it to pushing a baby bird
PR: Is that desire a necessity to propel you forward and counter the danger of becoming stagnant, in which you make films because it has become a natural function, as opposed to a deeper motivation?
out of the nest. The baby bird flies and it lives in the world on its own, and, so yeah, I really do feel that way. I also feel in terms of this art form, making a film is a hugely collaborative process from the very beginning, so you also have to collaborate with the audience and the film you make doesn’t always have to make everyone feel good, but, ideally, you are supposed to incite some sort of emotion to your film, whether it’s good or it makes you feel bummed out. But, at the end of the day, it is such an expensive art form, and it requires so many people that anyone who says that they don’t make a film for an audience is a liar because, otherwise, you’d just make your film, and then put it in a draw and forget about it. So you have to be able to make a movie with that intention, that goal, and that desire. And, as a filmmaker, I want my movies to play in a movie theatre. I want people to sit and watch them, as many as possible, and so that’s why I make them. Can my movies infuriate people? Sure, but I think that’s also the contract you have with an audience — this might not turn out the way you think it is going to, but we are going to have a dialogue.
PR: Filmmaker Christoph Behl remarked to me, “You are evolving, and, after the film, you are not the same person as you were before.” Do you perceive there to be a transformative aspect to the creative process for you, personally? MK: In a sense, going into a film, I have this arsenal of music, film references and shots that you want and hope you can get. But at the other end of it, you come out seeing what all of this mass of inspiration has funnelled down into. What is so fascinating to me is that whenever I make a movie and we start cutting — like the first days of shooting when we get a shot we love and it’s like this is the best shot I’ve ever shot, but by the time we are ready to deliver
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MK: Absolutely, and that’s going back to what I said that the worst thing a filmmaker can do is repeat themselves. I know a lot of filmmakers that have one film that is a kind of moderate success, and they’re like the guys who hang out at the high school football games after they’ve graduated talking about the glory days. If you truly love cinema, there’s an endless well of inspiration from cinema around the world, and you start to realise very early on, “Oh my God, if this is what I think is good how will I ever become like John Ford, or how can I ever become willing to embrace the cinematheque like what Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut did?” I think there is a big difference between a filmmaker who just wants to make as many things as possible and is always onto the next project and doesn’t give the current project enough care, and then there are the filmmakers that once they’ve made the film that they’ve fought... It’s like a game of golf; you always want to improve yourself. There’s always the way your craft can be better, and the way you can incite an even stronger reaction from the audience. Will you ever be perfect? Will you ever be the greatest filmmaker of all time? No, of course it’s impossible, and for me that’s the fun of it - what can I do to better my craft and my art form? You don’t stop at one painting; you try to make your next one look like a vast improvement, and that’s what’s so fascinating having made five films now — because it’s not a linear progression. I don’t think some people love my second film more than my fourth film, and some people love my third film the most. So it’s fascinating to keep trying to catch that dragon, I guess.
WORKS CITED Darling. Directed by Mickey Keating, performances by Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, Brian Morvant, Larry Fessenden, and Helen Rogers. Glass Eye Pix, 26 Sept. 2015. Amazon Prime, www.amazon.com/ Darling-Lauren-Ashley-Carter/dp/B01DTMHBF2.
Psychopaths. Directed by Mickey Keating, performances by Ashley Bell, James Landry Hébert, Mark Kassen, Angela Trimbur, and Ivana Shein. Glass Eye Pix, 20 Apr. 2017. Amazon Prime, www.amazon.com/gp/ video/detail/B0773PHWN4.
HQ, Huck. “Five Things You Should Know about Director Paul Thomas Anderson.” Huck Magazine, 18 Feb. 2015, www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/film2/top-pics/five-things-know-director-paul-thomasanderson/.
Sun, Rebecca. “Circle of Confusion Signs Ritual Writer-Director.” Hollywood Reporter, 20 Aug. 2013, www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/circle-confusion-signs-ritual-writer-609800.
MISE- EN - SCÈNE
Five Shots, Twice Disappeared VISUAL ESSAYS
The Handmaid’s Tale
BY ELLEN GRABINER | Simmons University
ith his exquisite cinematography, Colin Watkinson, award-winning director of photography for The Handmaid’s Tale, engenders an experience in the viewer that redoubles that of the fictional women of Gilead. Watkinson’s penchant for tight shots, temporal shifts, diffuse light and symmetry work together in the service of this aim.
It is in the Hulu series’ second season, however, that Watkinson’s compelling vision not only stuns the viewer with its beauty, but embodies the raw expressive power of visual narrative. Episode Two, “Unwomen,” offers an approximately ten-minute long sequence, broken only by a short interlude, completely sans dialogue. A now pregnant June hides in the abandoned home of The Boston Globe. In silence and half-light, she explores her new digs. Amid a warren of cubicles, June finds remnants: a collage, a mug, a Friends DVD; a single, woman’s suede high-heeled shoe, lying on its side on the floor. Fingering each artifact, June smiles. Continuing her reconnaissance, she clambers over presses, long stilled, and the serried issues of The Globe that lead off into the darkness. When June locates a light switch, the Globe’s presses are illuminated. But that is not all. Once a bastion of intellect, in Gilead’s hands The Globe offices have become a slaughterhouse. We see rows of nooses hanging from steel girders and beyond them, a bullet-riddled wall. June fingers the gouged-out holes, falls to her knees, and weeps. She glances down to find the twin of the high-heeled shoe she had stepped over earlier.
1 My video essay, The Handmaid’s Tale: Under His Eye, which focuses on the performative aspects of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel is now available in the Vol. 04 No. 01, Spring 2019 online issue of Mise-en-scéne: The Journal of Film & Visual Narration. Watch the video essay associated with this feature on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/OJo1GXE20Uw
Spring2018 2019 0000 58 Vol.04, No.01 ||Sping Spring 2019
Melanie Robson Ellen Grabiner
After an interval that shifts the focus to the storyline of Emily in the colonies, we are returned to June, later that evening, bathed in the light of a laptop on which the DVD of Friends is playing. Suddenly, June jumps up. Retracing her steps, she fills a box with mementos: a treasured baseball, a candle, a stuffed animal. June affixes photos and posters to the wall, obliterating the bullet holes. We are zoomed in on a pair of sunglasses, some dried flowers. Watkinson then shifts us to a bird’s-eye-view of a shrine in the making. Between a mug and a chia pet stands the lone suede shoe June found at the base of the wall. She gently places its matching other besides it, making whole what had been brutally ripped asunder. In flickering candlelight, June utters the only words of the entire vignette, a prayer. “God…please send your holy angel to watch over this place.” Watkinson, zooming out from the altar at which June prays, offers one of his signature symmetrical shots, shown here. Twin nooses are the dark echo of the shoes June reunited. Here in his penultimate shot, Watkinson juxtaposes horror against hope, signified by June’s centrality, and the soft pink light surrounding her makeshift memorial, obscuring all but the barest trace of the blood we know was loosed.
MISE- EN - SCÈNE
MSJ SPECIAL FEATURE: UNDERGRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP
From Innocence to Experience:
On the Significance of Sansa Stark's Costumes in HBO's Game of Thrones BY CHANTELE FRANZ & YASMEEN F. KUMAR | Kwantlen Polytechnic University
ABSTRACT HBO’s Game of Thrones is widely regarded as one of the most ambitious and sophisticated series in the history of television. Based upon the enormously popular historical/fantasy novels of George R.R. Martin, the series is admired for its epic scale and for its elaborate world-building. HBO’s Game of Thrones is praised for its spectacular set designs and its skilful blending of CGI and location shots to create an instantly recognizable visual style. From the opening credit sequence to the richly textured and nuanced representations of the fictional worlds of Essos, Pentos, and Westeros, the mise-en-scène in Game of Thrones has played a significant role in winning the support of die-hard fans and scholars alike. To date, there have been more than a half-dozen monographs and/or collections of critical essays published on the landmark television series. Our essay aims to add to this commentary by exploring the significance of costume design in Game of Thrones. Inherently, costume design serves multiple functions. On one level, costumes help lend a degree of realism and historical accuracy to the characters and settings. They also help to define specific characters both as individuals and as members of specific social classes or groups. However, costume can also visually foreground narrative arcs and themes. This is the case for Sansa Stark. Through a dramatic transformation in costuming, the series showcases her character’s growth from innocence to experience.
“When costumes and make-up act as narrative markers, their change or lack of change becomes a crucial way to understand a character and the development of the story” (Corrigan and White 57).
s the cheif costume designer for HBO's Game of Thrones, Michele Clapton has contributed to the unique visual style of the series. From the distinctive costumes of the Wildlings, the White Walkers, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied, to the sigils, costumes, and armour of the Starks, the Lannisters and the other noble houses of Westeros and Essos, Clapton’s costume designs are rooted in careful research into the clothing worn by men and women from all social classes during the Middle Ages. The costumes used in the series serve several functions. At one level, they help lend a degree of realism and historical accuracy to the characters and settings portrayed
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in the series. They also help to define specific characters both as individuals and as members of specific social classes or groups. The costumes frequently foreground narrative arcs, and along with them, important developments in characters that occur over the course of individual seasons. Finally, the costumes serve at times to draw our attention to important themes in the series. One theme of note in Game of Thrones is the fall from innocence to experience. The Oxford English Dictionary defines innocence as “freedom from sin, guilt or moral wrong in general” (OED). Miriam Ticktin expands on this definition by noting that the emphasis falls on absence of experience, thus making innocence “a state of moral and epistemic purity” (578). To be exposed to any opposing and potentially depraved state, such as knowledge, guilt, or sexuality, would tarnish the pure space that defines innocence and thus signifies an irreversible entrance into understanding and consequently, experience. This theme
Chantele Franz & Yasmeen F. Kumar
is closely related to another in the series: namely, that of the decline of the chivalric code of honour. The qualities associated with this code include “courage, honour, justice, and a readiness to help the weak” (OED). For George R. R. Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones novels, the Wars of the Roses symbolize a breakdown of the chivalric code of honour that had unified both political and literary culture during the High Middle Ages. As Martin writes, Chivalry in the Middle Ages was among the most idealistic codes of conduct the human race has ever come up with for a warrior. These are men who were sworn to defend the weak. And then you look at the reality, and their brutality was extreme. (qtd. in Johnston 142) More than any other character in the series, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) embodies both of these central themes: the fall from innocence to experience and the gap between the idealism and reality associated with the chivalric code of honour. In the case of Sansa, costumes are used to draw our attention to significant transformations in her character that occur over the course of the series. More importantly, Sansa’s changing costumes are used to make visible her character development and her embodiment of these themes. Sansa’s appearance in the first four seasons of Game of Thrones is relatively stable, reflecting both her innocence and her continued attachment to chivalric and romantic ideals. It is not until season five that we begin to see costuming used to foreground a more dramatic development in her character. The roles of innocence and experience in the character arc of Sansa are not only clearly outlined, but they also have extremely profound effects on the character’s growth into adulthood. As Sophie Turner, the actress who plays Sansa Stark, observes, “Sansa is naive and quite vulnerable at the start. She’s a complete romantic and lives in a fantasy world” (Nguyen). This is evident from the moment we first see Sansa in the scene in which the Starks and Lannisters meet for the first time (Season One, Episode One 00:25:44). In contrast to her younger sister, Arya (Maisie Williams), she is clearly enamored with the pomp and ceremony of the meeting of the two noble families, and with the trappings of power and status. More to the point, she is already
infatuated with young Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and imagines one day becoming his queen. Moreover, she remains infatuated with Joffrey long after she has witnessed his pettiness and cruelty. Joffrey’s confrontation with the butcher’s boy, Arya, and Arya’s direwolf in “The Kingsroad” (00:44:40) serves as the first indication of his cruelty and maliciousness. Intruding on the children’s play sword fight, Joffrey punishes the butcher’s boy for disarming Arya with a wooden sword by inflicting a gash on the boy’s cheek with a real sword. Yet, when Arya’s direwolf reacts in defense to Joffrey’s aggression by biting his arm, Joffrey cowers behind noble pretense and demands a trial to punish those responsible for his injury. In this way, Sansa witnesses Joffrey’s maliciousness firsthand. In the trial that follows, she sees even more evidence of his failings as a prince (00:48:20). When he demands retribution for his injured pride and Sansa is pressed for her account of the incident, she sputters “I don’t know. I don’t remember. It all happened so fast.” In this short scene, she betrays her sister and re-affirms her support for Joffrey despite his cowardice. Ironically, Sansa’s silence leads to the death of her own direwolf, aptly named “Lady”, despite her wolf not being responsible for Joffrey’s injury. She is willfully blind to reality, preferring instead to cling to her fantasies of honour, decorum, and chivalry. Sansa’s innocence is reflected in her clothing and her general appearance. During the first few episodes of the first season, she is dressed in long flowing gowns that are more elaborate than typical Winterfell dresses. As opposed to the dark, earth tone garments worn by other women in her family, Sansa usually wears a lighter pastel blue. In a sea of black, grey, and navy fabric, the lighter, airy colour immediately stands out, drawing attention to the
It is clear that Sansa has learned from her experiences in King’s Landing that the chivalric ideals that had meant so much to her as a girl are far from the brutal realities of life as a young noblewoman. MISE- EN - SCÈNE
From Innocence to Experience
juxtaposition of Sansa’s idealism with the pragmatism of the other Starks (Fig. 1). By comparison, Sansa’s dresses also seem to radiate a metallic, silver sheen. The pairing of pastel blue and metallic undertones not only creates a more feminine aesthetic, but it also bears more resemblance to the jewel tone palette of the dresses worn by the ladies of the court in King’s Landing. As a result, the contrast makes her garment seem more ornate than the ones worn by other Northerners, particularly her family. In keeping with an ornate, feminine look, Sansa’s hair is impeccably styled, often in complex braids such as waterfall braids, fishtail braids, and French braids (Fig. 2). The time and effort Sansa spends on achieving a pristine, feminine look is indicative of her vanity, which is evident in the frequent shots of her scrutinizing her image in mirrors. As Valerie Estelle Frankel notes, such shots suggest “that she is considering herself as an object. Will her new gown please the men in her life? Does she look pretty enough?” (Frankel 100). Such statements reinforce the idea of her vanity. Frankel quotes archetype scholar Wind Hughes on the figure of the Maiden: “She may be the dutiful daughter, her self-worth linked to pleasing others in order to receive their approval, [but] she has not developed
a strong sense of self” (qtd. in Frankel 100). In this regard, Sansa completely embodies the maiden archetype, completely, especially in her insecurities regarding her appearance and her need for approval. In fact, in “The Kingsroad,” Sansa admires the visiting ladies of King’s Landing as they braid their hair (00:42:39). The scene emphasizes Sansa’s vanity and her fixation on outward appearances. Because Sansa lacks a sense of self, she is able to quickly shed her Northern identity and adopt a new one through clothing: a visual representation of her shifting loyalties and ambitions. This idea is reinforced in “Lord Snow” as the eager-to-please Sansa is quick to alter her appearance once she reaches King’s Landing. Slowly, she begins to abandon her Northern roots to conform to what she believes will make her more desirable for Joffrey. At first, she remains in her heavy knit Winterfell blue gowns, but changes her hair style to conform to the styles of the ladies of King’s Landing. In “A Golden Crown,” Sansa’s Septa comments on Sansa’s shifting appearance, remarking, “you wear your hair like a real Southern Lady now,” to which Sansa replies, “Well why shouldn’t I? We’re in the South.” Septa responds by advising Sansa of the importance of remembering where she comes from (00:39:58). However, Sansa doesn’t
Fig. 1 | Still from "Winter is Coming," 00:26:03. the Stark family awaits the arrival of King Robert Baratheon and the Lannisters. HBO, 2011.
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Chantele Franz & Yasmeen F. Kumar
Fig. 2 | Still from "Winter is Coming," 00:45:10, in which Sansa speaks to Queen Cersei Lannister for the first time. HBO, 2011.
consider this advice; instead she continues her needlepoint, a historically domestic task which highlights the traditional elements of her femininity. Conformity is not a question in Sansa’s eyes, but a duty or obligation that is necessary in order to fulfill her childlike romantic fantasies. Sansa’s weak sense of self, coupled with her lack of agency, render her unable to comprehend the gap between her own idealistic view of life in King’s Landing and the brutal realities of Westeros. For instance, when she attends her first jousting tournament in “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (00:45:46), what she witnesses should strip away any illusions she holds about the chivalric code of honour. Still, she remains infatuated with the Baratheons and with the idea of one day becoming queen. In fact, the scene depicting the tournament is shot in such a way as to foreground the gap between the ideal and the real. In medieval literature and history, such tournaments were largely symbolic displays of martial skill for the amusement of the king and his retinue. Yet Gregor Clegane’s brutal murder of his opponent, Sir Hugh of the Vale, clearly violates the symbolic nature of the ceremony. The camera lingers on the gruesome scene, foregrounding the unsheathed lance that “the Mountain” has thrust through Sir Hugh’s
throat, while the editing serves to highlight that we are meant to see this horrific scene largely from Sansa’s perspective. Like the others in the stands, Sansa is clearly shocked and traumatized by what she has witnessed, but the camerawork and editing also simultaneously allude to her disconnect with the events unfolding around her. Specifically, this is evidenced by the oscillation between the close up of her reaction and the shot of Sir Hugh’s body (00:47:12). The knight, who embodies ideal, romantic notions of chivalry that Sansa holds in high esteem, lays slain on the ground, with his shining silver armour covered in blood as he gasps for air. Interspersed are the
Sansa’s journey from illusion to disillusion spans the entire seven seasons, ending with her transformation into a strong woman with agency, capable of reconciling the real and the ideal. MISE- EN - SCÈNE
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shocked reactions of both Sansa and the tournament attendees, as indicated by wide eyes and slack jaws. Yet the sole focus on her in tandem with the blurred background infers a disassociation from the event, as though Sansa is not really aware of her surroundings. In addition, the two characters are never shown in the same shot, inferring Sansa’s inability to comprehend the brutality she has just witnessed. As an accompanying wake up call, “the tale of brotherly love1” (00:48:20) that Petyr Baelish recounts to his young charge is another sign that King’s Landing is not the idyllic world that Sansa imagines. Ultimately, Sansa’s belief in the chivalric code distorts her perception of reality to such an extent that it takes abhorrent treatment from several characters to force her to understand the brutal actualities of the Westerosi society. The first and most impactful factor in her gradual loss of innocence is her relationship with Joffrey and the Lannisters. As mentioned earlier, she comes to know of Joffrey’s maliciousness and pettiness from her introduction to him in Winterfell, but her belief in chivalric notions distorts her perceptions of his cruelty. In fact, when faced with blatant danger due to the actions of Joffrey and the Lannisters, Sansa continuously reverts to an idyllic perception that the royal family will not harm her or her family because of her future position as queen. This tendency is first demonstrated when Ned Stark tells his daughters that their family needs to leave King’s Landing for their own safety. Though both Sansa and Arya strongly oppose Ned, Arya is aware of the threat the Lannisters pose and is intent on staying to learn how to fight. Sansa, on the other hand, complains to Ned that they can’t leave because she “is meant to marry Prince Joffrey. [She] love[s] him and [she is] meant to be his queen and have his babies” (“A Golden Crown” 00:44:45). The contrast illustrates that Sansa’s naivety is so deeply ingrained and aids her fantasy to such an extent that she cannot perceive harsh realities that even her younger sister is able to respond to.
The catalyst for Sansa’s awareness of these harsh realities is her father’s public execution, as ordered by Joffrey. This scene in “Baelor” serves as the climax of Season One. Preceding the scene, Sansa is confident that Joffrey will save her father’s life; he states, “your sweet words have moved me” (00:56:30). Due to Sansa’s naivety, she is unable to recognize that she has been enlisted into a piece of political theatre. Joffrey has convinced her that by persuading her father to confess to treason, she is saving Ned Stark’s life. In reality, Joffrey has scripted the confession to help legitimize his rule as king. Although he had originally refused to confess, valuing his honour over his life, Ned relents because he believes that by confessing he will be protecting his children. At the beginning of the episode, Sansa appears satisfied with her role in what she thinks will result in mercy for her father. However, during this scene there is an abrupt shift in Sansa’s facial expressions at the moment of realization that her father’s life will not be spared. To add to the horror of the scene, Cersei appears to be just as shocked by Joffrey’s sentencing as Sansa. This is worth noting as the series has portrayed Queen Cersei as a Machiavellian character thus far. Therein, Cersei’s reaction highlights Joffrey’s sentencing of Sansa’s father as capricious and malicious. Witnessing her father’s execution is clearly a traumatic experience for Sansa and one that contributes to her loss of identity in the first seasons of the series. As Jenna Busch and Janina Scarlett observe, “Individuals whose identities are changed as a result of trauma are more likely to experience physical and psychological effects of the trauma than individuals who are able to maintain their own identity” (52). We can observe the effects of Ned’s traumatic death through the way that Sansa isolates herself. Of course, Sansa’s circumstances are unique in that she is forced to live with the people responsible for her father’s execution, including Joffrey, to whom she pledged her love and loyalty only to be publicly
1 Petyr Baelish to Sansa: “Has anyone ever told you the story of the Mountain and the Hound? Lovely little tale of brotherly love. The Hound was just a pup, six years old maybe, Gregor, a few years older, already a big lad already getting a bit of a reputation. Some lucky boys are just born with a talent for violence. One evening, Gregor found his little brother playing with a toy by the fire. Gregor’s toy. A wooden knight. Gregor never said a word. He just grabbed his brother by the scruff of his neck and shoved his face into the burning coals, held him there while the boy screamed, while his face melted.” (“Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” 00:48:20)
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Fig. 3 | Still from “Baelor,” 00:53:36. Sansa and the Lannisters await the public sentencing of Ned Stark. HBO, 2011.
betrayed and humiliated. As a consequence of the trauma Sansa faces, she also exhibits some of the symptoms of disassociation as she attempts to separate herself from her identity as a Stark. As Busch and Scarlett note, after her father’s execution, “Sansa continues to call her late father and her brothers traitors to keep herself safe from Joffrey and Cersei” (53). For example, on Joffrey’s name day, Tyrion offers his condolences to Sansa for her loss. “My father was a traitor,” she says. “My mother and brother are traitors too. I am loyal to my beloved Joffrey” (“The North Remembers” 00:05:50). It is clear that Sansa is not being entirely genuine with these comments: rather, she is emotionless and calculated in her claims. While she may not identify entirely with being a Lannister, it is the only identity now available to her, which she clings to not out of genuine love for Joffrey but as a means of survival. This loss of identity and need to conform as a means of survival are ref lected in Sansa’s costume. This is specifically illustrated in Sansa’s mimicking of Cersei Lannister’s appearance. This mimicking is a likely consequence of her fragile sense of self, coupled with her longing for the acceptance of others. Because she holds no firm identity of her own, she adopts the personae of
others. Up until her father’s execution, Sansa’s changes in appearance had been limited to the mimicked hairstyles of the ladies in King’s Landing. Now, Sansa mirrors Cersei in both in the way she styles her hair and the fit of her clothing. In fact, in “Baelor,” Sansa wears her hair in a regal and elaborate style almost identical to Cersei Lannister. Her clothing too conforms to the jewel tone palette of the South, and mimics the fit and cut which Cersei wears throughout the first season. The dress is tapered to her body, with a cinched, thick belted waist, hanging sleeves and a deep ‘V’ shaped neckline. Even the necklace which Sansa wears, gifted to her by Joffrey, resembles the necklace which Cersei Lannister wears (Fig. 3). Although she is clearly one of the most important characters in Game of Thrones, compared with other characters, Sansa Stark remains curiously static. For instance, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, and Jon Snow all exhibit more dramatic character growth than Sansa during the early seasons. To illustrate the static nature of her character, consider her relationship with Sir Loras Tyrell. Viewers will recall that Sansa had first seen Sir Loras in Season One, Episode Five, where he appeared,
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Fig. 4 | Still from “And Now His Watch Has Ended,” 00:44:36. Sansa appears in the mirror as a perfectly centred portrait. HBO 2011.
in her mind at least, as the quintessential knight in shining armour (00:06:40). Sansa was oblivious to the fact that his attentions were actually directed at his lover, Renly Baratheon, but chose instead to idealize him as the emblem of chivalry. In “And Now His Watch Has Ended,” Sansa is once again enamoured with Loras when Margaery suggests to her that she consider becoming his wife (00:34:24). At the mere mention of this idea, Sansa becomes giddy and excited, like she once was with Joffrey, which causes her to become fixated on her appearance: looking in mirrors and fussing over the garments she wears. At one point, referring to a gown for King Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery, she asks her handmaid, “do you think people will like it?” (“And Now His Watch Has Ended”, 00:44:34). “Loras likes green and gold brocade,” she adds. It is surely no coincidence that Sansa utters this line as she stands in front of a mirror. Even more significant is the fact that in one shot in particular the mirror presents her as the subject of a stylized and perfectly centred portrait (Fig. 4). This scene in particular demonstrates that despite the lessons Sansa has learned about the realities of the Westerosi world, she still views herself as an object of desire for men.
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Even after the promise of a relationship with Sir Loras never materializes, Sansa continues to hold on to the hope of a saviour, which leaves her to be taken advantage of again, this time by Petyr Baelish. In part, her trust in him is due to the fact that Baelish has been a close friend of her mother, Catelyn Stark, for decades. After her father’s execution, Baelish is anxious to serve as a surrogate father to Sansa. Moreover, Little Finger, as Baelish is known, always behaves in a courtly and ingratiating manner when dealing with Sansa or the Starks in general. Given her own investment in the idealized world of the court, she is especially susceptible to this type of behaviour. For instance, in season 4’s “Breaker of Chains,” Sansa instinctively trusts Baelish to take care of her after fleeing the scene of Joffrey’s murder. As he is the one to devise an escape plan to help Sansa f lee King’s Landing, she is quick to suspend all skepticism and is seduced by the false sense of security he provides. Though Sansa has clearly gained a sense of awareness from her experiences in King’s Landing, her desperation in the moment, coupled with her naivety, make her unable to fully comprehend the dangers that await her once she leaves King’s
Chantele Franz & Yasmeen F. Kumar
Fig. 5 | Still from “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” 00:46:55. Theon/Reek walks Sansa down the aisle as she marries Ramsay Bolton. HBO, 2015.
Landing. She remains oblivious to the true intentions of others, which demonstrates that she has not yet shed her naivety. Ironically, Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing to the assumed safety of Baelish’s guardianship coincides with a time in her life where she, at least superficially, is in possession of the noble life she fantasizes about. She seemingly has everything she ever desired, such as a position at court, the beautiful and elaborate garments of King’s Landing, and a noble husband. Her costume reflects this irony. While fleeing King’s Landing after Joffrey’s murder, she is still dressed in her ornate purple gown that she wore during Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding ceremony (Fig. 5). The color purple is, of course, indicative of royalty, thus illustrating Sansa’s inclusion in the noble class. Her garment is also made up of luxurious materials, such as silk, alluding to her wealth and noble status. Even while fleeing King’s Landing, Sansa’s costume reflects her unwavering attachment to the romanticism of the chivalric code, despite experiencing the failures of such ideals first-hand. The first sign of Sansa’s transformation comes in “High Sparrow.” Once again, we see her in the company
of Petyr Baelish. The two have returned to the North so that she can reclaim her inheritance. Baelish tries to convince her of the strategic value of marrying into the House of Bolton, an idea which Sansa clearly finds revolting. “Roose Bolton murdered my brother. He betrayed my family” (“High Sparrow” 00:16:01) she says, referring to the Bolton family’s role in orchestrating the Red Wedding. Although she is unsuccessful in preventing the marriage, Sansa is now willing to challenge Baelish and his authority. However, she still remains naive to the fact that Baelish is more concerned with fulfilling his own self-interests than he is with her well-being. Nonetheless, we see Sansa slowly becoming less susceptible to Baelish’s violations of her good faith, which will foreshadow her eventual shattering of her trust in him. Not only has Sansa become noticeably more assertive by this point in the series, but her appearance has shifted drastically. Her hair is darker now and she wears darker, more subdued costumes than those worn in earlier seasons (Fig. 6). The change in her hair colour and her clothing is motivated by Sansa’s desire to disguise herself so that she is not recognized in the North. However, it may also be interpreted as a defense mechanism she has
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Unlike her father, she has developed the ability to ‘play the game.’ After being a pawn in this ‘game of thrones’ for so long, she is finally a player. adopted as a result of the suffering she has experienced since leaving Winterfell for King’s Landing. In fact, one could argue that Sansa’s change in appearance at this point in the series is a sign or symptom of dissociation. She is attempting to adopt a new identity to shield herself from the post-traumatic feelings she is experiencing as a result of her time in King’s Landing, yet her attempt to conceal and disassociate seems to be in vain. Even Little Finger himself comments, “You’re a Stark. Dyeing your hair doesn’t change that” (00:16:14). Interestingly, on the night before Sansa’s wedding to Ramsay Bolton, his mistress Miranda bathes her and rinses the dye from her hair, stripping her of the disguise and the protective shield she has attempted to build for herself. Sansa does stand up to Miranda, informing her that she is Sansa Stark of
Winterfell and not someone who will be intimidated or prevented from reclaiming her inheritance (Season Five, Episode Six 00:42:09). However, it is worth pointing out that this is just one of many scenes in which Sansa is represented in contradictory terms. On the one hand, we see her attempting to stand up for herself. On the other, she is being bathed, dressed or otherwise tended to by a female character, illustrative of her malleability at the hands of others. Sansa’s transformation is by no means complete at this point in the series. On the day of her wedding to Ramsay Bolton, she reverts to the style of clothing she had worn in King’s Landing. In contrast to the plain, dark and heavy cape-coat that she wears in the scene with Petyr Baelish at her wedding to Ramsay, she is wearing an off-white wedding gown that draws attention to her figure. Her hairstyle is also reminiscent of the way that she had worn her hair prior to her return to the North (Fig. 7). Rather than being pulled back from her face, it has been carefully coiffed for the occasion. This jarring shift in appearance is suggestive of her regression from a woman in the process of developing her own autonomy, to essentially becoming Ramsay’s property. This is further
Fig. 6 | Still from “High Sparrow” 00:15:46. Petyr Baelish and Sansa discuss her proposed marriage to Ramsay Bolton. HBO, 2015.
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Fig. 7 | Still from “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” 00:46:55. Theon/Reek walks Sansa down the aisle as she marries Ramsay Bolton. HBO, 2015.
illustrated through her rigid posture and hunched shoulders. The stance is indicative of defeat and resignation. With Petyr Baelish, Sansa is dependent, but she is able to voice her concerns regarding his plans for her. She is able to question his authority without fear of a violent reprisal. Once she marries Ramsay, however, Sansa knows that she will become a mere prop or plaything for him like she once was for Joffrey. Despite this apparent regression, it is clear that Sansa has learned from her experiences in King’s Landing that the chivalric ideals that had meant so much to her as a girl are far from the brutal realities of life as a young noblewoman. She appears to recognize that she is a mere pawn in this “game of thrones.” The nadir in the series’ representation of Sansa appears in the rape scene in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (00:48:26). The scene itself is one of the most important and most traumatic in the series, but it is also unlike other scenes depicting psycho-sexual violence. Rather than sensationalizing the violence or reveling in its graphic impact, the writers and director of this particular episode have chosen an uncharacteristically restrained approach. There is very little in the way of explicit sexuality or violence. Instead, what make the scene so disturbing is not simply
Her character growth over the course of the series is reflected not only in change of costume, but also in change in values as she makes the transition from innocence to experience. Ramsay’s cruel and malicious abuse of Sansa but the fact that he insists that Theon/Reek remain in the room to witness the abuse. The ramifications of his presence are monumental as up until this point, Sansa holds naively in the faith that someone will rescue her. However, in this scene she realizes that despite the presence of Theon/ Reek--who Sansa looks at in a last-ditch effort for help-- is not able to rescue her as a consequence of how crippled he has become as a result of Ramsay’s torment and emasculation. The absence of a male saviour, coupled with this horrifying abuse, leads Sansa to quickly shed her naive ideals and expectations of the world. Her physical trauma is compounded by the degradation and humiliation of having her “brother” witness the act, thereby making him
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both an accomplice and a victim. Through the lengthy shot on Theon/Reek, the viewer also takes part in the victimization as we too are unable to protect and preserve Sansa’s innocence. As Theodore Gioia notes, “we — the spectator — like Theon are an unwilling audience to this horrible event, yet watch, powerless to stop it” (Gioia). Ramsay’s haunting words, “watch her become a woman,” prove accurate, though not in the way he intends. As a consequence of trauma, Sansa finally recognizes the brutal reality of life in Westeros. This horrific event becomes the last straw for Sansa, causing her to shed her naive expectations of the world. The trauma that Sansa suffers on her wedding night proves not only to be the breaking point of her naive ideal, but also the exacerbation of her PTSD as she exhibits the dissociative behaviour of the condition. She may not display the classic symptoms of PTSD-- hypervigilance, involuntary memories, or the contradictory need to both repress and confront the traumatic experience -- but she does show the signs of a young woman who has witnessed and experienced horrific violence. Like many PTSD victims, Sansa is isolated due to her inability to form connections with others. She is unlike her younger sister Arya, for instance, who seems to find camaraderie with many around her (Busch and Scarlett). Aside from her handmaid and Margaery Tyrell, the only relationships Sansa is able to form are with men whom she uses for her personal protection, reinforcing the notion of her as a “damsel in distress.” Even Sansa’s passivity can be attributed to her experiences of trauma. Although this trait has been a constant in her personality, prior to her trauma, it seemed to stem from the desire to appease rather than from her helplessness. For instance, in the example of the direwolf confrontation mentioned previously, Sansa’s lack of action was due to her belief that the Lannisters represented a courtly ideal. As the series progresses, however, and Sansa suffers one traumatic experience after another, she becomes even more passive, withdrawing further into herself. Sansa’s journey from illusion to disillusion spans the entire eight seasons, culminating with her transformation into a strong woman with agency, capable of reconciling the real and the ideal. We see signs of this
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transformation in “The Door” when Sansa confronts Petyr Baelish after she is freed with Brienne’s help from the tower where Ramsay has held her captive. Sansa’s demeanor in this scene is strikingly different than in previous scenes. She is sure of herself and more clearly in control of the situation. This is evident not only in the assertive way in which she interrogates Baelish, but also in her body language and her overall demeanour. She insists upon making eye contact with him throughout this scene even when he tries to avert her gaze. “Did you know about Ramsay?” she asks, beginning a flurry of rhetorical questions which ultimately act as an affront designed to not only to force Petyr to take responsibility for his actions, but to convey Sansa’s true feelings about Baelish: “If you didn’t know, you were an idiot and if you did, you are my enemy” (00:03:05). The sentiment illustrates both Sansa’s awareness of Baelish’s duplicitous nature and her newfound immunity to his manipulation. After questioning and goading Baelish, Sansa alters her tactics and confronts him with the brutal truth of the pain she has experienced because of him. “I can still feel it,” she says, “I don’t mean in my tender heart it still pains me so. I can still feel what he did in my body standing here right now” (00:04:35). Sansa’s tone here is clearly ironic. In fact, it drips with sarcasm. By using the particular language she does, she is distancing herself from the romantic, idealistic views that she had subscribed to throughout the first five seasons of the series. But she is also performing one of the most important steps in post-traumatic growth: namely, taking ownership of her traumatic experience. She acknowledges the trauma she has suffered at Ramsay’s hands, but interestingly, she is no longer merely a victim. At this point she is clearly moving toward a greater degree of independence and agency than she has displayed earlier in the narrative. In fact, this is the first time we see Sansa dominate the scene and control the conversation. In other words, we see a clear shift in the power dynamic; once subservient, Sansa is now in control. Previously, she was unable to make decisions or assert herself on her own. She needed the guidance of an older, usually male, figure, but now she has independence. Although she had once looked to Baelish for protection,
Chantele Franz & Yasmeen F. Kumar
Fig. 8 | Still from “The Dragon and the Wolf” 00:55:17. Sansa presides over the trial of Petyr Baelish. HBO, 2017.
she now asserts, “I don’t believe you anymore. I don’t need you anymore. You can’t protect me” (00:04:55). Sansa’s initial confrontation with Baelish foreshadows the Season Seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” in which she finally emerges as a strong character in her own right. We see her presiding over the trial of Petyr Baelish, levelling charges against him, and reasserting her recognition of the political machinations that he has orchestrated. It is significant that she conducts this trial not because she wants to but because, as she puts it, “it’s what honour demands” (0:55:46). In this regard, Sansa is clearly her father’s daughter. She then proceeds to deliver a litany of charges against Baelish, refuting each of his feeble attempts at self-defence. When he claims, for instance, that he killed Sansa’s aunt, Lysa Arryn, to protect Sansa, she is quick to reply, “You did it to take power in the vale” (00:57:02). The authority in her statement is striking, showcasing that she has finally become impervious to Baelish’s charms. But perhaps the most important line in the scene comes when Sansa offers the following assessment of herself and her slow, painful development as an individual. “I’m a slow learner...” she says, “But I learn” (00:59:04).
It is worth noting that Sansa’s wardrobe has taken a drastic shift from the ladylike attire she wore in earlier episodes. Her attire now has an element of weight, both literally and symbolically. Sansa is dressed in thick, dark layers, reminiscent of Ned’s costume in Season One (Fig. 8). The materials used to fashion her coats--primarily furs and leathers--are not only thick and heavy on their own, but are layered on top of one another, creating a monumental weight. All of these materials are also black and grey, compounding the notion of heaviness through a dark, monochromatic, layered look. Of course, this change in aesthetic is, in part, adopted for practical reasons as the garments protect Sansa from winter in the North. However, the physical weight, as indicated by material and colour, also reflects Sansa’s multitude of traumatic experiences. As Michele Clapton notes during a 2016 interview with IGN (Imagine Games Network), “the story is now getting darker, and more oppressive” (IGN); the costumes are intended to illustrate this. Thus, the layered fabrics piled on top of one another reflect traumatic experiences that have unrelentingly weighed her down, accumulating in a grave and burdensome understanding of the world. Reinforcing the notion of gravity
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and severity is the cut of her costume. Most prominent are the broadened shoulders of her garments. Prior to her dark, heavy attire, her gowns included delicate sleeves that draped off her shoulders. The effect is both light and ethereal, connoting a ‘damsel in distress’ stereotype. In contrast, the sharp, defined shoulders of her new attire highlight her power without sacrificing or obscuring her femininity. This change in costume makes visible the change in character that has occurred as Sansa’s idyllic view of the world is replaced by a darker, but more mature understanding of life in Westeros. By the end of season seven, Sansa has finally shed the naive and idealistic world view that had defined her character for so much of the first Six Seasons. She has also emerged as the heir to her late father, significantly becoming Lady of Winterfell not through marriage, but by being one of the only surviving heirs of Ned Stark. Therefore, it is no coincidence that her change in costume highlights her physical resemblance to her late father, who had once served as an emblem of the chivalric code (Fig. 9 and Fig. 10). This resemblance in costume is only fortified though her adoption of the values her father once held, these being leadership, justice, and family. Rather than simply becoming her father, however, Sansa is learning from his legacy. Her character growth over the course of the series is reflected not only in change of costume, but also in change in values as she makes the transition from innocence to experience. Sansa hasn’t abandoned all faith in the chivalric code. However, she has shifted her expectations on how this code of life will play out for her. She does this by abandoning her fairy-tale-like visions of the world which paint her as a damsel waiting for a strong and powerful male figure to save her. Instead, she is able to embody the characteristics which she holds in such high regard: strength, loyalty, resilience, and family. She is able to grow as a woman, while still maintaining a sense of self. However, her experience makes her able to do this within the brutal realities of the world of Westeros. Unlike her father, she has developed the ability to “play the game.” After being a pawn in this “game of thrones” for so long, she is finally a player.
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Fig. 9 | Still from “Stormborn” 00:46:09. Sansa watches John leave
on a recruitment mission. HBO, 2017.
Fig. 10 | Still from “Winter is Coming” 00:13:00. Ned Stark's
costume in the North. HBO, 2011.
The layered fabrics piled on top of one another reflect traumatic experiences that have unrelentingly weighed her down, accumulating in a grave and burdensome understanding of the world.
Chantele Franz & Yasmeen F. Kumar
WORKS CITED “A Golden Crown.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2011.
“The Lion and the Rose.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2014.
“Baelor.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2011.
Nguyen, Hanh. “Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner: Sansa Has Been Manipulated by Joffrey | TV Guide.” TVGuide.com, TV Guide, 10 June 2011. www.tvguide. com/news/game-thrones-sophie-turner-1034079/.
“Breaker of Chains.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2014. Busch, Jenna and Jenina Scarlet. “The Stark Sisters: On Trauma and Posttraumatic Growth” Game of Thrones and Psychology: The Mind is Dark and Full if Terrors. Edited by Travis Langley, Sterling, 2016. pp. 49-59. Corrigan, Timothy, and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction. Bedford St. Martin’s, 2018. “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2011. “The Door.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss, HBO, 2016. “The Dragon and the Wolf.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2017. Frankel, Valerie Estelle. “Maidens: The Innocent, the Orphan, and the Femme Fatale.” Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance, McFarland, 2014.
“And Now His Watch Has Ended.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss, HBO, 2013. “Stormborn.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2017. Ticktin, Miriam. A World Without Innocence. American Ethnologist, 2017, pp. 577–590. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2015. “Why Game of Thrones’ Leading Ladies All Wore Black in the Season 6 Finale - Comic Con 2016.” IGN. YouTube, YouTube, July, 2016. www.youtube.com/ watch?v=dccmXw0YpJU&t=152s. “Winter is Coming.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2011.
Gioia, Theodore. “Changing the Game: How ‘Game of Thrones’ Rewrites the Rules of Modern TV.” Los Angeles Review of Books, 20 Apr. 2016. lareviewofbooks.org/article/changing-game-gamethrones-rewrites-rules-modern-tv/#! Johnston, Susan. “Grief Poignant as Joy: Dyscatastrophe and Eucatastrophe in A Song of Ice and Fire.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 135-156. dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol31/iss1/9 “Lord Snow.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2011. “The Kingsroad.” Game of Thrones, created by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. HBO, 2011.
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A Hundred Years of Japanese Film by Donald Richie: A Chronicle of Japanese Film’s Impact on History, Culture, and Politics BY AARON W. THRONESS | University of British Columbia
monumental shift at the turn of the 20 th century fundamentally reshaped the themes, mediums, and very nature of Japanese performing arts: the introduction of the first motion picture camera. It is this watershed event in 1897 that sets the scene for the beginning of A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, authored by the prolific film historian and Japan scholar Donald Richie. Throughout a career that spanned nearly 60 years, Richie published extensively on Japanese film, culture, cuisine, and his memoirs from time spent in Japan. Some of his most noteworthy publications include The Inland Sea (1993) and Japanese Cinema: Film Style and National Character (1971). Without a doubt, Donald Richie made significant contributions to the body of scholarship on Japanese film and promoted cross-cultural understanding and appreciation across diverse cultures and peoples. This review argues that A Hundred Years of Japanese Film continues to serve as a critical academic resource for film studies students, academics, and historians alike. It aims to examine two primary themes: film’s oscillation between traditional and contemporary aesthetics, and further implications for Japanese society and film’s role as an instrument for social criticism and political indoctrination in Japan. Indeed, this book not only provides critical context for appreciating the history of Japanese film, but also an understanding of its trajectory as the industry continues to evolve in the 21st century.
First published by Kodansha International, A Hundred Years of Japanese Film examines the evolution of Japan’s film industry throughout the 20th century, providing the reader with insights into the cultural and historical aspects of the art’s development. The book is comprised of five chapters that follow a chronological and thematic sequence. Chapter One, “Beginnings and the Benshi,” presents a historical and stylistic chronology of the Japanese performing arts. Richie elaborates on the origins of Japanese cinema from the traditional Kabuki and Noh theatres, while emphasizing
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A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, First Edition (2001) Donald Richie 311 Pages Kodansha International ISBN 4-7700-2682-X $30.00 CAD (2005 Revised Edition)
the importance of theatrical elements such as dialogue, narration, and native literature. These traditional features of Japanese entertainment would re-emerge time and time again as Japanese cinema swayed between traditional and contemporary modes, which is shown in the subsequent chapters. The author also explains how the introduction of the motion picture camera and Western cinematography
Aaron W. Throness
influenced the development of the nascent Japanese film industry. Chapter Two, “Taisho Democracy and Shochiku,” then proceeds to further examine Japan’s burgeoning film industry during the democratic Taisho Era of the 1920s. This chapter also surveys the Japanese film industry as it struggled to maintain its traditional roots while Western culture and techniques like character development and sequential brevity continued to inspire directors and shape filming practices. Moreover, it addresses the birth of socio-political criticism in film and the authorities’ subsequent censorship campaigns and eventual takeover of the industry as Japan became entrenched in the Second World War. Chapter Three, “The Occupation of Japan,” deals with the American occupation and subsequent dismantling of
whether to keep astride with modernity or hold fast to tradition brought about a century-long search for what it meant to be Japanese. Donald Richie expertly depicts how the search for Japanese identity was manifested in the film industry’s alternation between traditional and contemporary forms of aesthetic presentation. Japanese film initially drew heavily from Japan’s native forms of theatre, such as Noh and Kabuki. For example, early films were accompanied by benshi narrators; scenes were incredibly lengthy in duration; the depiction of morality took precedence over character development; and the composition of the stage resembled a theatre, rather than a moving picture (Richie 23). Films such as Chushingura (“The Loyal 47 Ronin,” 1907) and Onoga Tsumi (“My Sin,” 1909) were typical of
the wartime film industry; much like the post-war Japanese government, the film industry was recreated in the image of the west. This chapter highlights film’s eventual return to Japan’s traditional roots after experimentation with Western ideas and notes the prominence of the social-issue film and satire. Chapter Four, “The Advent of Television and the Film’s Defenses,” depicts an industry that was desperately scrambling to reinvent itself as the home television robbed theatres of their audiences in the 1960s. New Wave directors blazed new trails in films that featured sex, violence, monsters, and anarchy and sought to draw audiences back to the cinema. Stylistically, the reader observes the rehabilitation of traditional Japanese aesthetics in filmmaking. Films that embodied the spirit of this period include Peikinteki duika (1989) and The Ghost in the Shell (1995) (Richie 251). The fifth chapter, “Making Audiences,” notes the rise of mass media and marketing along with the popularization of anime, and expertly concludes that even after repeated flirtation with foreign ideas and concepts throughout the 20th century, there always emerged a “pattern of Western influence [that was] followed by the development of ‘purely’ Japanese forms, which has been repeated again and again… throughout [Japanese] culture” (qtd. in Richie 213). In presenting this incisive analysis and history of the Japanese film industry, Richie provides the reader with critical context to understand the modern industry’s roots and the direction of its future growth.
this period (Richie 23).
The 20th century was a period of intense introspection for the Japanese. In an increasingly westernizing world,
In contrast, Japanese films produced in the 1920s and 1930s reflected western culture’s influence in presentation. Western films emphasized sequential brevity, character development, and representation (as opposed to presentation, where the Japanese favored appearance over realism). Films such as Osaka no Yado (“An Inn in Osaka,” 1954) featured over 1,000 separate shots, ample close-ups, and enhanced realism (Richie 49). Indeed, the theatricality of Japanese theatre was nowhere to be found in Japanese film at that time, reflecting the loss of the traditional Japanese identity. Yet, through Richie’s cleanly outlined historical narrative, the reader later observes the gradual return to Japanese styles after World War II. For instance, Ballad of Narayama (1958) employed kabuki-like narration, focused on traditional Japanese customs, and was presented as if it took place in a theatre (Richie 144, 260). In juxtaposing the continual conflict between Japanese and western forms of presentation, Richie reveals the search for Japanese identity that took place through film. As the reader can see, Japanese film was pliable and in a constant state of flux, assuming more western traits at times, and more traditionally Japanese traits at other points. It is clear how instrumental film’s presentation was in representing and crafting Japanese identity as it evolved throughout the 20th century. Throughout this film studies text, Donald Richie also illustrates how film became a powerful medium in which socio-political criticism found a voice, and further became
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A Hundred Years of Japanese Film by Donald Richie
a propaganda tool for Hirohito’s wartime government. The foundation for the ‘social-issue film’ was laid during the decline of the Taisho era, where the collapse of the world economy in 1929 and the rise of the repressive Showa government thrust Japan into a period of economic and political hardship. Films of that period, while they eventually fell under the scrutinizing eye of censors, attempted to shed light on the inequalities that had come to pervade Japanese society. It was only after Japan’s cataclysmic defeat in the Second World War that the American occupation allowed for social-issue films to resurface. Films such as Anjo-ke no bokutai (“Ball at the Anjo House”, 1947), Yoru no kawa (“Night River”, 1956), and Yoru no sugao (“The Naked Face of Night”, 1958) explored women’s plight under the restrictive bonds of the traditional Japanese family. Heroines fought against authority and worked toward the realization of their dreams: while many failed, others succeeded (Richie 160). The depiction of ambitious women confirms that Japanese film acted as a medium of social activism, a platform on which the neglected and oppressed were finally given a voice. Additionally, film was made to serve a much darker purpose during the Second World War. As the Japanese war machine’s gears began to churn in 1941, film was used by the wartime government as a means to construct a military ethos, disseminate propaganda, and justify Japan’s actions in the war (Richie 96, 100). Hawaii-mare oki kaisen (“The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya”, 1942) reconstructed the bombing of Pearl Harbor and portrayed the event as the epitome of the Japanese military ethos (Richie 103). Unsurprisingly, the film was immensely popular and further stoked the flames of Japanese nationalism. Donald Richie uses the backdrop of Japanese militarism to demonstrate the versatility of film. After all, it was through film that directors could, albeit covertly, voice their opposition to the government’s brutality; it was through film that Japan’s war effort was justified to the people; it was through film that the Japanese soldier was given the motivation to sacrifice themselves for the nation (Fig. 1). Donald Richie demonstrates that film was not simply entertainment. Film had the power to challenge the conventions of tradition and deeply resonated with those
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it reached; yet, it was also a tool that was used to indoctrinate a generation of Japanese who flocked to the battlefield, only to realize that the sights they were greeted with were infinitely more grotesque than what they had been made to believe. The themes I have investigated are by no means exhaustive in what Donald Richie has accomplished in A Hundred Years of Japanese Film. From a broader perspective, we are given insight into how film was very much a part of the social, political, economic, historical, and cultural narratives of Japan. Using such a multifaceted approach does threaten to overwhelm the reader with an abundance of information; yet, Richie has woven the narrative in such a way that all of the various approaches neatly revolve around a centralized chronological history. Moreover, one can expect to learn just as much about 20th century Japanese history and long-standing cultural trends as one will study the evolution of the film industry. In addition, like much of his prior work, Richie provides an extensive list of resources in his bibliography, both in English and Japanese language. Every film that he mentions throughout his work is organized alphabetically, accompanied by relevant reference information, and concisely summarized. Landmark films such as Earth (1939) and Ikiru (1952) are listed (Richie 264, 270). As such, readers who are interested in pursuing Japanese film studies further by investigating primary resources will find Richie’s meticulous research to be of practical use. Whether one examines
Fig. 1 | This still is taken from Five Scouts, a wartime film produced in 1938 by Tomotaka Tasaka. The film follows a company of Japanese soldiers fighting in the early days of Japan’s invasion of China (Richie 98).
Aaron W. Throness
A Hundred Years of Japanese Film through a scrutinizing or holistic lens, the wide variety of analytical approaches and wealth of film-related and academic resources speak to Donald Richie’s reputation as one of the finest academics in the field of Japanese film studies. In reviewing A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, I have attempted to identify several of the preeminent themes that appear throughout this text. The first theme presents how Japanese identity and the film industry were intimately intertwined. Through trends in cinema’s aesthetic presentation, we can pinpoint what defined Japanese identity during specific periods of time throughout the 20th century. Overtly western and Japanese traits that could be found in Japanese film can be seen as an extension of political and cultural developments. The second prevailing theme is film’s influential role in spreading awareness of social issues
and acting as an instrument of wartime propaganda. The conservative nature of Japanese society had made public criticism of cultural norms and traditions nearly impossible; however, the emergence of film provided directors with a platform to promote change and stand up against the repression of traditional culture. Ultimately, Japan’s entanglement in the Second World War brought the film industry into the war effort. Hirohito’s government used film as a means to construct a militaristic national ethos and promote the war domestically. The second task that this review has sought to accomplish is to provide a broader overview of what Richie’s book has to offer. With its diversity in analytical approaches and generous provision of resources, I hope to have shown that Donald Richie has produced a superb publication that is palatable to culture enthusiasts and film academics alike.
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Conference Report on Visible Evidence XXV Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, August 7-11, 2018 BY JESSE SCHLOTTERBECK | Denison University
Fig. 1 | Indiana University campus. Visible Evidence XXV, 2018.
his past summer, more than one hundred international film scholars and filmmakers gathered at Indiana University (Fig. 1) for the twenty-fifth iteration of Visible Evidence, a conference focused on documentary and non-fiction film. This organization convenes abroad as often as in the United States. Though Bloomington, Indiana is not one of the most easily accessible North American cities, the long-standing international footprint of the conference was evident in the wide range of presenters, who travelled from Italy, Japan, England, Israel, and Singapore among other locations to be present at this event. From August 7 through August 11, participants shared research findings, filmmaking strategies, and critically debated the current status of documentary studies and practice.
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The conference featured well-known figures such as Rick Prelinger, Michael Renov (Fig. 2), and Linda Williams, but equally as impressive was the high-quality work of the many local graduate students. With fifteen program participants from the host institution, and a dedicated plenary session on the Kinsey Archive, Indiana University was consistently present as much more than a forum for this event. The panel “Against Mutual Exclusivity: Documentary and Performance” stood out as one of the strongest I attended and was composed mostly of current or recent graduate students from the hosting institution. In addition, Indiana University Press, which has numerous titles in documentary studies—including a new edition of Introduction to Documentary by Bill Nichols and an anthology on the annual Flaherty seminar
Fig. 2 | Michael Renov (University of Southern California) presents “Documentary Poesis/Documentary Disposition.” Visible Evidence XXV, 2018.
edited by Patricia Zimmermann and Scott MacDonald— was one of two book exhibitors present. Documentary filmmaking in the Midwest was more broadly represented by a plenary session dedicated to the Chicago-based Kartemquin Films, a non-profit film collective behind such works as Hoop Dreams, Life Itself, and, more recently, Abacus: Too Small to Jail and Minding the Gap. Were I pressed to name the strongest two presentations (out of more than 30 that I attended), I would mention talks given by PhD candidates: “Filmic Resistance Against the Everyday: Su Friedrich’s Re/ Mediation of Present in I Cannot Tell You How I Feel ” by Alina Predescu (University of California, Berkeley) and “‘Do I Get a Chance to Say Who I Want to Play My Life?’: Documentary and Metatheatricality in Every Little Step” by Jamie Hook (Indiana University Bloomington). Predescu attended to Friederich’s most recent film, which covers “the tenuous process of the moving of Friedrich’s
93-year-old mother, Lore, to an assisted living facility.” She continued, “The metaphor of the house that crumbles from Friedrich’s 1984 film The Ties that Bind becomes here the reality the filmmaker resists by arresting it under a magnifying glass in an attempt to hold time still. The film is Friedrich’s means of coming to terms with the change, as the filmmaker lives through her filming, and uses the act of recording to mediate the process of moving.” Predescu’s presentation effectively situated Friederich’s film among her other works while primarily attending to the filmmaker’s effective pairing of stylistic choices with the subject of I Cannot Tell You How I Feel. Jamie Hook analyzed the 2008 film “Every Little Step [which] follows the audition process for the 2006 Broadway revival of the renowned musical A Chorus Line, originally directed and choreographed to overwhelming critical and popular acclaim by Michael Bennett in 1975.” Hook comparatively analyzed the
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Conference Report on Visible Evidence XXV
Fig. 3 | Robert Clift presents his talk “Unmaking Monty: A Documentary Intervention into the Star Image of Montgomery Clift.”
Visible Evidence XXV, 2018.
more recent documentary with a more straightforward film adaptation of A Chorus Line from 1985. He argued, interestingly, that the more recent documentary is more effective in conveying the central purpose of Bennett’s original project, in which the real-life stories of Broadway performers are played individually by different actors whose own backgrounds and personalities meaningfully intersect with the scripted parts they perform. According to Hook, the newer documentary demonstrates “the potential for complicated and surprising ontological configurations to emerge when the coherency of the real and the fabricated, as symbolized by documentary and performance, is disordered through the documentation of scripted material performed within a context whose reality—with all of its tangible stakes and urgencies—is on full display, such that the real and the performative begin to refract each other in prismatic ways.” Thank you
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to both of these presenters for sharing the text of their presentations so they could be quoted at length here. Panels, plenary sessions, and workshops varied considerably in their focus and scope. For example, one workshop was devoted exclusively to the director Bill Greaves, a plenary session was devoted to two films by Deborah Stratman, while another panel was dedicated to the recent public television series The Vietnam War (directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick). On the other hand, some panels were much more eclectic. For instance, the “Practices of Historiography” panel included both filmmakers presenting their own work (the nephew of Montgomery Clift, Robert Clift, discussed his new film Unmaking Monty as seen in Fig. 3) as well as critical studies papers (Dimitrios Latsis presented “Early Nonfiction Films about the History of Cinema,” and Nicole Keating delivered “Visualizing History: Conversations with
Historians, Documentarians, and Associated HistoryMakers”). Another panel, “Documentary Audiences and Spectatorship,” included presentations on animal rights, “The Politics of Prurient Engagement,” and a more general consideration of “Theorizing the Documentary Audience.” Panels covered nearly the full scope of film history, from the silent era to presentations on films released in 2017. Though the conference touched on an impressively broad range of subjects, there were some notably absent topics. For example, I was surprised to see that there was not a single paper on the representation of sport. There was also no work on Mexican film or about the US/ Mexico border at a time when this subject is so prominent in the national consciousness. Such absences at conferences are almost always due to the lack of proposed work by presenters, and not the selections of the conference committee. With such a diverse range of topics discussed at Visible Evidence, these subjects would presumably have been included but for the absence of proposed papers or panels on these subjects. It is also worth noting that Visible Evidence remains a fraction of the size of much larger conferences, such as the annual Cinema for Society and Media Studies (SCMS) conference. For example, where Visible Evidence ran a maximum of six events concurrently, the SCMS 2019 conference featured as many as 20 panels at the same time. Thus, some gaps in coverage are more understandable at the smaller, more focused conference. Considered as a whole, the Visible Evidence conference admirably fulfilled the organization’s advertised scope on the printed program: to explore a “wide range of cultural, political, social, historical, ethnographic, aesthetic, and pedagogical questions and perspectives from fields such as film studies, communication studies, anthropology, architecture, art history, ethnic studies, queer studies, history, journalism, law, medicine, political science, geography, sociology, urban studies and gender studies.” A survey of the program confirms this ambitious scope, with panels dedicated to music, photography, geography, sexuality studies, tourism, historiography, trauma studies, industrial film, ethnography, news journalism, ecology, archival studies, and data visualization.
In addition to work that connected with a diverse range of academic disciplines, there were also a number of panels that focused on film production. Workshops featuring practitioners covered subjects such as experimental film, interactive digital media, and film programming. Beyond workshops and panels, Visible Evidence included numerous screening sessions. Most of these screenings were devoted to relatively unknown films, but evening screenings or plenary sessions featured more renowned filmmakers such as Sergei Loznitsa (Austerlitz) and Bill Morrison. Morrison not only attended and spoke at conference, he also debuted a short film about Bloomington, Indiana, Buried Breaking Away, which played on the final night along with Dawson City: Frozen Time. The presence of so many screenings alongside more traditionally academic panels put me in the mind of actively viewing films during the half-week conference as much as studying them. After conference events ended one evening, I viewed the following films through subscriptions services that night: Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, Every Little Step, and Planet of Snail. Via streaming services such as FilmStruck, Fandor, and Amazon Prime, I was able to preview films I had not heard of otherwise before making a decision about which concurrent panel to attend. Visible Evidence XXV is also to be commended for including a broad range of films beyond the documentary cannon. While well-known and conventional documentaries were, deservedly, the subject of some analysis, so too were more liminal or marginal genres and films. For example, Laurel Westrup (UCLA) delivered a paper on music videos and Gabrielle McNally (Northern Michigan University) on “citizen surveillance as an emerging documentary form.” Notably, even when panelists delivered papers on seemingly well-covered films, they often approached the subject in expansive, unexpected ways. For example, Marian Petraitis (University of Zurich) gave a paper on Seven Up that focused not only on the well-known, original British series but also on the series of international spin-offs it inspired, most notably a version in the Soviet Union that began in the 1990s.
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Fig. 4 | Sergei Loznitsa's Austerlitz. Indiana University Cinema, 2018.
The organization’s website succinctly lists prior locations of this gathering: Visible Evidence conferences “have been held on five continents, most recently in Istanbul, Turkey (2010); New York City, USA (2011); Canberra, Australia (2012); Stockholm, Sweden (2013); New Delhi, India (2014); Toronto, Canada (2015); Bozeman, USA (2016); and Buenos Aires, Argentina (2017).” The next Visible Evidence conference (XXVI) will take place at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles from July 24-28, 2019. Possible attendees in North America should note that the 2019 conference is at an unusually accessible location. Based on the call for contributors posted on the “Visible Evidence XXIV” page, the next conference promises to be diverse and wide-ranging in its scope of coverage: “VE XXVI will feature the history, theory, and practice of documentary and nonfiction cinema, television, video, audio recording, digital media, photography, and performance, in a wide range of panels, workshops, plenary sessions, screenings, and special events.”
WORKS CITED Austerlitz screening at Visible Evidence XXV. Indiana University Cinema, 2018.
Visible Evidence X XV Conference Program. Indiana University, 2018.
Hook, Jamie. “‘Do I Get a Chance to Say Who I Want to Play my Life?’: Documentary and Metatheatricality in Every Little Step.” Visible Evidence XXV Conference, 10 Aug. 2018, School of Global and International Studies, Bloomington, IN. Conference Presentation.
“Visible Evidence XXV Schedule.” Indiana University, 2018, www.visibleevidence.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/ VisibleEvidenceXXV_Schedule_v16.pdf. 18 Dec. 2018.
Predescu, Alina. “Filmic Resistance Against the Everyday: Su Friedrich’s Re/Mediation of Present in I Cannot Tell You How I Feel.” Visible Evidence XXV Conference, 10 Aug 2018, School of Global and International Studies, Bloomington, IN. Conference Presentation.
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“Visible Evidence XXIV.” Indiana University, 2018, www. visibleevidence.org/conference/visible-evidence-xxvi/. 18 Dec. 2018. “Visible Evidence: About.” Indiana University, 2018, http:// www.visibleevidence.org/about/. 18 Dec. 2018.
FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
My Name is Julia Ross and I am a Recovering Film Noir:
On the Pacific Cinematheque’s 2018 Film Noir Series BY JOSHUA HAROLD WIEBE | University of Toronto
I Fig. 1 | Nina Foch in My Name is Julia Ross, 17:38.
Columbia Pictures, 1945.
“A tous les sens du mot, le film noir est un film de mort.” -Raymond Borde, Étienne Chaumeton, Panorama du film noir américain 1941-1953; 16 1 “Kofman: Ce que vous désirez dire de l’amour? Ça c’est la topique. Derrida: De la? Kofman: L’amour. Derrida: L’amour ou la mort? Kofman: Non, l’amour— pas la mort.” -Derrida (Dick and Kofman)2
t is revealing that a remarkable number of contemporary articles and books that take up the subject of film noir begin with a reflection on the impossibility of providing a definition. A few examples: “Impossible to define as a genre with fixed, immutable conventions or as a movement that repeats from film to film, the film noir raises a problem of definition which seems nearly impossible to resolve” (Letort 7).3 “It has always been easier to recognize a film noir than to define the term […] There is in fact no completely satisfactory way to organize the category; and despite scores of books and essays that have been written about it, nobody is sure whether the films in question constitute a period, a genre, a cycle, a style, or simply a [phenomenon]” (Naremore 9). “What is film noir? This is perhaps the question with which to begin (indeed, it is the question with which every film noir class in every undergraduate Film Studies course in every university will begin); however, I will not be offering a single—final? authoritative? definitive?—answer: an urge clearly demonstrated, for example, by William Park’s recent work, which bears the very title, What is Film Noir?” (Tyrer 22). The motivating antagonism at the heart of film noir studies can be illuminated through two examples. On the one hand, Winston Wheeler Dixon advocates for what is an essentially thematic approach to the discourse, seeking out what he calls “the true message of noir; that today is horrible, and tomorrow will be worse; that hope is an
1 “In all senses of the word, the film noir is a film of death.” Translation by the author. 2 “Kofman: What is it that you want to say about love? That’s the topic. Derrida: About what? Kofman: Love. Derrida: Love or death? Kofman: No, love not death.” Translation by the author. 3 Translation by the author.
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illusion” (4). His argument, which squares with James Naremore’s More Than Night (2008), among others, expands the territory of the noir beyond its conventional geographic and temporal confines. For Dixon, the noir is a label to be affixed to any film that exhibits a particular brand of nihilist urbanity. On the other hand, Paul Schrader’s classic text, “Notes on Film Noir,” makes the claim that films noirs were, generally, “Hollywood films of the Forties and early Fifties which portrayed the dark, slick city streets, crime and corruption” (8). Discursively, the noir tends to be typified by adherence to one or the other model of noirdom. Critical consensus sources the term to Nino Frank’s “Un nouveau genre ‘policier’: L’aventure criminelle,” first published in August of 1946 4, wherein the noir is not so much defined as outlined. Contrasted with the rote detective film, Frank establishes the noir as misogynist, fragmented, and character-driven, referring to Double Indemnity (1944), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laura (1944), and Murder, My Sweet (1944). This seminal take on a unique type of crime film then-emerging in the United States can be framed according to either model with little resistance: we can see Frank as inaugurating either a conceptual category or a historical period. Tom Gunning (in)famously claimed in a review for Naremore’s book for Modernism/Modernity that “Film Noir may be the great achievement of film studies,” which hints at the enormity of the burden that film noir bears (Gunning). But what is the impact of the label on any particular film? What function does the term perform? How does it reconfigure, distort, or clarify? Situated at the margins of the noir discourse, and, in many ways, a microcosm of that discourse, lies My Name is Julia Ross (1945). Seen in the context of the Pacific Cinematheque’s 2018 Film Noir program,⁵ one could be forgiven for overlooking the tension between the film and its description, especially given the copy that accompanies it in the program. “B-movie stylist Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy , The Big Combo ) made his first
foray into film noir with this tense, fast-paced thriller” (Film Noir 2018). Yet for every critic calling Julia Ross a “genuine film noir,” as William Park does, there’s someone claiming that it is “really an ‘imperiled heroine’ movie on the order of The Lady Vanishes” (Park 120; Dick 156). In a 1985 piece for the Journal of Film and Video’s College Course File, designed to outline a pedagogical approach to film noir studies, Dana Polan went so far as to offer Julia Ross as an example of a film that is decidedly not noir, but which can tell us about noir by contrast. “If Noir suggests the dangers of the big city for innocent men, the gothic suggests a complementary menace within the heart of domestic life for women. One should show a film like Gaslight […] or My Name is Julia Ross and have students discuss its resemblances to, and divergences from, the narratives of Film Noir” (Polan 81). Shown on 35mm (which made for an excellent double bill with Pushover (1954), also on 35mm), the film establishes its stakes from the opening scene, a mildly hostile encounter between a grudge-bearing maid at a boarding house and the titular Julia Ross (Nina Foch), an unemployed tenant looking for work. The maid offers to help find her a job doing similar work, but Julia refuses because, in the maid’s words, “a fine lady like [her] was trained for something better.” This exchange crystallizes Julia’s position in relation to the maid beyond simple economics; it is Julia’s refusal to ‘sink’ to the maid’s level that prompts her to follow up on a new employment agency ad in the paper. It is this refusal that sends her, blindly, into a position as a live-in caretaker at an old woman’s house. And it is this refusal that leads to her waking up in the mansion of a maniac, who insists along with his mother that Julia is, in fact, Marion Hughes, his bride. It is in this fashion that Julia Ross is punished for her aspirations. My Name is Julia Ross makes an impact despite the fact that as a 65-minute drama with no major stars and a low budget, it may be a slight film. Indeed, the budget was $175,000 at a time when the average picture cost
4 This is not definitive, by any means, as work has been done, and is continuing to be done, to examine noir’s historical predecessors, such as in Charles O’Brien’s “Film Noir in France: Before the Liberation.” 5 The Pacific Cinematheque’s Film Noir series has been an annual staple of Vancouver’s culture of filmgoing since its inaugural season in 1994. Treating viewers to a variety of films noir from 1941-1961, the summer series has consistently been one of the institution’s most popular programs. Last year’s program can be found here: http://www.thecinematheque.ca/film-noir-2018
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Fig. 2 | Julia’s sleeping face, 10:54. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
$554,386 [Bogdanovich 537; The Hollywood Studio System]). It orbits around two broad thematic concerns relating to identity. The first is death (it is, as Borde and Chaumeton say, “un film de mort”): Julia’s titular affirmation is not only an affirmation of her own identity apart from that of Mrs. Hughes, but a proclamation of her right to life. To be Marion Hughes is to already have died and to be fated for more death; to be Julia Ross is to belong among the living. This plot resolves itself with the faking of her own death, wherein Julia substitutes a dress (a signifier of her newly adopted upper-class status) for her body, intervening in her husband’s attempts to substitute her body for his wife’s. The substitutions from the body to the dress to the body again, and from her body for another’s body, lead nowhere but to death. In order for the narrative to be resolved, someone has to die.
The second thematic concern is love (“La mort?” “Non, l’amour.”): we see this in action in the curious status of the madman husband and the way his terrorizing of Marion/ Julia is taken by townsfolk, medical professionals, and visitors as being born of care. What sets My Name is Julia Ross apart from films like Gaslight (1940, Dickinson or 1944, Cukor) and others that dwell on the “noir theme of unstable identity” (Hirsch 182) is that Julia is never in doubt of who she is; she never succumbs to the pressure of her environment. What she does, instead, is calculate the opportunities afforded her. The crucial sequence of her awakening is worth examining in some detail. Julia arrives in Henrique Square, late at night, with all of her belongings in tow. The camera dollies into the lion-shaped door knocker, dissolves, and we are inside the house, panning from an out-of-focus tea set (presumably the vehicle for the drugs that have ensured Julia’s slumber) to Julia’s sleeping
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face in a medium shot as passing shadows flit across it (Fig. 2). A hand comes in from out of frame and takes up her purse, and this time we dissolve to a close up of the fire (Fig. 3). The camera dollies back from the fire to catch Mrs. Hughes’s hands as she upturns the purse, shaking it until empty.
Fig. 3 |Dissolving into flames, 10:59. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
Fig. 4 | Papers in the fire, 12:02. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
Fig. 5 | The photograph becomes prominently displayed after the cut,
12:04. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
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While Mrs. Hughes obliquely discusses the destruction of all of Julia Ross’s personal items, her son, Ralph, plunges a knife into some loose fabric in the background. They have a brief expository back-and-forth, wherein they reveal some of Ralph’s unpleasant tendencies, before she returns to fling loose scraps of paper into the fireplace (Fig. 4). The shot abruptly cuts to a close up of the fire and, in the unseen gap between the two shots, Lewis has re-arranged the burning papers so as to prominently feature a photograph of Julia (Fig. 5). This scene, in which the stakes of Julia’s deepening plight are established, is bookended by two shots of the flames. The first, thanks to the dissolve from her sleeping face, superimposes Julia’s visage onto the fire; the second, thanks to the invisible hand of the director, features the same components but in a different combination. Just as the characters hint at the destruction of Julia Ross’ identity, so do the flames reinforce this proposition. Three brief scenes of her love interest, Dennis Bruce, follow. He waits for Julia at the bench they agreed to meet at, he leaves a note for her, talks to a policeman, and, finally, interrogates their landlady. Up to this point, the majority of the transitions between scenes have been dissolves, establishing an editing rhythm of some regularity. Finally, however, the chain is broken. Just as the central motion of the plot has begun, we fade to black. This rhythmic disjunction signals our own uneasy grasp on the narrative and recalls the fade to black with which the film began. This is the film’s second beginning, the re-entry of Marion Hughes into the lives of her family. Again, Julia lies sleeping in bed, the camera tracking ever closer, as though we had merely been witnessing the unrest of a nightmare. She awakens, looks around as the surprise of an unexpected environment dawns on her. Her gaze settles on the initial ‘H,’ emblazoned on her duvet. From a point of view that appears to be Julia’s, we pan, beginning from the still-burning fireplace across
Joshua Harold Wiebe
the lamps, the walls, the chairs, and the curtains, before returning to Julia’s face, revealing that the shot was never from her perspective. Rather, she is embedded within the room as opposed to being a subject motivating the camera movement. The pressures of a new, hostile domesticity encroach upon her with maddening immediacy in the form of objects, antagonistically bearing the letters ‘MH.’ (Fig. 6 -8) As we are made privy to her startled search for patterns through a series of inserts of these objects, the longer playing full shots deliver the irony that even her dressing gown is marred by the dreaded ‘MH.’ Overnight, it appears, the thin membrane between Julia Ross and Marion Hughes gives way. A maid comes in and, in the manner of providing helpful plot details, breaks the news that the newly awakened Mrs. Hughes has a husband. Just as Julia is thrown into this maddening new scenario, called by a different name and living another’s life (or better still, another’s death), she pulls off her wedding ring in incredulity. Confused and startled by the impending approach of her mystery husband, she inexplicably returns the wedding ring to its place on her finger (Fig. 9). Rather than chalking this up to a filmmaker’s attempt to bridge over the unbelievability of their own plot elements, we can instead frame the move as melodramatically, or in other words psychologically, real. Wanting to be certain about just who her husband is before she removes the physical evidence of their marriage expresses a troubling fact about authenticity and emotions. Julia waits until she knows what the situation is before she decides on the level of transgression; one wonders how Julia might have responded if her husband was ideal, instead of a lunatic who intermittently tears at fabric and stabs pillows. It is this element that marks the film in accordance with Peter Bogdanovich’s assertion that it is a “troubling woman’s movie,” albeit not in the sense that he intended (Bogdanovich 520). The other line along which the love-theme develops is Julia’s pre-existing relationship with Dennis, which would have prevented her from being accepted in the role of Marion Hughes were it to have been disclosed during the interview; one of the fake employment agency’s criteria for the live-in secretary position was that the lady
Fig. 6 |The blanket, 16:35. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
Fig. 7 | The clutch, 17:32. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
Fig. 8 | The mirror, 17:45. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
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My Name is Julia Ross and I am a Recovering Film Noir
Fig. 9 |The indecisive moment, 20:32. Columbia Pictures, 1945.
in question not have any “romantic attachments”. Just after this interview, Julia comes home to Dennis having welcomed himself inside her room. She interrogates him as to why he’s invaded her private space, and whether or not he’s gotten married in the interim since she last saw him. He explains that his wedding was called off because “[my fiancé] didn’t like it when I kept calling her Julia.” The identity slippage between the unseen wife, Julia, and Marion (another unseen wife), is operative in terms of the names that people call one another, as well as on the level of emotional identification. Dennis’ wife “didn’t like” when he calls her by Julia’s name because she believes that these slips reveal that Dennis wishes Julia was in her place; that Dennis identifies Julia as his wife, rather than her. Could it not be that Julia’s momentary lapse, wherein she places the wedding ring back on her finger, signifies her identification with the bride?
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The descent into marriage haunts My Name is Julia Ross and it is her claiming of that role that the film builds (or descends) toward. The conclusion of the film, as it must be, finds Julia playing Marion playing dead— once resurrected, she reconnects with Dennis and the film ends with the following exchange: “You know I’ve made a resolution. The next time I apply for a job I’ll ask for the references!” “I know a good job.”“Secretary?” “A combination secretary, nurse, companion…” “That sounds like a wife.” “Well, how about it?” “I’ll have to have some time to think it over.” “How long?” “About five seconds.” “One, two, three, four…”
Joshua Harold Wiebe
There is a fade to black before we hear the number “five” and we are made to understand that the film simply cannot bear the weight of Julia actually getting married. Instead, My Name is Julia Ross ends just as Julia looks to finally become what she has resisted becoming for the duration of the movie: another unseen bride. The film’s title draws the boundaries of the narrative concerns to those moments in which Julia Ross proclaims her identity to be in line with the name Julia Ross. This is most fervently the case when she is faced with the social pressure of becoming Marion Hughes, yet this identity faces another threat, and indeed succumbs to it in the final sequence of the film. The obliteration of the name Julia Ross, and the fulfillment of Dennis’s slippery mistake of calling his fiancée Julia, lies in the realization of their marriage, and the attendant erasure of her surname in favour of his. Since she is set to become Julia Bruce, the film’s title no longer applies and so indicates that the narrative concerns have been resolved. Whoever Julia Bruce may be, it is not the Julia Ross who was defined in contradistinction to Marion Hughes, who formed her identity by negating another’s.
people Julia encounters, she may as well be Marion, with Julia being the fabrication. By the time of her impending wedding to a man whose commitment to her is, at the very least, suspect, the conflation of the three women (Marion, Julia, and Dennis’ unnamed fiancé) has been accomplished, the differences effaced in the construction of the unifying force, Julia Bruce. The tropes of film noir, the femmes fatales, the postwar disillusionment, the “hardboiled tradition,” the debatable influence of German Expressionism, none of these do much to explain My Name is Julia Ross, yet here we are (Schrader 10). Ultimately, My Name is Julia Ross does more work for film noir as a limit-case, as a site of contention, than film noir does for it. However, there is one obvious, undeniable benefit to the term being affixed, and it is a distributive one: the film can be screened at the Pacific Cinematheque alongside such powerhouses as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and couched in boxsets like Columbia Film Noir Classics III. Film noir may be a stretch, but it keeps a title like My Name is Julia Ross in circulation.
In Foster Hirsch’s well-regarded book-length study of the film noir, The Dark Side of the Screen, he makes a forgivable, but telling, mistake: In My Name is Julia Ross, Nina Foch plays an American alone and unemployed in London, who goes for a job interview as companion to a rich lady. Before she has time to catch her breath, she has been cast by her wealthy new employer in the role of Julia Ross, the woman’s mad, dead daughter-in-law, killed by the matron’s son in a moment of rage. Presented as suicidal and crazy to the villagers in the remote hamlet where the dowager and her weak-willed son live, the new “Julia Ross” will provide a corpse with an alibi. (Hirsch 181-182) In the rush to categorize, to broker the deal between film history and My Name is Julia Ross, one is at risk of passing over the specificity of this psychological drama. To mistake Julia Ross for Marion Hughes is to highlight the interchangeability of subjects in the world of My Name is Julia Ross, to reify the notion that for most of the
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My Name is Julia Ross and I am a Recovering Film Noir
WORKS CITED Bogdanovich, Peter. Who the Devil Made It? New York, Ballantine Books, 1998. Borde, Raymond, and Étienne Chaumeton. Panorama du film noir américain 1941-1953,Groupe Flammarion, 1955. Dick, Bernard F. “Columbia’s Dark Ladies and the Femmes Fatales of Film Noir.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 3, 1995, pp. 155-162. Dixon, Wheeler Winston. Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia, University of Rutgers Press, 2009.
Laura. Dir. Otto Preminger, 20th Century Fox, 1944. Letort, Delphine. Du film noir au neo-noir: Mythes et stéréotypes de l’Amérique (1941-2008), Editions L’Harmattan, 2010. The Maltese Falcon. Dir. John Huston, Warner Bros, 1941. Murder, My Sweet. Dir. Edward Dmytryk, RKO, 1944. Naremore, James. More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts, University of California Press, 2008.
Double Indemnity. Dir. Billy Wilder, Paramount, 1944.
O’Brien, Charles. “Film Noir in France: Before the Liberation.” Iris, no. 21 (spring 1996).
“Film Noir 2018.” The Cinematheque, 3 Sep. 2018 thecinematheque.ca/film-noir-2018. Accessed 1 Jan. 2019.
Park, William. What is Film Noir? Bucknell University Press, 2011.
Frank, Nino. “Un nouveau genre ‘policier’: L’aventure criminelle.” L’Écran français, no. 61, 1946. Gunning, Tom. “More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts, Book Review.” Modernism/Modernity, vol. 6, no. 3, 1999, pp. 151-153. Hirsch, Foster. The Dark Side of the Screen, Da Capo Press, 1981. “The Hollywood Studio System, 1942–1945.” Encyclopedia.com, 3 Sep. 2018 www.encyclopedia.com/ arts/culture-magazines/hollywood-studio-system-1942-1945. Accessed 1 January 2019.
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Polan, Dana. “College Course File: Film Noir.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 37, no. 2, 1985. Schrader, Paul. “Notes on Film Noir.” Film Comment, vol. 8, no. 1, 1972. Tyrer, Ben. Out of the Past: Lacan and Film Noir, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
OPEN CALL FOR PAPERS
ISSUE 5.1 · SPRING 2020
For its upcoming issue, Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual
(250-300 words); interviews (4,000-5,000 words); undergraduate
Narration (MSJ) currently seeks submissions that encompass the
scholarship (2,000-2,500 words) or video essays (8-10 minute
latest research in fi lm and media studies. Submission categories
range). All submissions must include a selection of supporting
include feature articles (6,000-7,000 words); mise-en-scène
images from the fi lm(s) under analysis and be formatted according
featurettes (1,000-1,500 words); reviews of fi lms, DVDs, Blu-
to MLA guidelines, 8th edition. Topic areas may include, but are
rays or conferences (1,500-2,500 words); M.A. or Ph.D. abstracts
not limited to, the following:
Mise-en-scène across the disciplines Transmedia Film spectatorship Auteur theory Adaptation studies
Frame narratology Pedagogical approaches to fi lm and media studies Genre studies Cinematic aestheticism
Documentary studies Fandom studies Seriality Film/video as a branch of digital humanities research
THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS IS JANUARY 5, 2020
Please sign up as an author through the registration portal to begin the 5-step submission process: journals.sfu.ca/msq/msq/index.php/msq/user/register
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ABOUT THE JOURNAL Situating itself in film’s visual narrative, Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual Narration (ISSN 2369-5056) is the f ir st of it s kind: an international, ABOUT THE JOURNAL in film’s visual peer-reviewed journalSituating focuseditself exclusively on narrative, Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual the artistry of frame composition as a storyNarration (ISSN 2369-5056) is the first of openits kind: telling technique. With its open-access, an international, peer-reviewed journal focused review publishing model, MSJ strives to be a syn-ex-
clusively on the artistry of frame as a ergistic, community-oriented hubcomposition for discourse story-telling its open-access, openthat begins technique. at the levelWith of the frame. Scholarly
review publishing model,set MSJdesign, strives tocostuming, be a synergisanalysis of lighting, tic, community-oriented hub for discourse that begins camera angles, camera proximities, depth of at the level of the frame. Scholarlyare analysis of lighting, field, and character placement just some of set design, costuming, camera angles, camera proxthe topics that the journal covers. While primarily
imities, depth of fidiscourse eld, and character concerned with in and placement around theare just some of the topics that the journal covers. While film frame, MSJ also includes narratological primarily with discourse in and around analysisconcerned at the scene and sequence level ofthe firelated lm frame, MSJ also includes narratological analysis media (television and online) within
at scenePar and sequence level ofare related media itsthe scope. ticularly welcome ar ticles (television and online) within its scope. Particularly that dovetail current debates, research, and welcome articles that dovetail current debates, theories are as they deepen the understanding of research, and theories as they deepen the underfilmic storytelling. The journal’s contributing
standing of an filmic storytelling. The journal’s contribwriters are eclectic, interdisciplinary mixture uting writers are an eclectic, interdisciplinary mixture of graduate students, academics, filmmakers, of academics, filmmakers, filmgraduate scholars,students, and cineastes, a demographic thatfilm scholars, andthe cineastes, demographic that also also reflects journal’s areadership. Published
refl ects the journal’s readership. PublishedMSJ twice twice a year by Simon Fraser University, is a year by Simon Fraser University, MSJ is the offi cial the official film studies journal of Kwantlenfilm
studies journalUniversity of Kwantlen Polytechnic in Polytechnic Vancouver,University Canada. in Vancouver, Canada. It is included EBSCO’s Film and It is included in EBSCO’s Filminand Television Television LiteratureLiterature Index. Index.
92 Vol.04, No.01 | Spring 2019
Issue 4.1 is pleased to showcase an article by KPU English graduates Chantele Franz and Yasmeen F. Kumar, "From Innocence to Experience: On...
Published on Jun 30, 2019
Issue 4.1 is pleased to showcase an article by KPU English graduates Chantele Franz and Yasmeen F. Kumar, "From Innocence to Experience: On...