Media Portfolio By Peter Packroff Matriculation number: 200311361
Reading the Media
We have been talking narrative and the actual meaning and content of the word. In which tense is the story told? Is it a flash back, present tense and how much of the story are we actually being told. This being in movies, articles, adverts in magazines etc. We have seen the introduction to American Beauty. An opening scene where the dead main-character actually reveals the whole story, from the very beginning. A talk-over describes what we are actually about to see. American Beauty is covering a period of maybe 1-2 months, and taken out of a context of 42 years (the age of the main character). It could also have covered the relationship up to the point it went wrong, or the life after the main-characterâ€™s death. Sit-coms and soap operas often take place in the same period of life, lets say a day in a life of a couple of the 40â€™es, and actually goes on week after week, without the settings and surroundings actually changing as e.g. Hallo, hallo. The narrative does not necessarily have to be in chronological order: Fabula means the story as you actually understand the actions taking place. It is meant as the general story from a-z that you store in your memory. Syuzhet describes the way the film puts times and bits together, like flashbacks, etc. Using this understanding, it can actually help the viewers experience and understanding, not by watching a film in chronological order, but put together bit by bit, e.g. like American Beauty, City of God, Natural Born Killers or Pulp Fiction. In Long Kiss Goodnight, the flashback narrative is helping us to understand that the wife (main-character) is actually a martial art expert and professional sniper. In Europe we often criticise the Hollywood films for being too mainstream and copy the same narrative. Let us use Bad-boys as an example: We are introduced to two men in a car. A bit of action takes place, but just a show off, when they arrest some roadpirates. Then we are introduced to the family- and private life, happy days. Then the policemen are called up about a robbery and are send out to deal with it. Bang, bang, bang, lots of shooting. Dead guys, wife gets mad, bad guys dies, good guys survive and everybody are happy. - Bad Boys II is build up over exact same pattern, same narrative. When making a No. 1 and then the no. 2, the producer is committed to use exact same pattern again. In Tomb Raider I and II. We see Lara Craft in a bit of training, or showing off, as an introduction. Some bad boys are causing troubles. Lara Croft is sent out. Bang, bang, bang, dead guys all over the place and then happy times. James Bond movies are no exception neither.
Matrix’ no. 3 has been critizised to move too far away from the plot of the 1st and no 2. E.g. is the main- character away from the screen I more than 30 minutes, for the first time of all three movies. This is not matching the rhythm (narrative) the viewer is now expecting after have seen the two others. Like we see in City of God, many new coming producers eager to show off new artfully narratives, and move away from the mainstream. However, these are often more confusing and demand more activity from the user, and narrow the group of audients who will watch this.
By understanding the stereotypes and mainstream using these special sets of narratives, we will be able to decide genre and to read the media. If we see a news-programme, we will e.g. be able to decide weather it is a commercial or non-commercial news station, as they will use different sets of narratives. If an action-channel should outline the Iraq war from a-z, they might be likely to show an opening sequence of dead people all over, and actually start with the end as they would see it. If they started with an opening picture, showing happy days and smiling, playing children as the end, the viewer would get confused, as the viewer would not understand we were talking about a war. A broadcast channel would be more likely to start “Back in 9/11 when it all started….”, and tell the story in a more chronological order.
(Mise-en-Scene and cinematography)
Mise-en-scene, means, what we see. What is psychically in the scene settings? Nothing present is unimportant. Every single thing in the scene reveals something the settings. Things we expect to be there and things that are there, that confuse the viewer, and therefore should be paid special attention to? Cinematography covers; how the shot is taken. There are many ways to picture the surroundings and scene. Why is it chosen to be shot in the way it is, and how is this percept by the viewer? There are three main points that the director is in control of and have to make decisions about when filming, before the editing process. - Photographic qualities of the shot. - Framing of the shot. - Duration of the shot. Linse type has to be chosen, focus and incoming light and colours. As an example Ken Loach is limiting the light source from the surroundings, which makes the scenes seem dark and melancholic. Sweet Sixteen is constantly dark and grey. Which angle is used, which high, level and distance is chosen? As seen in American Beauty in the living room, and which common used, the camera starts filming from a distance, and moves closer and closer. This does not only help the viewer to get an understanding of the surroundings, but also helps to understand what happens in the individual, when it ends up zooming into a close-up. A person looks small when camera is placed in a higher position, and big, if filmed from a low angle. If camera is tilted e.g. an opening picture from a car accident, it brings more action into the picture, as if the camera has actually been in the accident it self. Same action effects can be obtained in using hand-held camera. Later in the editing process, it is possible to create cohesion in where the person is looking e.g. by filming the eyes of the actor(tress) and then the person or object on which is being looked at. To create cohesion in e.g. conversation, it is important that the camera does not pan or move right and then left. To create gab between scenes you can e.g. move and pan the camera constantly to the right, as the scene changes. In the editing process the sound can be added. Shall it be real time sounds, recorded of a condensator microphone that obtain all sound in the scene, or will it be voices isolated from the actors only? By e.g. adding sounds from the street, when filming inside, it can reveal that it is summer and the windows are open. Are there children playing out-side, or are there gang-bangs or shootings from next door?
Should scary classical music be added, like the fiddles in Hitchcockâ€™s famous murder scene in the shower? It is important to understand that every single piece on the scene and every single sound are revealing a reality and contribute to the understanding and perception from the viewer.
(Film analysis of Vertigo)
We have seen Hitchcock’s film Vertigo, which against my will, has been printed in bold letters in the film history, as being one of the most important and influential movies ever. The discussion in the seminar class contributed to my understanding of the movie. I was not quit sure if we had seen the same movie, when I was told another action than the one I experienced. It helped, as I started thinking in psychoanalysis and understood the controversial sexuality-undertones. There is no doubt that the film is full of symbols, though they may be hard to find. Beside of the action, the movie is filled up with manhood symbols e.g. down the waterside, when she is about to drawn herself; we see a lot of white pillars. The colours in the movie also play a big part. E.g. the green colours in the actress’ room are again the psychological colour for hope and bit of mixture of yellow might symbolises the jealousy to the actress’ employee’s wife. The red colour in the restaurant is a symbol for love or desire. The wife, the police is hired to follow, gets possessed with the life of her grand-grand mother. Because this happens in dreams and in a state of unconsciousness, the wife does not remember this taking place The woman is possessed with paintings and the museum. Maybe this made her dream away to another world. Museums give connotations to something old and this might be her sexual drive for an older man, who can make her pregnant. The paintings might also symbolise the untouched. You cannot touch the paintings. Maybe she, opposite first supposed, long back to a world, when she was still untouched? Or maybe, she would like to live a life on a painting, where she gets attention, because she never had attention herself? The grand- grand mother lost her child and also lived a childless marriage, and in the end she took her own life. The story is to be repeated again! The wife buys a bucket of flowers, which is similar to the grand-grand mothers on the painting. This is her final step into self-destruction. The flowers might also be a symbol of reproduction. The one who catches the flowers, will get married next, and thereby reproduce. The water can be seen as the bible “re-birth” action, also later used in Matrix. After she has been reborn – the actress is passed on her life, but also her curse (and end same destiny). The policeman becomes her saviour and thereby their relations get stronger. Maybe it is in this action, that the actress is being “swapped” over, and maybe this is why she gets these feelings for him - because he actually saved her, even if she was not dead. When he gets home and undresses her, when he puts her to bed, he sees her naked. He is then getting possessed by her.
The friend/ employer of the policeman knew the policeman had a fear of heights. So he succeeded, as the policeman is held back by his phobia, he lets the dead wife fall down from the tower. That this fobia held him from running up the tower can be seen as an excape from his own sexuality, which generates in a hesitation toward a complete relationship, as also seen in his relation to the artist. The policeman is possessed to take the actress up in the tower again, where he lost his manhood that day, when he could not continue the hunt on the wife. The tower can therefore also be seen as the female vagina, and he not got the guts to make her pregnant/ reproduce. There is also some connection between the tower, and the latter on which he climbs up in the atelier. He faints when he moves his way up. The Freudian theory shines all way through. It is literally the “mother” who is disturbing those two. He ends up with the mother, and cannot do anything to prevent it (drawing lines to the Oedipus complex). When the policeman “looses his manhood” (gets his phobia), the scene is only containing men. His phobia must be a symbol, not just of manhood, but maybe the relation to his father? It is men alone that lead to this phobia in the beginning. The message in the film is clear: The policeman is afraid to run up the tower (have sex). If you do not do it, you will loose the chance. So you have to live, while you are young, and not be detained by morale (or phobias).
(Genre and intertextuality. Kes)
We have talked a bit about genre in relation to narrative. We have seen Vertigo which is a hybrid of a thriller and love story. Often the excitement level, as narrative, is often related to the specific genre. If we made a biopsychological experiment, we could measure the brain and nerve activity when watching e.g. thriller – a genre that often has same narrative. Ken Loach has with his film KES portrayed the reality, so it also becomes thrilling, just like sweet sixteen. The intertextuality is extremely important in the reality genre. This being both news, documents and films. When we have analysed adverts from magazines the intertextuality has played a big role. You can say that by intertextuality is meant “what is not being said, but still understood”. In Kes, when the teacher tells Billy to wear a pair of shorts, it is a part of the intertextuality that everybody can relate to how it must feel like. Already when he holds up the shorts, before the other boys starts laughing, the viewer things, “oh God”. Intertextuality is also covering symbols, metaphors etc. The connotation especially in commercials is so important. Sometimes the unsaid is much stronger than the told. We have seen at a lot of examples on this, e.g. president Bush in his speech after the 9/11 and during the following war in Iraq, using loads of metaphors. Ken Loach, who started in the ’60 working for BBC has made a range of screenplays and documentary films for BBC. He is known for being a realist, extremely close to the world we actually see and understand it – or deny it. Therefore have all his films been provoking the society and often started a lively debate. KES (1971) Ken Loach’s film Kes is of great importance for the British Film Industry. The “Hollywood- opposite” movement, which production is also growing in Scandinavia, is getting more and more popular across Europe and wins great respect abroad. It is of biggest relevance to the coming Media Student, as the money and equipment for filming are very limited. All Ken Loaches works are low costs productions, and have always been awarded for the actor’s quality. Kes cost £157.000 (Alexander Walker, Hollywood UK: The British Film Industry in the Sixties, 1974, p 378) Loaches films have always been subject for a massive debate. E.g. with his film Family Life and latest the Sweet Sixteen, which also had enormous internationally success.
Kes is based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave. Billy, the main character, is a working class boy from Yorkshire. Nothing succeeds for Billy, and the whole world surrounding him is cruel. Even when he finds his only compensation for a friend, the falcon, his mean big brother kills it. Though the film is mean and black eyed all way through, it also leaves space for a laugh. The world gets so mean and leaves twists into a sarcasm e.g. in the sports scene, when he has to wear some old shorts that are way to big, and then is selected as the last player on the team. Ken Loach is attempting to come as close to reality as possible, and therefore he always stick to the original dialect, and often the actors are not bound by a script, but have the possibility to interact with the script writer. In America when the film was shown, it had to be re-synchronised. And the resent Sweet Sixteen had to be subtitled even within the UK. Like Family Life Loach uses amateur actors, often taken from positions from real life, to get it as real as possible. Kes and Sweet Sixteen are no exceptions. Some techniques Loach is using are e.g. lightening the whole room, so no personâ€™s stands out alone. No persons in his films are more important than the others, as they all interact with each other. He uses very few close-ups which lets the persons move and act as they find most comfortable and natural. He uses no, or very few, over the shoulder shots and close-ups. Therefore the camera follows the actors - not the other way round. And often he uses pans and handheld, instead of a camera on tracks. What also characterises his films is that they always end without answers and leave a big question mark with the viewed.
We have been set a guideline for analysing advertising, containing 5 points. -
Stimulate desire Arouse interest Attract attention Set action Create conviction
These points can also be used when analysing news, and actually in every sense of active communication. Analysis of advert. The advert is placed as page 4 in a male magazine “Euroman” that target a well off male audience, 25 years and up. The magazine costs roughly £5. The mise-en-scene in the advert is an unrealistic world, blue as ice. The present objects that shall be paid attention to are; a woman (half-size), a man (only the hand), a glass, a bottle of Gin, red lips, ice cubes, a slice of lime, a chess (made of ice) and the bra- strop in light blue. Woman is in the late 20’ties and the male hand is visible older. The shadows in the back reveal audience, so the situation is maybe taken in a pub. The narrative is split into two actions. The sequence/ shot are taken in the middle of a game between two persons, probably in a bar. Basically the man is taking his move, maybe the last. The man is about to win over the woman. The other action, which describe below reveals a stallion ready to mate the glass (woman) and then...?
Psychological colours that need to be paid attention to are blue - cold as ice and faith, green - hope, yellow -jealousy and red - desire. The wrinkles on the hand are a symbol of age. The man is visible older than the opposite player. His hand is shaping a cube, which not only gives connotations and makes coherence to the ice cubes, but the squared forms are also symbol of masculinity. The round shapes of the glass symbolises the female. If you look further into the picture you see that the other horse in background, below the horse he is holding, has a different shape – more rounded, and closer to the woman. Behind the glass reveals her king. When the strongest player, the queen, is gone, then the fence is gone, and the king is as good as dead. The stallion is an icon for Ferrari and horse powers (again a male-thing). The horse/ stallion is also the joker in the game. It is the hardest player to predict, as it as the only player is never moving in a straight line, but from time to time. Like a predator watching its prey, moving from side to side, and then set in action.
The bottle is placed close to the woman’s mouth, and of course, the bottle symbolises the manhood. Chess Mate is a metaphor for guarantied sex, and to mate/ make love can lead to Chess Partner/ Chess Sex. The text, “mix Gordon’s with pleasure” is again a metaphor, pleasure for sex. The whole narrative is a metaphor de-connotation to the fairytale of the Ice Queen. The evil Ice Queen – which, if analysed, probably have same sexual undertones. There are two sets of action in this picture. The active reader will firstly, as the automatic reaction, read from top of left corner to bottom of right. Focus is only clear on the hand, which makes it natural to see the hand as the “set off point”. The eyes follow the movement on the hand to the glass. From there, the eyes’ movement continues to the bottle. From there, back to the lime fruit, that makes the yellow colours and the dark green colours on the top fade out and mix. Attention is now on the top. The strop of the bra is revealed, and just easy to rip off. Eyes go back to the strop again, and if you watch the fingers, and look through the ice, the man is about to rip off the strop. The woman’s lips are red. Not only are they cold, but they are, like the lime fruit, a junction between the red colours on top and the red colours on bottle. The eyes are caught in a ping-pong game, and the picture keeps the eyes attention.
Mona Lisa, as I take the liberty to name this woman in the back ground is not in focus. Therefore you cannot see weather she is smiling, angry or nervous. But she is waiting for your move! You (the male reader) have her full attention!
The unwritten intertextuality seems to say “Get a glass, fill gin in the glass, mix it with pleasure and defreeze the ice queen” (Talk her warm). The picture is matching the five bullets adverts guide. The female stimulates the desire for sex, and in same time draws attention. The horse/ Ferrari creates the conviction and audience watching in back also create conviction/ desire for being in the centre, showing off the capture. The action is set, as the commercial has wakened the male reader’s desire, and the advertising has succeeded, if the males take action, and buy the Gin.
We have compared different headlines and pictures from different papers, in our aim to read the media. We look into a line of pictures of Prince Charles, and how and why the photographer had chosen the angels etc. Using same 5 point guide as we used for advertising we can analyse headlines and pictures.
The headline must stimulate desire. “One nil to the bill but demo bill still tops £20: 6000 police stop the May Day Monopoly rioters”. The desire is to hate or dislike someone – in this case the protesters that here are called rioters. The 6000 police officers draw attention. 6000 sounds like an almost unthinkable large number. The interest is that it is the readers that pay the £20 million bill. And if the reader could save loads of money, he (she) would probably not be willing to pay the price of a democracy. The conviction is made with “nil”, usually only used when talking football. The action set will in this case not be a purchase, but a political action. The action will be to dislike the protestors, and influence the political opinion. The repetition in the words also draws attention, and is unusual for a newspaper. Almost poetic. Nil, bill and still are riming, and the repetition of b, b, d, b makes a rhythmical reading, followed up by M, D, M. Monopoly is a metaphor for the game, and rioters give de-connotations to a more violent crowd.
News papers have hundreds and hundreds of pictures to choose from of a sequence of maybe just 10 minutes. Which picture do they choose, and why. In the attached pictures of Charles, I find the “set action” point to be most important. What will the reaction be? The picture where Charles sits with the child is extremely neutral. The most neutral of all pictures shown. The other picture, where Charles is reaching for something in his pocket, is crying for action. The capture reveals his body language. I find the picture to be the most effective, as it is not just a question of a “lucky shot”, but reveals a body movement. A not just a facial movement which takes a millisecond, but a movement, which is part of the person, and cannot be denied. The picture exposes Charles as being extremely gay, but also a big snobbish “big spender”.
(Analyse this – psychoanalysis)
Beside psychology, the Freudian (and Jungerian) theory is very important in the filmanalysis (and also adverts). Freud works with the unconscious. He split up the mind into the: - Id, which is the uncontrolled repressed part of the psyche. - Ego, which is the conscious that wishes to control the Id. - The super ego attempts to act as a higher order (a conscience). Weather you support Freud’s theory or Jung’s, who’s theory is slightly simpler, it should not be denied that the unconscious plays a big role in how you perceive and watch a film. Freud’s controversial theory of the Oedipus complex is also still being argued to be playing an active role in films. Shortly, the idea is taken from a story from the Greek mythology, when Oedipus marries his own mother. In the early uprising, Freud believed the child had oppressed sexual interest in the mom. The child (boy!) would see the father as a competitor, because it could recognise the penis of the father, but not of the mother. Therefore there was an oppressed hate and even unconscious desire to get rid of him, as he alone was aloud to have a sexual relation to the mother. Feminists later in the 1960tees criticised that this model only counts the boys, and that a similar complex is to be found in females. Then the Electra complex got introduced. This has again set a question mark, if the Oedipus complex is to be taken serious. We see examples of above theory being used in e.g. Vertigo and the much later Acid House. American Beauty also touches the oppressed sexual desire, but for this young teenager, which has absolutely no connection to the mother. The effect on the male viewer, that this sexual play between the adult father and the daughters friend has, must to some extend undermine the Oedipus Theory. It reveals more a picture of a male sexual interest in everything female.
Ideology and Representation in Mean Streets and other texts
“You don’t make up for your sins at church; you do it in the streets; you do it at home. The rest is Bullshit, and you know it”. Mean Street is an attempt to portray the reality of the street life in which the director Scorsese grew up. The film’s main character is Charlie, who attempts to move his way up through the hierarchy, but does not succeed. He is limited of his “making up for his sins”. As part of this process he is burning himself, when he put his fingers into a flame of a candle, and is almost obsessed in the way he try to help Johnny Boy out of troubles. Johnny Boy, who does not care about anyone else but himself, would never give anything in return. “A limited budget, but a revolution in the film- industry”, would be a filmenthusiastic answer to Mean Street. Mean Street is nothing big and nothing wild. What a post-modern viewer expects of a Hollywood movie is great sound and wild pictures. Not just a 2.0 Dolby Mono, (which makes the sound overdrive every time the characters are yelling at each other which happens a lot) or five- six guys hanging around a bar. All the big Italian mafia families, big bombs and explosions and a numbers of murders all came later. It is the use of colours, long tracking shots and music that is closely related to each picture that makes the film so revolutionary. The almost surrealistic surroundings of red colours, when Charlie gets drunk in the bar. The way of portray the connections between the gang members are later seen in the God Fathers, Donny Brasco and recently the Soprano’s which walks in the same footsteps as Mean Street and portrays a daily-life family dad who runs a big mafia circle and beside of that has his weekly meetings with his therapist. The mafia ideology has been created with Mean Street.
Later films are clearly inspired by the primitive but effective colours and camera movements among them Trainspotting, Acid House and City of God.
Blue Velvet 1986 Unfortunately I could not attend this screening due to illness. Though I will within draw other David Lynch movies and outline what characterizes David Lunch’s films. David Lynch has become a cult figure. His fans are still fighting about which of his movies should be recognised and awarded as his best. Many enthusiastic fans see each film as important milestone one and other, and naturally have their own place in the David Lynch films encyclopaedia. I presume only Lord of the Rings, and Starwars has had as great support as David Lynch. However, David Lynch has also been subject for the critical re-viewers and maybe he has as many critics as fans. Viewers tense to either like or dislike him. David Lynch’s films demands more brain activity than an average Hollywood action. He is breaking with the perfect America, questioning the American society and his more artful way of producing has welcomed him in Europe, and he is not a new face in Cannes. His films are like a piece of art. He has been compared with Salvador Dali in his surrealistic settings. Like Twin Peaks and Mulholland Road, there is something “wrong” in the way the people are acting. It is hard to make an analysis of the conversations, and actually localise the surrealism. But it is the sound, music and voices put together that create this unreal universe. Kitsch, surrealistic and bizarre are words used by critics of all his movies from his first Eraserhead and later The Elephant Man and of course Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.