Postmodernism is a complex reaction to paradigm of high modernism, that explored ideas of cultural unity and artistic divide, specifically between high and low forms of art. Postmodernism seeks to break this divide, re-evaluating culture entirely, as well as concepts like ‘subjectivity, meaning, gender, power, discourse, pleasure and language’; in a post-capitalist world, where the dominant economic force is not manufacturing but consumerism, the line between official and popular culture is blurred, as we gain our understanding of the world through media. The postmodernist desires contradiction, fragmentation, and instability in a world no longer moved by war or revolution, and implements this through pastiche: the fusion of different times, periods, and styles of art.
Film Movement Research
Relevance to Comparative Essay
Postmodernism seems an interesting lens through which to approach the comparative piece. I find the concepts of high and low art interesting, as I feel I myself used to categorise things in such a manner, and would be intrigued to explore how blending forms of art could lead to new innovations and interpretations. Additionally, the original Blade Runner is one of my favourite films, and its diegesis and mise-en-scene are fascinating due to its unique fusion of Eastern and Western, as well as science fiction and neo-noir, influences. I imagine I would separate the films through time, analysing a modernist piece, and then study how the postmodern piece strives to ascend beyond it.
The 400 Blows (1959, dir. François Truffaut) – Trailer
Relevance to Comparative Essay
Unfortunately, as interesting as I find the French New Wave, I’m unable to use it in my comparative project due to the fact that I’ve already drawn on it heavily in my Extended Essay, as the notion of auteur is intrinsically linked to the theories of vision and innovation formed during La Nouvelle Vague. To quote from that essay: ‘ (Wes) Anderson clearly draws influence from the directors of the French New Wave, citing them as inspirations in press and even referencing them on screen which raises debates about: firstly, Anderson’s originality; and secondly, whether the director has achieved the status of auteur, a role inspired by the French pioneers and detailed by American film critic Andrew Sarris.’ Ideally, I would have liked to compare a film like ‘The 400 Blows’, one of the most significant coming of age films of all time, to Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’, which he has cited as the first English coming of age film since the 1960’s, and which also prominently features struggles with maternal affection.
Seminal/Archetypal: Halloween (1978, dir. Carpenter) & Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir. Craven)
Non-Hollywood: Ringu (1998, dir. Nakata)
Recent: Scary Movie (2000, dir. Wayans)
Analysis of a Corpus
The Repertoire of Elements↓
Film 1: Halloween
Film 2: Nightmare on Elm Street
Film 3: Scream
Swamps, rural towns, forests, dark alleyways, isolated locations.
Characters / Groups
Naïve, carefree teenagers. Reluctant police officers who don’t initially believe protagonists, but often end up saving them. Seemingly unconquerable, supernatural antagonist.
Conflicts & Themes
Protagonist v. Antagonist, Bravery v. Fear
Montage, parallel editing.
Iconography / Mise-en-Scene
Knives, claws, blood, torn clothes, old cars, police sirens, night, thunder, lightning, rain, masks.
Shape of the story
Young group goes out on an adventure, sticking it to the world.
Monster/Killer strikes. Mystery ensues. Characters begin to die.
Typically one character remains, they find a way to defeat the monster/killer.
Relevance to Comparative Essay
Personally, I wouldn’t further investigate the horror genre for a comparative piece due to my own tastes, but I think the slasher genre specifically is one of the most pertinent examples of Rick Altman’s theory of genre cycles. Thanks to the initial boom of slashers during the 1980’s, as well as their immediately recognisable iconography, generic conventions, and narrative tropes, the genre was parodied mercilessly after their period of relevancy faded, with films like Scary Movie and Scream satirising the formula. However, in our modern context of reboots and remakes, revivals of classic slasher franchises like Halloween are beginning to make a resurgence, with more sincere horror narratives coming to the forefront of cinema again, at least before the pandemic. It would be interesting to investigate an authentic film originating from the start of the slasher genre cycle and compare and contrast it to a film separated by time later in the cycle to to observe what conventions became outdated.
Danny Boyle’s 2008 drama film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ follows Dev Patel’s Jamal Malik as he competes in the Indian version of ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?’. Critically, the film was a sleeper hit, gaining wide acclaim after its nationwide release.
Cinematographer Dod Mantle shoots using high angles, principally in the establishing shot of the sequence, forcing us as the audience to look down on the slums of Mumbai as we are introduced to them. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for India’s economic divide, with the privileged elite looking down on the impoverished, or, perhaps given the film’s focus on the social context of late twentieth century India, a commentary on how the Hindu majority saw the Muslim minority as below them; a social division that informs the conflict later in the scene.
However, as the conflict evolves into a chase sequence Dod Mantle instead utilises low angles that don’t always track the subject, exaggerating the frenzied and chaotic feel of the escape. The low angles allow us to see the world from the perspective of the children we are following, and thus relate to their turmoil and confusion, reminding us of their vulnerability in such a conflict.
‘The number of killings perpetrated by Eli is low compared with many other conventional ‘vampire’ movies. In effect, Eli spends less screen time being a vampire than she does being a friend and protector to the subliminally aggressive Oskar.’ – Yeates, D., 2009. Representations, genre and wider contexts: the vampire as metaphor in Let the Right One In and Twilight. MediaMagazine, [Online]. ., 42-44. Available at: https://cpb-eu-w2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.grammar.sch.gg/dist/0/597/files/2019/03/Vampire-genre-and-context.pdf [Accessed 24 February 2021].
‘Prefers to help rather than hurt the person who is supposed to be their prey.’ – Tyre, J., 2009. Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In. University of California Press, [Online]. 63 NO.2, 31-37. Available at: : http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/fq.2009.63.2.31 [Accessed 18 February 2021].
‘Cultures create and ascribe meaning to monsters, endowing them with characteristics derived from their most deep-seated fears and taboos.’ – ‘An analysis of horror monsters in the light of their cultural contexts can, therefore, give an insight into the anxieties and concerns of contemporary culture.’ – ‘ His method of attack involves penetration and the exchange of bodily fluids. This can be read as a sexual metaphor’ – Hendry, S., 2011. ‘Horror Monsters’, MediaMagazine, pp. 56-59.
The final confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, this scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, directed by Richard Marquand and composed by John Williams, displays not only the climactic battle between the protagonist and antagonist of the film, but also the clash of its core conflicts: love versus hate, composure versus rage, and, ultimately, good versus evil. Not only does our hero need to win the internal fight for his own morality, but also win the external fight of toppling an empire in order to restore peace in a galaxy far, far away.
These themes are conveyed not only by the score of the scene, but also, in my opinion, far more poignantly when the score is almost entirely absent. At the start of the second half of the scene, the texture of the instrumentation is incredibly thin, mostly silent except for a low, menacing woodwind melody. However, because of the withdrawal of the score in this moment, Vader’s ambient breathing is emphasised, becoming the focus of the soundscape of the scene alongside the hum of his lightsaber. This laboured breathing sound effect connotes pain and hardship, reminding the audience of Vader’s constant vulnerability; the dying man, trapped beneath the sinister mask and layers of cybernetics. This, paired with the unnerving score, creates a juxtaposition that epitomises the duality of Vader’s character: the suffering father, and the violent weapon that Palpatine has moulded him into.
Perhaps this is the reason why Vader’s leitmotif is never heard during the entire sequence. Luke senses conflict in Vader, implying that his father is actively trying to separate these two parts of himself in order to eradicate his evil side, so one can assume that, since Vader’s ‘Imperial March’ is intrinsically linked with the Empire and the domination of billions, this is the idea of that move away from the dark side being demonstrated musically. With this context, it then makes sense that it is Emperor Palpatine’s leitmotif that is introduced after a dramatic swell of brass when we see Luke’s face in shock as he realises that he has just given in to not only his unbridled rage, but to the dark side, after furiously beating down Vader and dismembering his hand. It implies that, like his father before him, he is being manipulated by Palpatine, and, if he doesn’t change his ways and break the cycle of violence, he will also fall to the dark side as a result of the Emperor’s grand, evil scheme.
We were tasked with filming and editing a continuity sequence that builds to a tense climax, using editing and cinematography to maintain continuity of space and time. We began with a script that evolved into a shot list, which we then shot and edited into a reel, and finally analysed that reel in a slideshow, all of which can be found below:
INT. ROOM. DAY.
X sits at a table, waiting.
Cross cut to:
INT. CORRIDOR. DAY.
Y walks down a corridor.
He/she is in a hurry and worried about being seen.
Cross cut to:
INT. ROOM. DAY.
X checks the time impatiently.
Cross cut to:
INT. CORRIDOR. DAY.
Y arrives at a door and opens it furtively to enter the room.
INT. ROOM. DAY.
Y enters and sits down opposite X, but within reach of him / her.
Look at the time. What happened?
Sorry. Got held up.
Did anyone see you leave?
No. At least I don’t think so?
No. No-one saw me leave.
You know what will happen if anyone finds out.
Yes, which is why we haven’t much time.
Y takes a package from out of his/her coat pocket and passes it across the table to X.
Here, you should take this, but don’t let anyone see it.
Top London policeman, Nicholas Angel is sent to a quiet country village as punishment for being too good. But the village is not all it seems! Numerous deaths lead Angel into a final showdown with the villagers in ‘God’s Country’. The sequence is from the end of the film – the final shoot out between Angel, his sidekick Danny and the villainous villagers.
There are a number of times where we see good eyeline match. For example, when the citizens are shooting at the man, we see the police officer in the car looking over to see what’s going on. This eyeline match is important to show that everyone is aware of their surroundings and all in the same location. It also helps show the reaction from the people as most the shots are medium close-ups to close-ups. During the first minute of the scene Angel kicks an old lady in the face. The action is composed of four shots. The match on action happens when the kick occurs. The camera at this moment is a close up of her face which shows the audience the impact it had. We see a really good slow motion effect when the man throws a gun to the officer to use. This slow motion effect adds to the drama of the action and makes it somewhat over the top.
The first fade happens as soon as the scene starts. The fade makes us believe the scene is going to be calm and peaceful but little we know is that it’s an action sequence that leads us into a false sense of security but this heightens the contrast to the action later.
Wright utilises a rapidly cut montage of close-up shots to portray Angel’s armament in the same high-octane style as he would an action sequence, as to not take away from the fast pace and tension built by the previous scenes.
After the first gunshot, the pace of the edit becomes fast, with steady, quick cuts creating a strong, intense rhythm to compliment the action, before slowing again upon the defeat of the villagers and the subsequent appearance of the reverend, implying that the atmosphere has once again cooled to a more tranquil equilibrium. The style of the scene pays homage to the ridiculously over-the-top action films featuring police shootouts, with intense rapid push-ins and slow-motion gun throws heightening the drama.
2001 Election – Democratic Candidate Al Gore v.s. Republican George W. Bush.
A very close election solidified the Red/Blue divide, as it was extremely close and there was some tense political maneuvering in Florida for Bush to win, with Bush’s brother Jeb influencing the outcome of the result.
The uncertainty surrounding the process used to determine the result of the election could tie into the corruption battled throughout the film, and how the authorities in charge cannot be entirely trusted.
September 11th 2001 – 9/11 Attacks.
War on Terror.
Terrorists associated with Al Qaeda crashed two planes into the World Trade Center, or the Twin Towers. The Bush Doctrine – America would go to war with terrorism, giving no bias to country. (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq.) ‘We love freedom, they hate freedom’ – Bush.
The war of terror can serve as a direct comparison to Batman’s crusade for justice within Gotham. However, it could be argued that Bush created the problems he then faced, whereas Batman is fighting a problem that has plagued him since youth.
Intervention in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban who were harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. America invaded and installed a democratic government.
2003 Invasion of Iraq by the U.S.A
On the pretence that they were harbouring dangerous weapons that they refused to give up. A democratic government was put in place but eventually it failed. It became a haven for Islamic terrorists, which it wasn’t before the invasion.
It gave the government and law enforcement unprecedented ability to combat domestic terrorism, which allowed spying on Americans without a warrant.
Surveillance seen at climax of film – sonar technology.
Bush’s second term led to a net loss of jobs, and after a number of the Bush administration were indicted for federal crimes, the people lost faith in him as a president. The economy crashed further in 2007-2008, with the near collapse of the American banking system.