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Independent Cinema Today

Elaboration 2006 22 Pages

Film Science

Excerpt

Independent Cinema Today

Midterm Paper

I.

Compare The Misfit in Flannery O’Connor’s story to Bartleby the scrivener. How do these two characters relate to walls? How do they relate to others? How do they each symbolize what is wrong with the world? What religious significance does each have?

Flannery O’Connor’s ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ as well as Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ are both stories of alienation and isolation. While The Misfit is a talkative character being excluded from society due to his wrong actions, Bartleby is a silent person being isolated and alienated in an industrialized society due to his resistance to work. First of all, it will be discussed how The Misfit and Bartleby relate to walls whereupon a short summary about the relation of both characters to other people follows. It will then be analyzed how the two characters symbolize what is wrong with the world and finally it will be mentioned their religious significance as such.

Concerning the different kinds of walls in the two stories, one can summarize that the walls related to O’Connor’s Misfit are primarily abstract ones, while the walls of Melville’s Bartleby are both, abstract and concrete, which will be subsequently shown.

Starting with The Misfit, it is evident that he is a character having a quite odd view concerning the values and norms of the society he lives in, because he obviously feels no shame or regret that he has killed somebody, but he only pretends not to remember his crime. When The Misfit was in penitentiary he was surrounded by walls. “[To] the right, it was a wall, [...] to the left, it was a wall. Look[ing] up it was a ceiling, look[ing] down it was a floor” (p.1135). Behind these walls and wall-like barriers he was isolated from society because he did not play by their rules meaning that he behaved not in a moral way. Consequently, he is an outcast for he has killed his father, a crime that is not compatible with the society’s moral standards. But yet instead of trying to belong to society he refuses any sort of help what casts him into a stance of moral self-modesty and isolation. He is thus responsible for his exclusion from the outer world, which is also shown by the fact that it was he himself who has baptised “[him]self the Misfit” (p.1136), a name that summarizes quite good his state of isolation and exclusion. Due to his incapacity to regret his crimes, he will consequently never belong to society but stay excluded for eternity.

In ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’, on the other hand, one can distinguish between three different kinds of walls, namely the physical walls, the ‘thinking walls’ and the social ones, that will be discussed in the following: It immediately catches one’s eye that walls surround everything in Bartleby’s life, which is most obviously represented by the name “Wall Street” (p.997) itself alluding to the walls that exist in the street and therefore also in the office where he works. Day after day, Bartleby faces not only “a wall [...] [and] grimy back-yards and bricks” (p.1001) hinting already at the cheerless and sterile work environment, but he has also “dead-wall rever[ies]” (p.1008) since he is even inside the office surrounded by a “high green folding-screen” (p.1001) separating him from the lawyer. The physical walls screening the lawyer from his employees and the employees from one another have been formed by the lawyer himself who, by this, has created himself a ‘safety zone’ to stay the “eminently safe man” (p.996) he has always been. Without these walls, he would not only allow contact between superior and subordinate persons, but he would also allow personal contact between him and his employees, so that he might be ‘forced’ to think about human beings and their lives and not only about material things. Additionally, the physical walls of the office itself serve the purpose to isolate the office’s staff from the outside world. It is behind these walls that Bartleby feels safe, though not happy, because they allow him to hide from the outer world where he cannot survive, which is best shown by the fact that Bartleby dies later in the city prison due to the lack of protective walls. However, despite the saving physical walls in the office, Bartleby does not feel comfortable with the different ‘thinking walls’ existing between himself and the lawyer. The latter, having a very materialistic point of view, which is shown by his interest in telling about his “employés, [...] [his] chambers and [...] [the] surrounding” (p.996) forming the physical world, feels protected in the Wall Street, a symbolic street of materialism. On the contrary, Bartleby has a non-materialistic view and an existentialistic identity, implying his belief that the world, he cannot survive in if it is necessary to conform to it, is meaningless. This is why he considers the Wall Street as something unimportant, since it represents no abstract reality and thus no reality in which Bartleby believes. Since these ‘mental’ walls between the lawyer and Bartleby rest they could symbolize the lack of understanding each other and also justify the lack of the story’s plot. Concerning the social walls, one could speak of a division of society into the classes of the propertyless workers, represented by Bartleby, and into the property owners, presented by the lawyer, so that it can be stressed that they will always be different from each other and that there will always exist injustice between these two classes.

The next point that will be dealt with is the question of how the two characters relate to others. We get to know that The Misfit seems actually to be a rather nice person, who, however, is also a little bit arrogant and prefers to manage his life without the help of others, while Bartleby refuses contact to others and prefers to be alone which we will analyse a little bit more in detail.

When The Misfit appears in the story he seems to be like an older teacher with “hair [...] just beginning to gray and [...] [with] silver-rimmed spectacles“ (p.1132) that might allude to his wisdom and experience of life. Nevertheless, he also appears to be a bit strange because he wears “any shirt or undershirt” (p.1132) and his “blue jeans [...] [are] too tight for him” (p.1132). In general, The Misfit is a rather polite person one can see when he asks the children’s mother, for example, if she “would [...] mind calling the[...] children to sit down by [her]” (p.1132) or when he tries to comfort the grandmother, who gets upset after Bailey has whispered something to her, by telling her that “a man says sometimes things he don’t mean [...] [and that Bailey surely didn’t] mean[...] to talk to [...] [her] thataway” (p.1133). Additionally, The Misfit is someone whom one might like since he is often “smiling slightly” (p.1133), gets embarassed or even blushes occassionally, all signs of an emotional human being. Nevertheless, he does not want to becaome a part of society since he refuses any outside help, because, in his opinion, he is “doing all right by [...] [him]self” (p.1135). He is thus not only unable to connect to others – maybe with the exception of his two helpers Hiram and Bobby Lee – but also unwilling to do so.

On the other hand, there is Bartleby who, generally speaking, is an outcast of the Wall Street office that might stand for the materialistic society. He is considered as a freak by his colleagues who speak of him as a “stubborn oaf [and] mule” (p. 1004/1010) and develop an aggression towards him, so that at least one of them wants to “black his eyes for him” (p.1005). Bartleby, completely “oblivious to everything” (p. 1004), does not make any attempt to participate in the society’s life and to become a part of the office’s staff but he stays “alone in the universe” (p.1011). While the others make fun of him by using the verb ‘prefer’ intentionally in the beginning, they later use this very expression “involuntarily [...] [and] upon all sorts of not exactly suitable occasions” (p. 1010) which underlines Bartleby’s influence that has, however, not been actively provoked. Even though Bartleby is not really open to others and does not ‘invite’ them into his lonely life he does at least succeed in getting attention from the lawyer who leaves is safety zone in order to think about Bartleby’s intention to refuse anything. Consequently one can state that, while the lawyer does anything to reach out at people, Bartleby does everything possible to cut himself off from them.

Of course, it is evident that the worlds where both of these stories take place are not perfect at all but that there is always something wrong. While The Misfit decides to resort to violence against others, Bartleby destroys not others but himself.

Lets first have a look at the grandmother and The Misfit: If we assume for a short while that the grandmother represents at least a certain part of society, it is already in the very first paragraph that one gets to know what is wrong with the world, namely that there are too many people believing that they are good, although they do not really examine themselves but do only look at other people’s faults and wrong actions. When the grandmother states that she “wouldn’t take [...] [her] children in any direction with a criminal like [...] [The Misfit] aloose, [...] [because she] couldn’t answer to [...] [her] conscience if [...] [she] did” (p.1126) this implies that she only sees The Misfit’s wrong-doing. Moreover, the grandmother does even accuse a whole nation for the things that are going wrong in the world when she recalls better times and utters that “Europe [...] [is] entirely to blame for the way things [are]” (p.1130), by which she rejects her own responsibility. The Misfit then symbolizes what is wrong with the world by several things. Firstly, he wears trousers being too tight for him (cf.p.1132) maybe hinting at the fact that he would be restricted in society if he lived according to their rules, since the former owner of the jeans, a person The Misfit has probably killed to get these trousers, might have been a man being conform with these rules. The next point is that he has killed his father but pretends to have forgotten it – or has really forgotten it –, because, like he mentions, “crime don’t matter [...] [since] you’re going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it” (p.1135). This shows that there is a punishment for every sort of crime and that no punishment will ever fit to the crime because the crime will surely be forgotten, probably already during the punishment itself. The last point is that The Misfit corrects the grandmother by saying that they turned over once and not twice, like she says (cf.p.1132), stressing his effort to lead her to the path of truth and away from her path of self deception that obviously many people ‘use’.

In contrast to The Misfit’s actively chosen exclusion from society, Bartleby resists passively the conformed society by refusing to work and, of course, by his sentence “I’d prefer not to” (p.1002), through which he constantly challenges and even questions what other people see as ‘normal conformities’. He thus stimulates the lawyer to think about certain thinks in the world, like, e.g., about unequality in general, about overvaluating the materialistic world, discriminating subordinate people and also about the meaninglessness of life in general that Bartleby experiences. Moreover, Bartleby mentions that he is “not particular” (p.1017) which means that it is not only he who feels lost and alone in this materialistic world. In the end he chooses his suicide by refusing to eat and drink and shows by this that he prefers to die than to live in an inhuman society by which Melville maybe intended to motivate the reader to think about such a society.

Another important point is the religious relation of the two stories. While The Misfit can be regarded as a Jesus-like figure and a sort of ‘sin eater’, Bartleby is a sort of test by god which will be illustrated in the next paragraphs.

Starting with ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’, one realizes very fast that the grandmother puts much emphasis on her outer appearance that is perceived as truly religious by others due to her “navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and [...] [her] navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print” (p.1127). Thus, she gives prominence to purity – symbolized by the colour white – and Southern christianity. However, inside herself she is a rather selfish person, which can be seen after their car accident, for example, when she hopes that “she [...] [is] injured so that Bailey’s wrath would not come down to her all at once” (p. 1131). Furthermore, she feels the need to pity others like, for instance, “[little] niggers in the country [who] don’t have things like [...] [she does]” (p.1127) by which she puts people down without really realizing it, in this case black Negro children which also indicates her racism. Consequently, her sin consists of believing that she is better than the people around her since she thinks that she does right in her life and is a good woman. Nevertheless, it is only with the help of The Misfit that she can examine herself in order to be able to reveal her flaws finally. The Misfit can thus be understood as the bringer of the grace of god, since it is due to him that the grandmother receives a divine pardon for her ‘loathsome’ character, after she has realized that The Misfit is “one of [...] [her] own children” (p.1136) stressing that they are both human beings who are somehow related to each other, be it by their weaknesses or by their sins. By killing her, The Misfit saves the grandmother’s soul at the cost of his own that will be more and more poisoned by his violation of moral principles, so that he can regarded as a sort of ‘sin eater’ or as a symbol of Jesus who took responsibility for the sins of others. The Jesus-symbol can also be seen when the grandmother tells The Misfit that he is “a good man at heart [...] [and that he has] good blood” (p.1133/1136) what he denies, which is an allusion to Jesus’ reproof to Peter, who, too, tried to call Jesus good, whereupon he said that nobody should be called good. Consequently, The Misfit saves the grandmother from her dearest illusion of thinking that she is good and even better than others, so that she is eventually given a deeper pleasure and satisfaction than that she has ever known in her life, which is represented by “her face smiling up at the cloudless sky” (p.1136) after having been killed, probably a symbol of her thanking god for his grace. Thus, The Misfit stresses that evil – shown by The Misfit’s killing – and good – shown by his saving of the grandmother – are always intertwined, so that one can only speak of grades of good and evil which is why one must accept that the world is not perfect, because there is no human being who is exclusively good.

Bartleby, too, can be considered as a Jesus-figure but in a different way. He does not kill people in order to take responsibility for their sins, but he dies himself to show that something is not going right in the world. Similar to the different death announcements of Jesus in the New Testament, Bartleby’s death is also foreshadowed by his “dead-wall reveries” (p.1008) and his staring “upon the dead brick wall” (p.1008) both signifying his later death next to the prison’s “dead wall” (p.1029). And also the scene when the lawyer visits Bartleby in the prison and sees “peering upon him the eyes of murderers and thieves” (p.1019) evokes the crucifixion of Jesus. However, Bartleby must not necessarily be seen as a Jesus figure but he can also be regarded as a test by god to see how the lawyer reacts. While it becomes clear that it is primarily the lawyer who embraces the Christian way of life – he offers Bartleby, e.g. to take him into his dwelling – Bartleby refuses this way of life by refusing others.

II.

How does Lars von Trier organize a story?

In Lars von Trier’s drama ‘Breaking the Waves’ the naive and simple-minded Bess marries Jan, a self-confident worker from an offshore oil-rig, who, after Bess has prayed for him to come home, gets paralyzed in an accident. Von Trier divides the story into seven parts or better chapters with one additional small prologue and one epilogue. He starts with a short prologue that sets the story in motion and that forms already a contrast between the female protagonist Bess, whose smiling face radiates warmth and charm, and the male church elders, whose expressions are cold and fixed. In this prologue it becomes evident that men have the final say in that world, indicated by the monotonous phrase of one elder “I don’t know him” after Bess mentions that she intends to marry. The story is told in a linear way and starts with Bess getting married, continues with her “life with Jan”, her “life alone”, with “Jan’s illness”, with Bess doubting if he will ever recover and eventually with her “faith”, “Bess’ sacrifice”, namely that she dies for the sake of Jan, and with her burial at sea. Each new chapter is interrupted by some kind of postcard landscape picture that is given a subtitle referring to the next piece of action and that is underlined with music of the 70s. First of all, the calm and beautiful scenery being shown forms a sharp contrast to the events in the story and by this signifies Bess’ conflict between being good in the sense of the church, which means being submissive and silent, and between being good in her own sense, which means prostituting herself in order to prevent Jan from dying. These very patriarchal paradigms of the virgin and the whore do thus reflect the contrast between the chapters itself and the chapter-breaks being of a very different style. Besides, this contrast alludes to the patriarchal world with its joyless attitude towards life, its view not to express deeply felt emotions and experience pleasure and its church’s unforgiving and stiff moral landscape opposited to Bess being curious about life and making public display of her sorrow and fury. Consequently, the chapter-break could allude to this very multiple world where Bess lives and to which she will not belong – as the chapter-break seems also not to belong – as long as she does not accept the church’s rules implying belief, endurance and obedience. Of course, the chapter-break might also symbolize Bess’ refusal to accept reality, because the dreamlike landscape pictures could stand for Bess living in a fantasy world since she thinks that she can save Jan by her actions.

Another point is the occurrence of musical pieces such as Deep Purple’s “If you’ve been bad” – played at the beginning of chapter seven Bess’ Sacrifice – or Elton John’s “It’s a little bit funny” – played in the Epilogue – that ease some of the tension and shock resulting from the events in the story. Additionally, the songs have the function of dissociating temporally and visually from the events and also put them into a critical or even parodistic relief.

How does von Trier use filmic techniques to involve the spectator and create empathy with the main character?

In order to involve the spectator in the story, von Trier makes use of very honest methods of filmmaking: He works with hand held cameras on which lenses are occasionally particles of dirt and other defects visible, he avoids artificial lighting, uses no strong colours and does only work with source music within the scenes except for the chapter-break music. Other crucial techniques are the use of quick pans and camera settings making the image a bit blurry now and then, the exclusive use of location sound so that one does not always hear the whole dialogues, the sometimes quite abrupt editing and, finally, the camera’s intrusive closeness. All these techniques serve the purpose to give the film a documentary feeling, to create a realistic tone and, of course, to involve the viewer in the story and get him to create empathy with Bess which will be shown on a few examples.

Firstly, the use of the hand held camera as well as the sometimes dirty lenses creates the image of imperfection and also suggest that one watches some homevideo. By this, one might feel that the presented events could be true. Secondly, the natural lighting that is used might indicate that it is a ‘real’ world where the story takes place and no Hollywood film, even though the subdued colours, by which it seems as if there is constantly a transparent veil over the events, take a little of this given ‘reality’ or suggest at least that the events are already a little bit behind or that the film is aleady an older one, similar to yellowed photos. Concerning the colours, it strikes, too, that von Trier contrasts warm sepia tones, for example, on the wedding party or in the hotel room after Bess’ and Jan’s marriage, to cold colours, generally showing the interior of the church. This different colour presentation is a means to manipulate the viewer to such an extent that he immediately knows if the persons shown in the scenes are created to be likeable or not. The next point is the exclusive use of source music within the scenes which, again, suggests reality. Moreover, one can state that the images are not always clear, especially when the camera pans or when a very active situation is presented, for instance, when Jan arrives late with the helicopter for his own marriage. This suggests a disorder making the spectator a little bit nervous. In that scene it also becomes evident that certain sounds, like the one of the helicopter that we hear, appears to be exaggeratedly loud, so that we do not hear Bess’ and Jan’s whole dialogue already hinting at Bess’ failure to make herself heard by society when she desperately needs help. In the scene when she becomes deflowered, for example, one hears how Bess’ wedding dress rustles, and so you appear to stand directly next to or near the characters. Additionally, these exaggerated sounds can be contrasted to the silence in some scenes and creates a doubt in the spectator about what will happen next because of this to and fro of the sounds as well as of the camera movements. Furthermore, some scenes are cut very abruptely, for example, when Bess and Jan are dancing after their marriage. Both methods convey the illusion of immediateness and suggest that the cameraman had not the time to prepare oneself for this shot, because he did not know what the persons intended to do, and that he simply switched off the camera when he had enough ‘material’. Similar to the dialogues appearing to be improvised sometimes, some shots seems to be spontaneous and unplanned as well. This gives the impression that the person filming is no professional one but that it might even be some spectator which evokes the feeling of an amateur video that one might also be able to make. The last but very important technique is the camera’s closeness, especially on Bess’ face creating a nearness towards her and the viewer and also an intimacy that is still intensified by Bess looking with her big eyes directly into the camera and thus at the spectator, so that one feels sometimes uncomfortable due to her extreme feelings. This very intimacy becomes voyeuristic when the close-ups are used in very private situations, for example, when Bess and Jan have sex for the first time in the bathroom. The viewer gets thus a witness of a situation that is actually not made for other people’s eyes.

III.

How is ‘Araby’ structured? Where does the story begin, where does it end, and how does Joyce keep the story moving inbetween?

The short story ‘Araby’ starts with the unnamed narrator describing a North Dublin dead-end street where he lives. He then gives a few details about the “former tenant of [...] [their] house” (p. 763), a priest, and recalls how he and his friend Mangan used to run through the “dark muddy lanes” (p. 763) and hide in the shadows from where both watched Mangan’s sister calling his brother for tea. After having introduced his friend’s sister, the narrator tells that every day begins for him with glimpsing her and he adds that she is always present in his thoughts and that his “heart seem[s] to pour itself out into [...] [his] bosom” (p. 764) when he simply thinks about her. After this unveiling of his feelings for Mangan’s sister, the narrator refers to an evening when he, in the room where the priest once died, confesses to himself his love for the girl. Finally, she speaks to him and after having regretted that she cannot go to Araby, the Dublin bazaar, due to a “retreat [...] in her convent” (p. 764), the narrator offers to bring her something from this very bazaar. The next section describes the narrator’s weekday until the bazaar takes place, consisting of the dullness of schoolwork and “gossip of the tea-table” at his aunt’s (p.765), until, finally, his uncle arrives to give him, after short hesitation, some money for the bazaar. The last paragraphs are dedicated to the description of the route to Araby, the pressure to come to this very bazaar and, eventually, the failure to buy something for Mangan’s sister.

How does Joyce use narrative techniques to involve the reader and create empathy with the main character?

In order to involve the reader in the story and create empathy with the main character Joyce uses the first person narrative to evoke that it is a story being subjectively perceived. It appears as if the narrator, being also the main character, gives an account of his unfiltered personal experience. Consequently, the reader is almost as close to the events as the main character himself, and one gets the impression as if one can look directly into the head of the narrator, for instance, when he utters that he “saw [him]self as a creature driven and derided by vanity” (p.767). Furthermore, there are many situations where one feels pity towards the narrator, namely when he says, e.g., that his “eyes were often full of tears” (p.764), and also almost the same unease the narrator posesses, when one gets to know that he “took [...] [his] seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train.” (p.766). Often, it appears as if the reader can be seen as some kind of confidant, since one gets the impression that the narrator tells his experience and thoughts not everybody but only ‘us’, and so one notices a certain nearness towards him and has also the feeling that we are told a story that is credible. The use of comparisons, e.g., when the narrator “recognised a silence like that which pervades a church after service” (p.766), creates a very concrete image in the reader’s mind and consequently stimulates him to see things the way the narrator sees them. What is also striking is that the narrator utilizes a lot of adjectives and a great variety of different verbs making the narrative still more lively and real for the reader. For example, when he tells how he and his aunt

walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pig’s cheeks, the nasal chanting of street singers, who sang [...] a ballad about the troubles in [...] [their] native land. (p.764)

Another point is the use of metaphors making the story vivid. For example, when the narrator describes Mangan’s sister as a “brown-clad figure, [...] touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck” (p.765) one has this very image of the ‘touching light’ in front of one’s eyes. Finally, it can be stated that the narrator is anonymous, which is why he could symbolize that the frustration he feels due to unrequired love – symbolized by the Mangan’s sister – or/and new experience – represented by the bazaar – is universal so that the empathy one has created with the narrator throughout the story, might also be due to the fact that one might see oneself in these very situations or at least in similar ones.

IV.

How does the narrator of Thomas Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’ relate to music? Take all the scenes where he hears music (either imagined or real) and analyse the passage in depth. Explain the significance of music in relationship to the narrator’s ‘alienation’.

In ‘Death in Venice’ music, being related to passion, is actually the enemy of Aschenbach who is an advocate of self-control. However, he gets involved in music and can consequently amid his homosexual feelings towards Tadzio eventually leading to his fall. It follows an analysis of passages where Aschenbach hears music to show his emotional state of mind.

After Aschenbach remarks that he is on the gondola with a rower who does not “turn round” (p.933) to bring him to San Marco from where he wanted to use “the vaporetto” (p.933) to get to the Lido, “a boat c[o]me[s] alongside [...], full of men and women singing to guitar and mandolin” (p.933). With their “lyric love of gain” (p.933) they fill the silence between the rower and Aschenbach, but after the latter has given them money the “music stop[s] at once [and] they row[...] away” (p.933). This passage might already be a first indication for Aschenbach’s incapacity to allow himself to dedicate himself to passions as well as for his decline stressed by the abrupt ending of the music. Music represents beauty and Aschenbach will become obsessed with the beauty of a young Polish boy eventually leading to his death. Consequently, the abrupt ending of the music shows that music or rather a certain passion – a feeling that Aschenbach has always kept under control – will be his downfall.

In the next passage, “a band of street musicians” (p.956), consisting of two women and two men playing a “mandolin, guitar, harmonica, [...] [and a] violin” (p.956), performs several “vocal [and instrumental] numbers” (p.956) that everybody enjoys – even the “hotel lift-boys, waiters, and [the] office staff” (p. 956). Nevertheless, Aschenbach disgusts this kind of music, because he is of the opinion that the passionately performed songs are “unlovely, [...] vulgar [and] sentimental tunes” (p. 956) and do only paralyse good taste and prevent an artist’s pursuit of excellence, because an artist can only be perfect without excessive passion. Aschenbach cannot win something from this music but he only stays idle and watches the spectacle with “a fixed and painful smile” (p.957). This shows his non-acceptance of emotions like joy and enthusiasm shown by the spectators who utter “shouts and screams of applause” (p. 956). Aschenbach thinks that he himself has the only right way of living, namely an organized and self-controlled one, and he looks down at people who devote themselves to passion and who like this music “a man in his senses would either laugh at or turn from with disgust” (p.957). This passage shows, too, that Aschenbach has some feeling inside himself he apparently tries to keep under control, which is presented by the opposition of the ‘painful smile’ showing his attempt to enjoy this music but also to repress this felt pleasure. This ambiguous behavior is also present when Aschenbach always tries to evade the glances of Tadzio, although he desperately likes to look at him.

When a red-haired musician performs a solo his “street song [...] [is] delivered [...] in a striking and dramatic recitative [...] with waving arms and antic gestures” (p.957). He twings “the strings of his instrument” (p.957) and flings “a witty and rollicking recitative [...] while the veins of his forehead swell[...] with the violence of his effort” (p.957). The “silly and trivial” (p.957) words of his song take “on meaning [being] [...] equivocal [...], yet vaguely offensive” (p.957), and one sees that “vice s[i]t[s] on [...] [his face that is] furrowed with grimacing, and [with] two deep wrinkles of defiance and self-will, almost of desperation” (p.957) to which adds “a strong smell of carbolic” (p.957). In this passage Aschenbach observes the devil-like performer – due to his red hair and his emaciated body and face – who might already be a sign that Aschenbach will end up in hell or at least go through a devilish transformation from self-control to uncontrolled lust and passion. Since Mann uses the free indirect discourse implying that Aschenbach’s thoughts are sometimes woven into the text, the equivocal and vaguely offensive words might only be ambiguous and offensive in the ears of Aschenbach, who probably sees an attack on himself by these very words which shows that he has something to hide and now feels caught. It is not necessarily that he realizes that there are two persons in him, the controlled and the passionate one, but he maybe senses that something new is going on with him what makes him insecure. The vice sitting on his face could allude to Aschenbach’s own vice consiting of his ignorance of sexual longings. The grimacing and also the desperation are surely symbols of Aschenbach’s own grimacing that he wears like a mask and that shows his uncomfort among all these sensually sensing people, while the desperation is his uncertainty about his own emotional state.

The last occurence of music is in Aschenbach’s dream after he has got to know about the cholera having Venice in its grip. He dreams of hearing “loud [and] confused noises” (p.962) during the night with “a kind of howl with a long-drawn u-sound” (p.962). Dominating all these noises was a flute-melody which sounded cruelly sweet and kept “shamelessly on until the listener felt his very entrails bewitched” (p.962). This first part of the dream is a hint to the evil secrets of both Venice and Aschenbach. While the city tries to conceal the plague from everybody, Aschenbach attempts to hide his homosexuality in front of himself. The confusing noises might therefore stand for Aschenbach’s confusing feeling towards Tadzio who appears in his dream only as the u-sound. On the one hand, Aschenbach still tries to persuade himself that his interest in the boy is just aesthetically, shown by the night that stands for his blindness or his self-delusion, but on the other hand, he longs sexually for Tadzio, a rather intense and sweet passion represented by the “flute-notes” (p.962), which is a sin for Aschenbach since this very passion is also cruel and thus a violation of his own norms. Consequently, he feels as if he has no influence on the ‘thing’ bewitching him, so that he assumes that his feelings are not his own but that they have been provoked by an exterior force.

In his dream, Aschenbach hears someone saying “The stranger god” (p.962) alluding to the god of wine Dionysus, and by “a glow lighted up the surrounding mist” (p.962) he remembers his “country home” (p.962). Suddenly, “a whirling rout of men and animals [...] overflow[s] the hillside with flames and human forms, with clamour and the reeling dance” (p.962). First of all it becomes clear that Aschenbach, who believed in his Apollinian character implying self-control, constantly transforms into a person feeling instinctive and sexuel passion. His former austere life in Germany stays more and more on the sidelines, represented by his disguised country home, whereas the lifestyle of the sensuous South has growing influence on Aschenbach, shown by clamouring and dancing men that are equalled to animals, due to the ‘whirling rout’ which shows their unity and also their sameness.

Then, in his dream, “females stumble[...] over their long, hairy pelts [...] [shake their tambourines] [...] shriek[...] [and hold] their breasts in both hands [...] [while] horned and hairy males [...] beat on brazen vessels that g[i]ve out droning thunder, or thump[...] madly on drums” (p.962). Also, there are “beardless youths armed with [...] staves [clinging] to the plunging horns and let[ting] themselves be borne off with triumphant shouts” (p.962). This sweet and wild mix, whereto a “cry [...] with a long-drawn u-sound” (p.962) adds, is for Aschenbach “like nothing [he] ever heard before” (p.962) and so he feels even ashamed while listening to it and while “awaiting the coming feast and the uttermost surrender” (p.962). Here, now more intense than before, Aschenbach’s inner battle between keeping his morality and dignity and between embracing the sensual side of life is shown. The women playing their tambourines might stand for the announcement that something important will happen because of the instrument’s clanging sound. The fact that they hold their breasts in their hands could be a sign for carrying out their sexuality, something Aschenbach does still try to conceal. The representation of the male persons could be an indication for their experienced passion that Aschenbach considers as devilish and bad for the men have horns and beat on brazen and thus on indecent vessels. The ‘droning thunder’ as well as the madly played drums might already allude to the threatening new emotions of Aschenbach who later becomes madly obsessed with Tadzio. The latter or at least what he represents, namely youth and sexual vitality, can be found in the image of the stave thrusting ‘beardless youths’, where the stave can be regarded as a phallic symbol representing Aschenbach’s desire for a sexuel relationship with Tadzio. All these new feelings have Aschenbach in their grip and irritate him so that he sees them alternately as “sweet and wild” (p.962) which makes him feel ashamed because they are the “enemy to dignity and self-control” (p.962).

In his dream the “deep, beguiling notes of the flute” (p.962) make Aschenbach tremble, “his heart throb[s] to the drums [...] [and] a blind rage seize[s] him [and] a whirling lust” (p.963). He “crave[s] with all his soul to join the ring that form[s] about the obscene symbol of the godhead” (p.963) observes them laughing, howling and thrusting “their pointed staves into each other’s flesh and lick[ing] the blood as it r[u]n[s] down” (p.963) and finally realizes that he is one of them. The dream ends with honouring the god of passion by “an orgy of promiscuous embraces” (p.963) what lets him taste “the bestial degradation of his fall” (p.963). Most evident in this last part is that Aschenbach is finally stripped of his dignity, abandons himself to passion and gives way to his sexuality. It becomes evident that since Aschenbach does not repress his feelings anymore, they rise up in redoubled force and even take over his life which might have been avoided if he had not resisted his passionate side. Thus, like cholera has infected Venice, Aschenbach gets infected by the sickness of passion overtaking him more and more and foreshadowing his fall.

VI.

How does the story "Taxi Driver" build up? Analyse the development of the story, and the film techniques used to create tension, rhythm and climax. How is this a religious experience?

It is certainly a unique psycho film - one where the psycho is the nominal hero of the piece and the real antagonist of the piece almost seems to be New York City itself. Scorsese imbue the city with a seething, unsettled pent-up energy. The intensity of the film can unnerve one - a relentless, restless anger throbs beneath the surface of the film, sexuality and violence glitter and seem to merge into one and the same with disturbing ease. In the film the narrator is an alienated passive observer whose profession involves driving through the chaos, indifferently, detachedly observing the moral decay of the society around him. We hear De Niro’s haunted voice coming across the soundtrack: “All the animals come out at night - whores, scum, pussy, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Some day a real rain’ll come and wash all this scum off the streets.” Through the first hour of this Scorsese begins to build the film towards a looming sense of something about to detonate. When the film does explode into a bloodbath, it does with a grim and shocking brutality. And over the top of it all Bernard Herrmann creates a really grinding intensive score, contrasted with beautifully mellow sax solos.

As to the religious experience, I only know that Scorsese once mentioned his whole life has been movies and religion. There is no doubt that his Catholicism plays a big role in his life and influences his movies as well. But personally I don’t feel very stronger the sense of religion in the film (Tristan’s point of view).

VII.

Analyse the last paragraph of Mishimas "Three Million Yen".

How does this ending make the reader feel?

We never know exactly what they are obliged to do or “perform” in that “rotten, stuck-up, nasty” bunch. Yet the 3 one-million crackers are the symbols remarked in the story. In the last paragraph Kenzo tried tear the cracker up to vent his anger but failed. In contrast Kenzo insisted spending 50 yens for 3 crackers at the beginning just for he believed that it would bring them good luck. The writer tries to give the readers a “c’est la vie” ending.

“It was damp and soggy; and the sweet surface stuck to his hands. The more it bent the more it resisted.” Ignoring the bunch part they probably like the other happy young couples in Japan. Hanging around in a toy department in a nice Sunday afternoon, they have a lot of goals for their family, they quarrel for some tiny problems, and they gossip even the price of cucumbers. Like in reality coffee is bitter but some people like it to refresh the mind; smoking is harmful to the health but some people need it to release the stress; what I try to say is that the ending is kind of metaphor of unbreakable power of reality. Kenzo and Kiyoko have the plan A-Z, or an endless list of desire which is hard to be fulfilled. In the last part of the story, they looked up at the New World at the same time late in the night. The neon pagoda was dark. I feel that they are indulged in their material world with the soul unrescuable.

VIII.

Analyse the last scene of Hanekes "The Pianist."

How does this ending make the spectator feel?

All the spectators in the film are waiting for see the pianist Erika’s wonderful performance student. Meanwhile all the spectators out of the film yet are a bit tense to see how Erika vents her revenge. To those spectators she is a respectful pianist with elegant status in the upper class. But to us she is more or less pathetic, tortued by the abuse.

In order to make the spectator feel stronger the tragedy, Hanekes arranges the meeting of two pairs of mother-and-daughter. Four of them are victims of this society. None of them are happy but they pretend to be pleasant and satisfied with the life in the conversation. Erika is in white, purely white which she always tries to show her discreet delicateness. However her heart is filled with revenge, hatred and evil, with a sharp knife in hand.

The air is very tense when the boy arrives. He is still sunshine, with a girl, both laughing loud in the hall, which stab into Ecrika’s heart like a knife. He seduced her, refused her and then conquered her and destroy by the brutal rape. But now he seems that nothing has happened, even without a slight piece of guilt. The outburst of sensual melange makes Erika stab herself. The close-up makes the spectators feel the pain of her, physically or mentally. And then exterior shot, Erika escapes from the theatre. Nobody knows what will happen next. Is she going to die? If not how can she continue to survive? Etc.

Everybody is hurt.

IX.

Which is your own favorite story of alienation in this class (text or film) and why?

My favourite story of alienation in this class is The Pianist so far.

It was four years ago when I first saw it. I almost forget the story years later yet the cold piano and the image of Erika stayed in my mind. The music in this film is undoubtedly successful which creates the frozen environment in an upper-class society and reveals the psychic discrepancy among the characters.

During the second experience of watching I paid more attention to how the director shapes the complexity of the characters by using music, lighting, close-up etc. Personally it’s hard for me to accept the character of Erika at the beginning since she is so lonely or/and painful in reality that she has to find her way out by sado-masochism. Hanekes is very good at manipulating spectators by designing some uncomfortable scenes. The most of the time he tries to lead us to hate or disgust Ecrika. However in order to gain the spectators’ sympathy on her, he dramatically makes the rape scene to reverse our emotion. The boy has such an angel face that he almost won everybody’s heart when he shows up in the film. But his evil sprit is not revealed until the rape scene, which is comparatively weaker than in Elfriede Jelinek’s novel.

Isabelle Huppert has the extraordianory performance here which makes me not so surprised to see her in Ma Mere years later. She is the perfect actor for the alienated character I have to conclude. No matter as a daugher in The Pianist or as a mother in Ma Mere she manages to act (or do) very well. The misty eyes of her always help to create the alienation.

X.

My own story about alienation

(A)

If I were to make a movie about a misfit, what would it be about, who would be the misfit, and where would the story take place?

The story takes place in a small village and deals with a red-haired girl about thirteen called Allie, whose name might be an allusion to the abbreviated form of ‘alienated’. Her mother has died long ago or she has left her family when Allie was still a little baby, while her father had an accident when she was nine years old that resulted in his paraplegia. Consequently, she has to take care of him, do the shopping and the housekeeping because he does not want any outside help as he believes that everything is predestined and “everything is good the way it is”, and so Allie has learned that there is no use of complaining but that one must accept one’s own fate. Nevertheless, Allie yearns for a friend, for someone who allows her to forget about her responsibility, to flee from reality and to be simply a teenager like the others. Although she knows that she is avoided by her classmates, being the only children she knows since she is otherwise at home with her father, she feels the need to make friends with at least two of them: a girl with a hand in plaster and a boy she falls in love with. The association with the girl fails due to several misunderstandings, whereas Allie and the boy have a nice time together for a moment. However, as he is cut dead by his other friends who do not consider Allie as worthy enough to be a part of their group, because she does “only nurse her dad” and has not even a “real family”, he turns away from her since he prefers to be belong to ”the stronger and more powerful ones” instead of being the “friend of an outsider”. Their relationship breaks up whereupon Allie tries to prove that she is as strong and powerful as the others and invites all to watch her while she pushes her father in a wheelchair up a steep hill. When her father, thinking that Allie wants to show him something special on this hill, tells her that she should rest for a minute not to lose her power, she suddenly turns around the wheelchair and lets it go.

(B)

What would be the opening shot for the film and what the closing shot?

The opening should would be the following:

A red-headed female person is shown how she does the dishes while some lines of “Hey there lonely girl” from the Delfonics are played on the radio. The camera firstly focusses on the female figure’s back of the head and neck and a part of the window next to her, through which one sees some blurred figures being on the street. Only when she lifts her head in the direction of the figures, there is a close-up on the face of the red-headed person and the viewer sees that it is a young teenaged girl whose mouth tries a little longing smile. In the background one hears a male voice calling the name “Allie”, and the girl turns softly smilingly around.

And this would be the closing shot:

Allie has almost arrived at the peak of the hill and the camera alternately shows her face being tense, and the faces of the arrogantly but also impressingly looking children. Then, when her father tells Allie that she should make a rest, the camera zooms still clearer on her face and on her mouth which begins to tremble. She starts to pant and after she has stopped for a second and looks at the children, she turns around the wheelchair, whispers her father in his ear that he must not be frightened and lets him go. Lonely she rests on the hill, and the camera does only show her very expression on the face that is first full of pain but after a few seconds full of relief and happiness. A car slowly passes and one hears from the radio the Beach Boys singing “If you should ever leave me / Life would still go on believe me / God only knows what I’d be without you / God only knows what I’d be without you...”

Details

Pages
22
Year
2006
File size
426 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v109895
Grade
15 points
Tags
Independent Cinema Today

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Title: Independent Cinema Today