The Gaze Theory

My tutor recommended looking into the critical theory of the Gaze. I wasn’t familiar with this theory and my tutor warned it was quite heavy.

Before beginning the article I thought of what the the verb ‘gaze’ conjured up. It can be to look intently at something. To be scrutinised severely. To lay your eyes upon something truly magnificent. To stare seems more powerful than to gaze  However, after an in depth study there are far more connotations of meaning relating to gaze. There generally aren’t pleasant connotations of the word stare. You would stare at someone you were suspicious of, something you were alarmed by.   To gaze however is something more powerful, relaxed or romantic, something that might take longer or be more general in a sweeping way. One would gaze at a sublime view, their true love, they may even gaze longingly at their meal in a elegant restaurant. From an art POV, I assumed we would be looking into the effect of gazing at the cinema screen or a painting. Such as the theory in The Power of Movies where Colin McGinn likens watching cinema to gazing into a new dimension.

I read the article here

It was very informative and interesting reading the article. I have ventured into the psychology of photography but philosophy is something I haven’t considered as such. I will research more into this in the next part of the course. The article showed how the word gaze is used in art forms. It explored the many synonyms of the word and investigated how it could be perceived. Each paragraph asked questions, focusing on a different subject each time.

In this painting, the spectator himself becomes the subject of the painting, captured by the gaze of the painter insofar as he remains a spectator gazing at the painting. As the spectator thus becomes part of the spectacle the “observer and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange. No gaze is stable…subject and object, spectator and model reverse their roles into infinity.”2 The interplay (or communication) between the two gazes thus blurs the boundaries between the two roles until it becomes unclear who exactly is gazing at whom; the gaze becomes a mode of interaction between spectator and the work of art.

With this statement it is suggesting that the power of the gaze is so intense that the viewer abruptly becomes part of the painting. Almost as though the artist realised the full power of the painting would only be created on human contact. Though all art only comes alive with this contact. That said you could imagine a painting left in the attic, it’s eyes staring out of the painting, perhaps something worthy of a horror movie or to portray something nostalgic.

This suggests that the viewer is a removable part of the art.  Thinking about this, could one say that we are the one gazing or the one being gazed at. Just because one object may be in the real world and another in a two dimensional form is the power any more less powerful from that of the two dimensional being. Such as the intense stare of a subject in a painting.

I bring attention here to the quote in Doctor Who in which Amy Pond, one of the main protagonists, was trapped in a trailer with the deadly Weeping Angel. The weeping angel is a creature that you will never see move. Instead whenever you blink it moves violently fast so it is suddenly much closer. The only way in which to beat this creature was to keep eye contact and not blink. “The eyes are the window to the soul.” However later this is turned on it’s head as the Doctor realises, ‘The eyes are not the windows to the soul they are the doors,” and in this they have possessed her with this gaze. The intensity of the gaze between painting and viewer could be irrevocably linked as they become petrified. Indeed the article states “there is a perverse pleasure in looking and not being able to look away. Much like the gaze of Medusa turned the onlooker into stone, so too does the image hold the power to immobilize its viewer.” This makes the connection of a painting and viewer almost mystical, ethereal, of ascending to another dimension for the moment frozen in time.

The Male Gaze

The article delves further into the gaze from both genders. Laura Mulvey a British feminist film theorist saw, “that the cinema is the medium for male subjects to further exert their mastery over female objects, identifying with the dominant gaze of the camera.

This opens all new pathways from the generic gaze to the Male Gaze which has been studied in great depth. It suggests that the ‘male gaze strips all identity and humanity from the woman on screen,  rendering them as an object for the male gaze to ravish. When you read the percentage of how around only 16% of characters in the movies are female does this suggest that the cinema is made purely for the enjoyment and sexual satisfaction of men. Mulvey argues that women serve for only two functions, of an erotic subject to be enjoyed in the narrative and also for the viewers. Nowadays with feminism and equal rights we see more feminine heroes in roles usually played by the opposite sex. Katnis in the Hunger Games, Tris Prior in Divergent and Rey in Star Wars, the Force Awakens. See my piece on Feminism in StarWars 

All are good examples of strong female characters, they become characters to look up to and transcend beyond the movie screen.

It is believed that watching movies is a Socophilia practise, love of watching. However the way it is described makes cinema feel like something distasteful, that people who go to the cinema are going for voyeuristic reasons. When in actual fact we all go to the cinema or watch a movie for escapism, to see a good story. I do feel that the issues with investigation of theories such as this is that some seek to over sexualise every situation. Why can’t going to the cinema be seen as something innocent?

There are even those that see the gaze as unseeing. Becoming more blind the more one forces themselves to see the painting.

In conclusion it is clear that the gaze is a very powerful force, drawing the viewer into participating in the painting or movie, albeit it often unintentionally. The gaze can be interpreted by each individual person in a different way however the power of the gaze will always latch onto the viewer. I will finish this off with a thought from the photographer Michael Freeman, who says that the human eye is always irrevocably drawn to another person in a photo, painting or video no matter how small or seemingly unapparent that person is. People are drawn to people thus we will always interact with another person in a painting and one of the most intense ways of this is to have the eyes meet. To gaze upon one another.

 

 

Symbolism – Death’s Head Hawk Moth and Assignment Three Thoughts

“Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.” – Manly Hall 

In a Skype conversation my tutor brought to my attention about the symbolism of the Death Hawks Head Moth. As a keen wildlife enthusiast, I had heard of this beautiful creature, however, I did not know of its great role it plays in symbolism. Featured in everything from the Pre Raphelite painting, The Hireling Shepherd by William Holman Hunt to the sickening and twisted movie, the Silence of the Lambs (which I have no wish to watch) Dracula, Un Chien Andalou it’s fluttered its way throughout history as a hidden symbol. The symbol it represents however always has dark connotations. It serves as a symbol of the death of the church in the Hireling Shepherd painting. A dead moth is found in Un Chien Andalou an equally dark movie.

william_holman_hunt_001

My tutor suggested including footage of a Deaths Head Hawk Moth in Assignment Three as he felt it would be stronger to have something suggested earlier on about the poison. I wasn’t sure where to find such footage. I have used occasional stock sounds such as the dawn chorus in Assignment Four but felt it would be cheating myself to use stock footage of a moth, plus I wasn’t sure it would be allowed. I considered several ideas of how to incorporate the moth into my assignment. Some of my ideas were.

  • A moth flying by as the man cuts the roses. Or flying generally. Peter said you could even just include it with no reference.
  • The moth featuring as a phone wallpaper. This would involve a new narration or plot though.
  • A moth tattoo on the mans neck which she sees as he walks off in slow motion.
  • The moth on the gift card with a butterfly symbolising resurrection on the other side.

I printed off an image of the moth planning the gift card but as I did so I noticed the sun slanting onto the wall. I held the moth up to the light and it had such a dramatic shadow. The wings of death.

Acherontia lachesis MHNT Female Nîlgîri (Tamil Nadu) Dorsal

Found on Google images

The problem was holding the moth so my hand didn’t show. I held it up with scissors. I dropped it from a height.

Some of the versions that didn’t work. As you can see the moth is washed out under the torch light and you can see my hand in the other picture.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-08-11-41screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-08-12-14

Eventually I used the ornamental flowers. As I set it up I happened to move the torch and the shadow extended upwards with the moth. This was the shot I needed.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-08-11-56

I removed the shot of the rose being cut and replaced with the moth. It’s very ominous as the thunder strikes. I sent it to my tutor who am I waiting to hear back from.

Here is the finished version –

Assignment Three – ChloeClik from ChloeClik on Vimeo.

Positives.

  • The moth does look quite lifelike
  • The reeds add extra interest.
  • The thunder clap is ominous.

Negatives

  • I wish the shot could be longer but with the time limit I would have to remove something else.
  • Perhaps it appears slightly random the sudden inclusion.

However on conferring with my tutor he said that whilst the idea was good he didn’t think it blended with the film which he felt was more documentary. As such he suggested that I leave it out though leave my analysis and reasons for doing so as above. With this in mind the final version does not include the moth.

Assignment Four

Constructing a narrative 

For this assignment you’ll gather documentary footage and use it to create a short documentary sequence representing a portrait of a place. You should try and capture the spirit and feel of the place as well as representing what happens there.

Choose a location

Recce your location at different times and think about:

  • What happens? What are the important events that occur daily in your place? Are there
    any unusual events that might be interesting to follow?
  • What or who is there? What and who do you need to show to represent the various elements of the place and paint a full picture of it?
  • What is the character of the place? Can you apply any of the ideas of characterisation to the place? What elements typify its mood and atmosphere? What kind of pace and rhythm does the place have?
  • What is the timescale of the place? Can you represent its essential elements over a minute, an hour, a day, a week?
  • Plan a narrative
  • Draw a chart of your narrative structure. Identify the climax. What is the story you are telling?
  • Create a shot list
    Note the essential shots that you will need to represent your place and construct your narrative
  • Record your footage
  • Review your footage carefully  – You may start to see something different from your original narrative emerging…
  • Capture and edit
  • Throw together something like your original plan. Don’t be afraid to make radical changes. Put your original pre-conceptions aside. Look at what you have and think how to use this to create an impression of the place you know. If in doubt say less. Pick one or two key elements to focus on.

Evaluation 

Write an evaluation of your finished sequence (500 words).

Submit your sequence online to your tutor with the pre-production notes and evaluation.

Assignment Four

Finished video


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/180633502″>Tiny Cities -ChloeClik</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user26938305″>ChloeClik</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I wanted to do something quite different for assignment four. As the final assignment it was important that everything I learned during this course was incorporated. Initially I began a shot of the local seafront and did some research. However it felt static and not what I was looking for.

I thought about what my friend said, taking the brief then honing it down to something specific. With that in mind I took the idea of a place and thought how could the garden be minimised. A comment about life from a bees point of view inspired me. The assignment was born. The garden as seen from the inhabitants viewpoint. Not completely subjective though with a few of those shots included. Shot from low angles to immerse the viewer in the world. I also read an article on the OCA website on how best to structure written work. It said that examiners don’t want to wade through loads of flowery language, instead to have the main points. With that in mind I have written the assignment in this manner.

Research. 

Documentaries were the first place to start. Yellowstone, Life on Earth, Anima Mundi, Scottish Highlands I watched them making notes about what makes a documentary. Whilst often differing it came down to a rough structure.

The documentary introduces the landscape or subject as a whole. Focuses on specific animals and their story. Usually life and death drama. Classical music illustrates scene. Personifies animals (not all documentaries do though) Narration can be serious, humorous, educational. Carries a message. In Yellowstone, how the wolves dominate the landscape and all animals fight to survive. The Highlands, the same story again exploring how individual animals use the land.

My plan was – 

  • To show garden from wildlife’s point of view
  • Focus on three main creatures. Bee. Woodlice. Originally it was to be a butterfly but on discovering the Centipede I couldn’t leave it out. Contrast of different levels. Bees – Flying. Woodlice – Land. Centipede – Under ground.
  • Events of the day. Bees collecting nectar. Woodlice family reunion. Rain. Evening.
  • Chronological over the day. Impact of humans and people. Humans only seen as distant blur or machinery.
  • Message of the impact of human contact (this came later as I worked on it).

Locating wildlife

The most important essence for a movie is the actors and they threw up big obstacles. The lavender bush was flooded with bees and I camped out in the garden filming them. From this

  • I charted their process, their patterns until I could almost predict the next flowers they’d go to.
  • Experimented with various auto focus modes. Occasionally manual focus.
  • 18-55mm lens ensured closeness. 50mm just wasn’t fast enough.
  • Looked into expensive kit but was pleased with footage from lens.

Woodlice.

The woodlice weren’t too bad to find. Several lived under the ornamental tortoise. I ensured I caused minimal disturbance to them. Replaced stones as they were.

  • Favourite shot. Woodlouse uncurling. Found it curled up. Waited. Held my breath as it uncurled. It was magical moment.
  • A whole conglomeration lived under the empty water butt.
  • Gardener discovered many while cleaning leaf litter.
  • Shot of woodlice with slug worked well with sequence.

Centipede. 

This was unexpected. There was an old fuchsia bush removed from the pot. Discovered centipede by chance.  Needed manual focus to track them fast enough. Created contrast, the underworld.

Equipment

  • Canon EOS 70D
  • 18-55mm
  • 80mm lens
  • Voice over – used iMovie recording function.

Music

Whilst it is good not to always include music, the music was important as I’d noted from my research, needed to convey mood, illustrate the story. Incompetech provided me with the perfect tracks which I edited and cut from occasionally to achieve the effect best for the video. It took longer than expected to adjust the sound levels to the voice over wasn’t overwhelmed or the music volume to differ greatly.

  • Upbeat dance music mimicked intensity of bees pollen collecting.
  • Magical created the atmosphere of the woodlice world.
  • Tribal beat for the ‘drone’ shot of the woodlouse running.
  • Gentle and classical like rain drops for rain storm. Brought sequence to a gentle close.

For the diegetic sounds I mostly used my own footage, the bees humming were achieved by getting very close to the bees (with my iPhone)  I used the bird song from copies of my own music. Some were from free sound, the rain and water droplets were from iMovie.

Narration

Minimal, a gentle narration allowing footage to tell the story. Anthropomorphism of animals.

Story

Giving animals human characteristics showed relationship between people and animals and reinforced message at end.

Final shot. Sums up the movie I feel with the tiny cities hidden in the undergrowth.

Reviewing 

Reviewing it on the TV changed things. Earlier in this unit I had researched the different types of documentary. Initially I wondered whether to do a poetic documentary, letting the music and footage tell the story but when it came to it I realised it would be more suited to a narrative so I chose to go for a mix, an expository narrative but poetic as well especially with the music sequences.

Then it was a matter of editing. I cut the film down to just over six minutes.

Narrative Structure

IMG_4947 (1)

Evaluation 

I experimented with a variety of beginnings. At first I panned down the tree but felt it was important to show the small space where the tiny cities were. I panned around but it felt static. Then I included the sky, this had more impact and I could pan down from the sky, the plants and even capturing a spider web. Finally ending on a lavender bush which motivated the next shot. Documentaries often show a collection of footage to introduce the film.

Early Morning Time was represented by the early morning dew, I would have liked to capture a sunrise but it was just too early with my health.

Introduces Bees. Decided to use jolly music to show the frenetic activity of bees. Edited so they represented musical notes. Jumping from the leaves on the beat. The hornet shakes about. Adds a circus like feel with the trapeze and high wire act. Sets a false scent of security. Bee flies away as music ends.

Strimmer.  Dark music.  Creates a contrast of dark and light. Uses connecting shots. Strimmer goes with music. Bees all fly off. Butterfly in holly (filmed at different moment) shows the creatures there. Time lapse. It was pure serendipity that the woodlouse appeared during filming and the leaf speared down. Edited to go with music which I felt worked well. The leaf also represents danger.

Bee hit. This caused a lot of problems. I thought about the Mosjukhin Experiment that we had studied and how the story came from the viewers perception. As with Assignment Three, implying meaning, I wanted to imply the bee being caught by the up draught and not show it. At first it showed the bee flying then the strimmer then the bee but the effect wasn’t strong enough. I decided to add shock. The bee is shown on a flower then in the next frame the strimmer goes down.. Empty space of flowers creates feeling of fear. Cathedral sound effect on strimmer and blurred focus of people add to the disorientation.

Woodlouse – Works well with the magical music as it is unfurls. Depicts mother on her journey searching for her scattered children. Shows garden and other inhabitants.

Drone shot. As I craned the camera up a woodlouse came running. Almost like the drone shots in nature documentaries.

Centipede. Woodlouse motivated shot into underworld. Dark. Pans down twisted roots to reinforce going down. Creepy music. Tartarus in Greek mythology being the equivalent of Hell.

Rain storm. The rain storm was a chance to show more of the garden, the flowers, the insects and to give it a bit of contrast, a gentle moment often used in documentaries to bring things to a close. It served the perfect function of guiding into the closing sequence.

Conclusion

I am happy with this documentary. It means quite a lot to me as I really immersed myself in the wildlife’s world. Realised our garden was not really our garden. But a shared space. It taught me a lot and I was fascinated by the amount of nature on our doorstep. I managed not to be stung by bees despite staying in a close proximity to them, something which I regard as an accomplishment. It was almost like they knew I was there as an observer and not a threat. I even rescued several sugar starved bees in the process.

I felt I got unique footage such as the woodlouse uncurling and explored every dimension of the place. I am pleased I went for this and not my original idea of the seafront as I learnt so much from this and produced footage which I am pleased with. This assignment means more to me than all of the others put together. They let me share their world and now I can portray it and show it in the best way I can.

I ran it by several people I know and didn’t know and while there were those who felt a bit squeamish watching it some said they would keep an eye out for the tiny cities, others liked the touch of humour in the narration that didn’t overshadow the themes and message and some even said whilst before they wouldn’t have been able to watch woodlice on TV they now regarding them as cute.

And so ends digital film production.   My life will feel almost empty without the enjoyable exercises, fun research and community of the film students.  I would like to thank my tutor for his support in my ideas, feedback and invaluable advice. It has been a long and fantastic journey through this course, I have learnt so much, challenged myself and I look back at the first assignments and noticed errors I hadn’t before such as the introduction of diegetic sound in one scene only to be cut out in the next. Things I wouldn’t have noticed at the beginning now feel second nature, this course has been wonderful.

Techniques. 

I went through every page of the course writing everything learned from exercises and incorporated it all.

  • Storyboard
  • Low Angle
  • High Angle
  • Canted Frame
  • POV – Subjective
  • Objective
  • Mise-en-scène
  • Depth
  • Lighting
  • Texture
  • Atmosphere
  • Diegetic sound
  • Non diegetic
  • Sound – smell, colour, emotion, physical
  • New soundtrack
  • Screen space
  • Connecting shots
  • Pan
  • Tilt
  • Crane/jib
  • Tracking
  • Zoom
  • Narration
  • Motivation
  • Speed up
  • Transitions
  • Jump cutting
  • Cutaway
  • Empty drama
  • Slow motion
  • Overlapping or repeating action
  • Intercutting
  • Time
  • Documentary

 

Dreams and Movies -Cuts

I produced this mind map to explore and document my research 

Dreams_and_Movies

Despite my scathing review of Colin McGinn’s book, the Power of Movies there was a chapter in which I found fascinating and devoured the pages with interest. Dreams on Film (I only wish the whole book had been as insightful)

“By producing visual images in narrative form with an emotional theme, movies and dreams convert those repressed and free-floating emotions into visible form, giving them shape and definition. The visual becomes a way for the visceral ti channel itself, thus allowing for release. Both film and dream serve not just to represent and express emotion but to open the emotional valves to let emotion flow freely (and perhaps safely”

McGinn wrote that he believed dreams and movies were locked together in the same category. He wrote about the fractious nature of dreams always cutting and splicing, transferring oneself to a completely new destination within a second and the mind never questioning the improbability of the dream. “I can’t be being chased by a T-Rex they don’t exist,” never seems to cross my mind as I spend most of my night running for my life.  And I was interested to read that the same is in movies. No-one even questions the fact that we see someone getting ready for work in a movie then as they walk from the frame they are suddenly there. Life does’t work like that so McGinn questions why is there not an uproar, that’s not plausible, what’s going on?

Walter Murch (who also developed the theory of the cinema screen being like a giant wide window) provided an answer

image1

So the fact that dreams and movies both interlink in that sense prove that dreaming and watching movies is a skill innate in all of us. As McGinn says young children who can follow a narrative take it in their stride, they don’t react to the cutting and changing, a fascinating fact, why aren’t they confused? I admit it’s something I’ve never even thought about. Perhaps it is like the research undertaken at Cambridge University.

“It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a whole.”

Translation

“It doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not ready every letter by itself but the word as a whole.”

So perhaps this is like in films and dreams, we carry with us an innate problem solving talent to automatically fill in the gaps between elements that are not linked, the scrambled words, the cuts in movies, the spatio temporal discontinuity of dreams. It would seem so as an experiment was undertaken by Sermin Ildirar from Birbeck University of London and Stephen Schwan, Knowledge Media Research Centre in Tübungen, Germany,  to see if people who had never experienced TV before would understand film cuts. The experiment was undertaken in remote villages in Turkey and appointed local actors to act in everyday situations (so as not to confuse the villagers)

The villagers didn’t find it confusing, the shots were taken in their stride however intercutting shots, parallel action, flashing from one scene to the other and back again generated some confusion as the villagers tried to link them. So even if you haven’t watched TV before in your life your mind automatically fills in the gaps to explain everything. Which would imply that there was a connection between your dreams and watching a movie. Interesting further still I read this article here  written by the psychologist Jeffrey M Zacks, who noted that your eyes are continuously moving when you watch a movie. As an experiment he recommended filming yourself watching some footage which I did. At first I was very aware of eye movement as I was looking out for it but after a bit I relaxed into the movie and forgot about the project (being absorbed and removed from my immediate surroundings) I watched the video back and was amazed to see how my eyes flittered back and forth every second or so especially in moments of action or drama. Interestingly at the moment when the father supports his young son my head even tilted to one side something which I wasn’t aware of at the time.

“most of the eye movements we make are these jerky, ballistic movements called saccades. They take a little less than a tenth of a second and, while the eye is moving, the information that it is sending to your brain is pretty much garbage. Your brain has a nifty control mechanism that turns down the gain during these saccades so that you ignore the bad information”

Zacks goes on further to explain “ So, the signal that our brains are getting about the visual world is not like a smooth camera-pan around the environment. It’s more like a jittery music video: a sequence of brief shots of little patches of the world, stitched together. We feel like we have a detailed, continuous permanent representation of the visual details of our world, but what our visual system really delivers is a sequence of patchy pictures. Our brains do a lot of work to fill in the gaps, which can produce some pretty striking – and entertaining – errors of perception and memory.”

This would imply that we accept the transition of cuts in movies because it corresponds with the way in which we view the world. It could be an innate skill but also one which has been fuelled by our own vision. New born babies are born with huge eyes that are constantly taking in the world around them. Their eyesight teaches them about their surroundings, how to sit, crawl, how to walk and so much more. And for the first few days of their life they see upside down. So accepting cuts is pretty relaxed in comparison to this. “You may notice your newborn’s eyes wandering, as she hasn’t yet learned that she can fix her eyes on an object.”

However if we were to turn this theory on it’s head if we dream in such a fractious way and even day dream, perhaps it could be said that the reason dreams and films have so much in common is because we structure films to resemble that of our dreams.

I will conclude this study with the quote by Zacks,

“It’s not that we have learned how to deal with cuts. It’s certainly not that our brains have evolved biologically to deal with film – the timescale is way too short. Instead, film cuts work because they exploit the ways in which our visual systems evolved to work in the real world.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aiming High

I’ve always planned to work towards the full degree and secretly I desperately want to achieve a first. I know that this is immensely hard to accomplish but either way I am inspired and more motivated than ever. Though I put my heart into my work, my results last assessment  didn’t improve by very much. So I  have started doing some research on how to obtain a good mark and thought I’d write them down here.

“To get a first class degree you have to read around your topic (outside of the reading list) and interpret the ideas for yourself – always be critical as while your lecturer may not agree it shows you are driven by the subject.”

“Don’t just rely on the internet as a source of all wisdom; the best students will use a range of different sources from ancient textbooks to online journals.”

“In the case of a written essay, a first class degree student will suggest one of their own ideas and then use critical sources to support them, not the other way round.”

YOU SHOULD TREAT EVERY ASSIGNMENT LIKE IT WILL BE THE ONLY ONE YOU EVER GET GRADED ON

The key is to ask yourself the following when you look at your assignment or exam question :

  • · What have I learned on this subject so far
  • · What will I need to demonstrate I have understood from the course content I have received
  • · What details will I need to research to show I have expanded my knowledge
  • · How can I demonstrate I have used course content, research and practical assignments as a basis for the conclusions in this piece of work.
  • · What can I add to this work that will show I have gone above and beyond the expected standard?.

I also spoke to my friend who achieved a first in her R.E degree and asked her for some tips. Her advice was brilliant. She told me that in GCSE the topic chosen was more generalised. For A Level the subject would be more specific and for degree work she would choose one specific thing, for example, a quote and explore every avenue and branch to obtain the best view and analysis of it.

And of course to do lots of critical reading, research and investigation into cultural theory.

Book Review – The Power of Movies

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Now there is only one exercise left for the whole module I decided to upload some of the reviews about books I’d read. Starting with The Power of Movies by Colin McGinn. I decided to purchase this book after enjoying the exercise on the Mosjukhin experiment and the power of the mind in perceiving emotions not necessarily being conveyed. Nonetheless it was a disappointing read. If I had purely picked this up in a library I wouldn’t have progressed beyond chapter two. As it was for degree work I persevered and whilst there were a few interesting points (mostly from other sources) any gems of information were lost in a bulk of flat and monotonous writing.

It started well, the forward was interesting and I was intrigued to find more about the relationship between dreams and the movies but my interest and concentration waned almost instantaneously. McGinn asked so many questions it almost felt like he had no answers and was doing this purely as a way to bulk out the book, in addition to this he asked the same question over again in as many different ways as the thesaurus would allow . The entire way through I had the question ‘Why are movies so powerful’ but this answer never materialised and I realised I would be searching other sources to discover the answer.

The influx of questions would have been bearable if not for the way he consistently expressed the same view in multiple ways. For instance, he stated the fact that when we watch a movie in the cinema we know that the actor isn’t actually in the room with us, we know it’s not real and we know that the battle we are watching isn’t actually happening. And yes, it was fine to express this but to span it over two pages was pushing it. Then consistently referring to it throughout the book was unnecessary, even children can understand the characters are not actually in the cinema with them (it would be quite a palaver if they were) That said despite all this incessant repetition he failed to mention that in 1895 the Lumière brothers film (L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de la Ciotat) featuring a train arriving at the station sent the audience into mass panic. “The spectators ran out of the hall in terror because the locomotive headed right for them. They feared that it could plunge off the screen and onto them.”

I was interested to read the quote by editor and sound designer Walter Murch “The screen is not a surface, it is a magic window, sort of looking glass through which your whole body passes and becomes engaged in the action with the characters on the screen” A beautiful quote and one which really encompasses the feeling of watching a movie. It does feel like one has been transported to a new level. However, McGinn decided to elaborate on this even though more is less. The following dozen or so pages were filled with a list of things that one could look through. The obsession with the minutiae was painful. Through the density of the pages, I managed to pick up the following statements which interested me.

“The endless visual fascination of water in motion is mirrored in the fascination of the screen which indeed can create an oceanic aspect. It is as if we are seeing water through water” This is a very interesting statement and the more one thinks about it does feel like you are peering through the water. That said, I do prefer the window statement as it expresses how one feels to leave the cinema seat when watching movies and being engaged in them.

“The mid twentieth-century pessimism about the future of cinema, which foresaw a future ruled by television overlooked the perennial human urge- at least as old as language itself – to leave the home and assemble in the fire-lit dark with like-minded strangers to listen to stories” This primeval urge appealed to me, we do see faces and stories in the fires and it brings connotations of the ancient times, far back as prehistory with images of the elders gathered around the fire (such as the scene in Pochahontus” telling stories of fearsome beasts, heroic tales and moral lessons. A movie is essentially the story you see in your mind visualised on the big screen.

In the book, McGinn started exploring the more graphic aspects of movie psychology, comparing watching a movie to a voyeurism felt sickening and unnecessary. In a world of psychology dominated by Freud it seems natural to have opinions such as this but to me, they felt tasteless. A movie is not an act of voyeurism, it is to engage in a world that is not your own, to enjoy a story, celebrate or commiserate with the main characters, not like voyeurism.

What I was especially intrigued by the relationship between dreams and movies, however this wasn’t looked into until half way through the book. This though was packed with insight, the author came into his own and you could see he had great knowledge on the part and had a real passion. I decided to look at this in another  blog post though associated with dreams and movies. Here

So in conclusion of this review, I bought this book to help answer my questions but ended up having more questions than I had before and even fewer answers. Whilst there were good points they were buried deep in the recesses of the book and one had to wade through excessive statements before finding them, it had the promise to be interesting and thought provoking but his obsession with the minutiae was exhaustible and painful.

 

 

Project 17

Choose a film with a nonlinear narrative.

  • Try to devise a diagram of the narrative structure that represents the relationship between the different time frames.
  • Upload your diagram and compare it with others.

This was more challenging than I first thought. I researched films with a non linear narrative so I knew what I was looking out for then scoured Netflix for such films. I started watching Total Recall a movie in which a man is plagued by nightmares (memories of his past) and as it’s a futuristic world chooses to have the memories of a spy implanted. Straight away I knew it wasn’t fitting the brief and opted for another movie. About Time, I had watched this only recently and it was fresh in my mind so reviewing it again I stared writing the diagram.

This wasn’t as easy as the diagrams drawn for liner narratives and I pondered over how to best represent the technique. In a flash of desperation I looked up at the sky asking for any idea and suddenly saw it, in the cloud positioning, the diagram I needed. I even took a photo (a few minutes after) as it sounded rather unlikely but here it is.

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With this diagram now clear in my mind I started work. About Time is a romantic, moving movie about a young man, Tim, who discovers that all the men in the family have the ability to travel back in time. His father warns him you can only travel back in your own memories. He decides to use this new found power to help him get a girlfriend. What ensues is a wonderful romp of a film as he falls in love, messes with time travel only to see they’d never met, stalk her until she relents and fall passionately in love. I love the premise of the movie and how in the end he decides never to use time travel again but instead make the most of every single day.

My diagram is below. It spilled over onto two pages. I structured his life in linear then all the corresponding arrows indicate him time travelling, As you can see it its quite tangled up

View from top left to right

 

Scan 43Scan 44

I had a look for other students portrayal of the non linear chart, however I didn’t find many. One person had found it too complicated and said they’d just decided to write the synopsis out. I am looking forward to seeing what my course mate Ashley does and will review it here.

Look for good examples of time being contracted or expanded.

    • Try to find at least one example of each technique listed above.
    • Try to identify a couple of examples of the same techniques being used in very different ways. Describe them and explain how they work. If possible upload examples.

Speed up the footage – in Jane the Virgin, Petra’s sister Aneska is typing out an email but struggling with the English. She types slowly and the narrator (who is very interactive) states that he can’t bear to watch this and the scene is speed up, it adds humour (something which this series focuses on) and moves the scene along rapidly.

Transitions – eg wipe, dissolve, dip to black (fade-in/fade-out).

In Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit the helicopter is hit by a missile. There is resounding panic and screaming then the scene fades to black opening up to the hospital scene. The scene then fades to a black swipe linking to the panning camera in the next scene. It conveys the time that has passed from the horrific attack and the contrast to the recovering room. Also it shows how the attack has affected him and how he must move on and struggle with the consequences and after effects of the explosion.

This is also used frequently in the Seven Samurai, for which Akira Kurosawa was famous for. And which George Lucas adopted for StarWars.

Jump cutting- Guardians of the Galaxy – the music starts up as the gang prepares for battle. The main character listening to music, the brief., Rocket preparing his weapons, military strategy. This continues for the duration of the song with the stereotypical but always effective hero walk in slow motion. It increases the energy, adds interest and makes what could have been a static scene have more atmosphere.

Cutaway – Used in Divergent in the scene when Christina is hurled over a chasm and left to cling on. She is rescued but the scene keeps cutting away from her hands slipping on the wet walkway and back to the reactions of her friends. This generates more drama and involves the viewer.

Empty frame – In the award winning movie, Paper Planes the scene when the Grandfather takes Dylan to the air museum the car is filmed driving along the road, filmed from the underside of a plane. The car drives into the edge of the frame before changing shots instead of showing the car parking. Again it adds more interest to a static scene and avoids wasting screen time.

Time Expansion – Slow motion–  Is there a more famous example of slow motion than the Matrix scene which revolutionised the action movie. Filmed not by a dolly but by positioning over twenty DSLR cameras together capturing a still from every angle and using computer technology to create the iconic scene. It shows how he has mastered his powers and is a thrilling scene to watch as he seems to almost control time.

Overlapping or repeating action  – Merlin – In the finale scene of the first episode the witch tries to kill Arthur. She throws the knife. Shot from the front, we see the knife flying through the air to Arthur who stares unable to move with shock. An extreme close up of Merlin’s eye glowing. Merlin staring in horror and running in slow motion. The knife from side on in slow motion spinning towards Arthur. A close of up of the knife spinning closer. Side shot, Merlin grabbing Arthur. Shot from the front. Slow motion still. Arthur being dragged away. The knife slamming into the empty chair.Using repeating action amps up the drama and reinforces the energy of the scene.

Write a short script extract for two scenes that connect different parts of the same day.• The transition should suggest what has occurred in between.

• Upload your script and ask other students to describe what they assume has happened in the intervening time.

• Is this what you intended?

I used Celtx to write the script, it was very enjoyable and I enjoyed telling the story using time.

I realised though after writing the Script that I had included a gap of ten years instead of the day so changed the ending.

Time Script First Edition   – Time Script Final Edition

 

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