Category Archives: Video Essay

Sara Wilkinson: The Extensively Colourful World of Wes Anderson´s ‘Isle of Dogs’

The Extensively Colourful world of Wes Anderson in: ‘Isle of Dogs’ (2018)

This video essay delves deep into the colourful world of Andersons set designs and characters discussing the emotional (and general) effects that his extensive colour palettes are able to elicit focusing on Anderson’s second animated feature film, ‘Isle of Dogs’ (Wes Anderson, 2018). Set in a dystopian near future Japan in a city called ‘Megasaki’ , it is a moving tale about responsibility and sense of belonging in which we follow a young boy (Atari) who is in search for his dog (Spots) after the species is banished to ‘Trash island’ following the outbreak of a ‘canine flu’. Colours effect on us is a psychological anomaly, we may not know exactly why they affect us in these ways, but they do, and we continue to read the scene and tone through the film’s palette.

Wes Anderson has become one of the most beloved filmmakers of today known for his very distinctive visual and narrative styles. His incomparable aesthetic vision has given him his reputation of a modern-day auteur creating fantasy worlds which we become warped into through many elements and techniques of filmmaking. Most noticeably, he has created these bittersweet narratives with fine detail paid to his composition and precise colouration. Colour is the most fundamental element of any film and yet falls second to last in many directors’ final cuts, it can be used to elicit emotions in the audience psychologically whilst connoting certain ideas and moods through complex yet simple colour palettes.

The films colour choices subvert Andersons traditional washed out, pale toned palettes of his previous work taking to a darker more monochromatic tone with hints of pastel pinks and blues used to accentuate the grittier, gloomier themes of the film. There is an acute relationship between the colours used and emotion(s) with an ironic play between bright colours and hollow sadness (themes involving violence, death and suicide). The film is renowned for creating these distinctive emotional effects or cues in particular moments. The essay goes into detail regarding how colour is chosen in films and how this can affect the way in which we watch them and perceive the events within them.

There are 3 factors which determine colour, these are the hue, saturation and brightness. The hue is the colour itself i.e. red or blue, the saturation refers to the intensity of that colour, when the saturation is increased the purer the form of the colour, as it decreases the colour becomes more washed out. Wes tends to use quite highly saturated colours in his animated features to make the main characters and their environments stand out (however he does still incorporate de saturated and washed out colours in particular scene but only in a way to accentuate both the brighter (radioactive) and darker colours of  Trash island). And finally, the brightness which refers to how light or dark that colour is. These colour choices are based on schemes which favour colours that harmonise together to create and communicate an appropriate tone for a film. These include the Triadic, which uses three colours evenly spaced out within the colour wheel often used in animations such as ‘Isle of Dogs’ as it is exciting and striking. And Complimentary colour schemes, which create less tension using colours opposite to each other on the wheel i.e. red and green, high contrasts of complimentary colours create vibrant looks especially when used at full saturation (also appears common to the palette of the film).  By utilising these elements and properties, we can precisely identify the right colour to convey certain emotions to audiences.  We find throughout the essay that the best way to control colour is to limit it. Wes is known for his limited colour choice with recurring images of red and yellow, the essay dives deeper into the meaning of these two colours for both the auteur as well as its implications in the film in relation to the colour meanings in Japan as the interpretations of colour are multifarious, and can be influenced by culture. Japan is steeped in tradition and they use the language of colours in their art, dresses, phrases and rituals. Red and white are prominent traditional colours in Japan, both used in decorations at events which represent happiness and joy. However, as Anderson has created a niche which holds high standards on his colour decisions as well as composition, I find that he attempts to place a western meaning onto the traditional cultural aspects of Japan used in the film,  utilising the artwork and robes as props rather than communicating through them.

Particular colours are used sequentially throughout with the introduction of brighter colours seeping throughout the narrative with browns, greys and white the most predominantly used. The darker and more monochromatic palette allows for other complimentary colours to pop out more, guiding our attention towards them.

The aim of this essay was to explore the psychology behind colour in film and how it is utilised to portray sentiments throughout the narrative, referring to different theories of colours presented by theorists such as Vaughn Vreeland and Greg Smith. Smith argues colour is the most fundamental aspect of a film and is needed to fulfil a successful structure which aims to increase probabilities of evoking emotions (this is the ‘Mood Cue Approach’). Colour is widely agreed to be an integral element when creating cinematic worlds like ‘Megasaki’ and ‘Trash Island’. This essay aims to link these theories to Andersons ‘Isle of Dogs’, with textual analysis of scenes which portray the ideas conveyed throughout this statement.

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 06.27.46

Bibliography:

  1. Block, B. (2008). Colour. In: Actipis, E. Anderson, C the Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV, and Digital Media. 2nd ed. UK: Focal Press. 136-166.
  2. Cherry, K. (2019). Colour Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? How Colours Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviours. Available: https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  3. Criswell (2015). Colour in Storytelling | CRISWELL | Cinema Cartography. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXgFcNUWqX0 Last Accessed: 25th April 2019
  4. CW Contributor. (2017). Ten things we love about Wes: a guide to Wes Anderson. Available:https://www.culturewhisper.com/r/things_to_do/preview/752. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  5. Harding, M. (2017). Colour and mood in Wes Anderson’s films. Available: https://www.tcs.cam.ac.uk/colour-and-mood-in-wes-anderson-s-films/. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  6. Hardy, J. (2016). Colour Theory in Moving Image. Available:https://jhardysite.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/wes-andersons-use-of-colour/. Last accessed 23rd April 2019.
  7. Havlin, L. (2014). Wes Anderson’s Colour Palettes. Available:http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/3586/wes-andersons-colour-palettes. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  8. Heckman, H. (2009). Colour and the Moving Image. Available: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/scope/documents/2010/february-2010/conf-rep-feb-2010.pdf. Last accessed 24th April 2019.
  9. Javier Pacheco (2014) A Montage of Wes Anderson’s Films. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yma4g3l0ZU Last accessed: 29th April 2019
  10. N/a. (2014). 25 Things We Learned from Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ Commentary. Available: https://filmschoolrejects.com/25-things-we-learned-from-wes-andersons-fantastic-mr-fox-commentary-5af385cfae54/. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  11. N/a. (2018). Wes Anderson’s unique approach to the art of visual storytelling. Available:https://www.theguardian.com/20th-century-fox-isle-of-dogs/2018/mar/26/wes-andersons-unique-approach-to-mise-en-scene-and-the-delicate-art-of-visual-storytelling. Last accessed 24th April 2019.
  12. Olesen, J. (2019). Colour Meanings in Japan. Available: https://www.color-meanings.com/color-meanings-japan/. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  13. Risk, M. (2019). How to Use Colour in Film: 50+ Examples of Movie Colour Palettes. Available:https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/how-to-use-color-in-film-50-examples-of-movie-color-palettes/. Last accessed 20th April 2019.
  14. Sarah W & Fiona. (2013). The Traditional Colour of Japan: Everything Is Better in Colour. Available: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/color-in-japan/. Last accessed 21st April 2019.
  15. Studio Binder (2018). Colour Theory in Film — Colour Psychology for Directors: Ep5. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lINVnA3rVIE Last accessed: 20th April 2019
  16. Sunhee Lee (2016) Wes Anderson’s ambivalent film style: the relation between Mise en scène and emotion, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 14:4, 409-439, DOI: 10.1080/17400309.2016.1172858
  17. Technicality (2017). Why Do Wes Anderson Films Look So Good? (feat. PlayTheMind). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EocXrcNfmns Last Accessed: 25th April 2019
  18. Vaughn Vreeland, A. (2015). Colour Theory and Social Structure in the Films of Wes Anderson. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 6 (2), 35-39

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Filmography:

  1. ‘Bottle Rocket’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Gracie Films, USA, 1996
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, UK, 2009
  3. ‘Hotel Chevalier’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Premiere Heure, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, USA, 2007
  4. Isle of Dogs’. Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Indian Paintbrush, 3 Mills Studio, Studio Babelsberg. USA, 2018, Main Cast: Jess Goldblum (Duke), Bill Murray (Boss), Bryan Cranston (Chief), Edward Norton (Rex), Scarlett Johansson (Nutmeg), Live Schreiber (Spots), Koyu Rankin (Atari), Kunichi Nomura (Mayor Kobayashi)
  5. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Indian Paintbrush, Scott Rudin Productions, American Empirical Pictures, Moonrise. USA, 2012
  6. ‘Rushmore’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Touchstone Pictures, USA, 1998
  7. ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, RatPac Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, USA, 2007
  8. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Studio Babelsberg, TSG Entertainment, Indian Paintbrush, USA, 2014
  9. ‘The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Touchstone Pictures, USA, 2004
  10. ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ Dir: Wes Anderson. Prod. Touchstone Pictures, USA, 2001

Hal Young: ‘Yi Yi and the Power of Long Fixed Shots´

Creator’s Statement

For my video essay, I wanted to illuminate the mastery of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi. While this film had a significant emotional impact upon my first viewing- and, seemingly, on others too, garnering critical acclaim and winning festival award upon its release- I soon realised that there isn’t a particularly large body of reflective critical writing on it. Further driving me to base my essay around Yang’s film were my memories of a movie we previously studied during the first year of the degree: Dust in the Wind, by Hou Hsiao-hsien, a filmmaker, who, like Yang, was part of the New Taiwan Cinema Movement, which began in the 1980s. To an even greater degree than Yang’s work, Dust in the Wind contains numerous long takes and static shots, which led several classmates to deem it as dull, with some even noting it to be their least favourite film from the Film History module that year. Therefore, I wanted to draw attention to the possible strengths of this aesthetic, and hopefully, convert those who had once been dismissive of it. Yi Yi, I believe, is a good entry point into an appreciation of this style of movie. Containing universal themes on existentialism and loneliness, and appealing, relatable characters, Yi Yi is an accessible film, regardless of one’s knowledge of Taiwan.

Running to almost three hours and being a multifaceted film, which can be approached from numerous angles, one of the challenges I faced when planning out my video essay was in attempting to keep a tight focus only on certain aspects of Yi Yi. Initially, my plan was to focus solely on the way in which the environments of the film reflect the characters. However, I soon discovered that another video essay had already been done on that. Though disheartened at first, I eventually noticed that, while excellent in discussing the framing of Yi Yi, the video had neglected to properly explore the length of its shots, something which I believed was central to appreciating the cinematography of the film. Therefore, I decided to use the notion of the long, static take, as a way in which to explore, and appreciate, Yi Yi’s aesthetic and narrative components, splitting my exploration into separate sections to give it a tighter structure. I wanted the editing style of my own video essay to be reflective of this, leaving shots from Yang’s film onscreen for as long as possible, in order to further elucidate, and be accurate of, the length of the shots used. Yet, working within time constraints meant it was difficult to fully articulate the tension and length of Yi Yi’s shots. So, I used my introduction, which explored both how cutting, and long-takes, are often used in popular and modern cinema, as a device to create a greater contrast when I began to discuss Yi Yi; its stillness being more discernible when sequenced after a hectic series of clips. For this introduction, my editing style was inspired by popular Youtube video essayists, like ‘Nerdwriter’, and ‘Every Frame a Painting’, whose videos are energetic, engaging, and, importantly, accessible. I hoped that, by beginning in a similar style to their videos, I would draw in viewers, who would then remain engaged through the more complex arguments made when I eventually begin discussing Yi Yi.

On a final note, it is perhaps worth mentioning that a common trait I have noticed amongst video essayists online is that, when praising a certain work, it will often come at the expense of another work. I find this to be unfortunate, as I believe a work can be praised on its own, singular terms. Though I draw an initial contrast between Yi Yi and the editing style in other films, I use my conclusion to stress that no one method of filmmaking is better than another, as I did not want my argument to be viewed as an ‘either/or’ type. Though the prior mention of other styles of filmmaking was necessary in elaborating the ‘slowness’ of Yi Yiwithin my time constraints, I wanted to communicate my appreciation of its aesthetic primarily through its own merits and achievements.

Hal Young

Stefano Dunne: The Filmmaking Style of Andrew Haigh

The Filmmaking Style of Andrew Haigh

 

What is the filmmaking style of Andrew Haigh and what makes it so unique? By analysing Weekend, 45 Years and Lean on Pete, I’ve attempted to unpick the formal and stylistic elements that define these films.

 

All of Andrew Haigh’s films take some influence from the social-realist films of the early 1960s, with Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings (Reisz, 1960), The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (Richardson, 1962) and Kes (Loach, 1969) serving as key examples. Haigh’s films all adopt the same aesthetic whilst appearing more deliberate and subtly stylised. That style in particular, is the focus of my video essay.

 

I’ve attempted to analyse the films simultaneously, often overlapping their footage to show the visual symmetry and harmony between them. With only three feature-length films under his belt, my bold opinion that Haigh must be regarded as an auteur does require significant evidence, which I believe the overlapping footage helps to shape. Furthermore, it aids in demonstrating how his style has grown more and more sophisticated with each film. The decision to analyse the films at the same time also helped me break-up my essay into different segments without letting it feel too fragmented. I wanted to explore both the broad narrative style of his films – chiefly their social realist aesthetic – and then move onto the film form and comprehensive utilization of micro-elements.

 

By starting with a wide-ranging discussion on what social realism is, I believe its most important that we establish its history and heritage – which I quickly outline. Following on from that, I dive into how Haigh crafts characters, and the observational and objective approach he takes to films, something very much influenced by the kitchen-sink dramas of the 1960s. I then move on to discuss his protagonists, particularly Haigh’s use of passive characters – something most screenwriting books warn against. I’m fascinated by this narrow notion that passive characters are regarded as screenwriting problems, therefore I pose a convincing argument that the use of passive characters has helped keep Haigh’s narratives fresh and exciting. Taking traditional stories and subverting them through the choice of protagonist, an active decision that simultaneously brings his films closer to the social realist tradition.

 

Due to time-restrictions, the second act of my video essay isn’t quite as expansive as I’d like but nevertheless I choose a number of formal elements of Haigh’s style and analyse how he uses them. Namely, the zoom, the two-shot and his use of natural light. On the surface these are simplistic methods, but I argue that Haigh shows an incredibly sophisticated and subtle use of them. Furthermore, the former two are often regarded as outdated – replaced by modern technology (steady-cam/dolly) and a more rapid editing style – which is something I touch upon, arguing that Haigh understands the nuances in which these stylistic techniques help to accommodate. Ultimately, by bringing attention to these elements, I communicate the extent to which they are threaded throughout Haigh’s work, further exemplifying a consistent style to his narrative-features. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep in references to both Haigh’s docu-drama Greek Pete and American TV Show Looking, simply due to the fact neither are narrative-feature films and the latter wasn’t exclusively written by Haigh. It also added too much breadth to my topic, which couldn’t be sufficiently covered within the constraints of the project.

 

Whilst I have done extensive reading around the history of British social realism, most of my research on Haigh comes from interviews and film commentaries. My video essay is unique in that it’s the first to cover Haigh’s filmography, which seems somewhat outrageous when you consider the wide-ranging critical acclaim his films have achieved. Nevertheless, this means that my video essay is both extensive and wholly original in its content.

 

My essay attempts to convey the tone and atmosphere of Haigh’s films through the means of its audio-visual presentation. With the use of a melancholy soundtrack and a delicate voiceover, I’m attempting to reflect upon the meaning and themes of his film through the production and construction of my piece. I believe a number of videos have accomplished this and thus served as my inspiration. These include Sight & Sound’s What is Neorealism? and Crisswell’s Her: Needs and Desires. Of course, it goes without saying that I’m attempting to interrogate and subsequently educate with this essay, however, I believe the medium offers up far greater emotional capital than a more traditional written approach, and therefore I’ve made it my objective to exploit that.

 

I hope that you enjoy my video essay and find it to be an insightful and poignant reflection on the work of this truly wonderful filmmaker.

 

Link: https://vimeo.com/333909759/e47002d37f

 

Bibliography

 

Hallam, Julia, & Marshment, Margaret, Realism and Popular Cinema (UK, Manchester University Press, 2000).

 

Hill, John, Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television (UK, BFI, 2011).

 

Kolker, Robert, A Cinema of Loneliness (USA, Oxford University Press, 2000).

 

Murphy, Robert, Sixties British Cinema (UK, BFI, 1992).

 

Murphy, Robert, The British Cinema Book (UK, BFI, 2009).

 

Powell, Danny, Studying British Cinema: The 1960s (UK, Auteur Publishing, 2009).

 

Seino, Takano, Realism and Representations of the Working Class in Contemporary British Cinema (UK, De Montfort University, 2010).

 

Armstrong, Richard, ‘Social Realism’, Screen Online, <http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1037898/> accessed 26th April 2019.

 

Bloomer, Jeffrey, ‘Lean on Pete is a Trojan Horse’ in The Slate < https://slate.com/culture/2018/04/lean-on-pete-andrew-haighs-new-movie-reviewed.html> accessed 21st April 2019.

 

Bordwell, David, ‘Where did the two-shot go? Here.’ Observations on film art, < http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2013/10/07/where-did-the-two-shot-go-here/> accessed 25th April 2019.

 

Dallas, Paul, ‘Interview: Andrew Haigh’ in Film Comment < https://www.filmcomment.com/blog/interview-andrew-haigh-45-years/> accessed 31st March 2019.

 

Heeney, Alex, ‘Andrew Haigh: “Blocking is everything”’ in Seventh-row < https://seventh-row.com/2018/04/16/andrew-haigh-lean-on-pete/> accessed 24th April 2019.

 

Laffly, Tomris, ‘A sense of Kindness: Andrew Haigh on Lean on Pete’ in RogerEbert.com < https://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/a-sense-of-kindness-andrew-haigh-on-lean-on-pete> accessed 28th April 2019.

 

Lee, Benjamin, ‘Andrew Haigh Interview’ in The Guardian < https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/18/andrew-haigh-45-years-interview> accessed 20th April 2019.

 

O’Callaghan, Paul, ‘Lean on Pete Review’ in Sight & Sound < https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/reviews-recommendations/lean-on-pete-andrew-haigh-low-key-horse-road-movie> accessed 20th April 2019.

 

Shetty, Sharan, ‘It Could All Break Down in a Week” in The Slate < https://slate.com/culture/2015/12/interview-with-45-years-writer-director-andrew-haigh.html> Accessed 29th April 2019.

 

Sight and Sound, ‘What Is Neorealism?’ < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odJxAd4WU8Y> accessed April 25th 2019.

 

Crisswell, ‘Her: Needs and Desires’ < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RISgjGPkA0&t=704s> accessed April 25th 2019.

 

Filmography

 

45 Years, dir. Andrew Haigh, Prod. Film4, BFI, 2015.

 

The Dark Knight, dir. Christopher Nolan, Prod. Warner Bros, 2008.

 

Kes, dir. Ken Loach, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1969.

 

Lean on Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh, Prod. A24, 2018.

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg, Prod. Lucasfilm, 1981.

 

Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, dir. Karel Reisz, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1960.

 

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, dir. Tony Richardson, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1962.

 

A Taste of Honey, dir. Tony Richardson, Prod. Woodfall Film Prod, 1961.

 

Weekend, dir. Andrew Haigh, Prod. Peccadillo, 2011.

Lucy Calderbank: Boundary and Division in ‘Paris, Texas’

Creator’s Statement

 

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984) is by far one of my favourite films. The emotional depth is deeply interrelated with its unique use of space, which creates distance between the characters. The film delivers a portrait of 1908s Western America from the perspective of a foreigner, Wenders being a German filmmaker. His European approach is interesting as he combines both cultures in his cinematic language. His attitude towards America is both critical and compassionate. He has described television, a major symbol of American modernism and technological innovation, as a source of ‘optical toxins’[1], but he also honours those landscapes by magnifying their strange beauty.

The video essay is concerned with the themes of boundary of division in relation to space in Paris, Texas. Roger Bromley in From Alice to Buena Vista: The Films of Wim Wenders (2001), writes: « The title of the film announces boundary and division, a seemingly contradictory state, an entre-deux-never reducible to the differences it joins and separates (bonding and separation are themes which recur throughout.) »[2]. I looked at three main points: Travis as the aimless wanderer, the failure of the ‘American Dream’ and the confined spaces. They map out a journey of the film, with its different movements across America, the changes of dynamics between the characters and how the space affects them psychologically and emotionally. The locations vary from vast open spaces like the desert to small confined spaces like the peepshow club where Jane works. The protagonist Travis has been in a state of transit since he has lost his wife and child, and the film can be seen as his quest to reunite his family as well as his return to civilisation. The desolate landscapes reflect Travis’s loneliness and pain as well as his desire for freedom and escape. Travis embodies the division between the desert and the city, the urban and the rural. I chose to use a split screen showing on the left side Travis entering the peepshow club and on the right side the Texas desert in order to contrast the city to the desert. Indeed, these two locations differ hugely in what they represent, as the peepshow is associated with greens and reds and confined spaces, whereas the desert looks more natural looking with its sandy colours and vast open space. The film establishes and compares different worlds, the desert and the home, the father and the mother, exile VS the return. Travis is put in contrast with his brother Walter, who is introduced to us in a shot against an oppressive building, directly associating him with capitalism and the modern life. The video essay compares and contrasts the different ways the characters exist in the world Paris, Texas sets up for them.

 

 The characters always seem to be torn apart between their desires and the reality they have to face. They chose a path that perhaps wasn’t right for them at first, and they are now dealing with the consequences of their actions. Travis and Jane seem to be lost as if their lives had been put on pause since the tragic incident. They both inhabit surreal spaces, Travis the empty desert, Jane the dehumanised and lonely peepshow.

 

I chose to let the images speak for themselves at times, without putting voice-over everywhere. I left the soundtrack of the film to emphasise the poetry and loneliness of the shots. I tried to create a similar in the video essay to the film itself, a slow, steady rhythm, which allows the actors to experience deeply every moment. The opening is a close-up on Hunter holding a picture of Paris, Texas, the land Travis purchased many years ago, whilst Hunter asks: “Where’s Paris Texas?”. Paris, Texas appears to be a foreign promised land, a utopia, and the audience is made to question if such a place really does exist, or if it is the fruit of Travis’s imagination. The point of the video essay was also to emphasise the surreal nature of the spaces in the film, as they seem to be disconnected from any point of logic and time, but are more a psychological and emotional extension of the characters. I chose to end on the scenes in the peepshow club, which separates and finally reunites the long-lost lover, Jane and Travis. There are boundaries between them that the past has built forever.

 

Lucy Calderbank

[1] Alexander Graf, The Cinema of Wim Wenders : The Celluloid HighwayWallflower Press, 2002

 

[2] Roger Bromley, From Alice to Buena Vista : The Films of Wim Wenders Praeger, 2001

Josh Bullin: ´Eighth Grade – The Contemporary Teen Film’

Creators Statement – ‘Eighth Grade: The Contemporary Teen Film’

This video essay explores Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018, USA), a recent example of the ‘teen film’ genre that has received critical acclaim since its release last year. The film follows Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a thirteen-year-old girl in her final days of eighth grade, before she will make the difficult transition to high school. Through contextualising the film within the context of the recent history and writings on the teen film, the essay seeks to illustrate how its portrayal of social anxiety in Kayla, as well as how the ubiquity of social media and the internet in today’s teen lives, reflects our current culture – consequently becoming a defining film of the genre for the 2010s.

 

The critical writings that surround the teen film genre generally consolidate around several ideas. While several aren’t directly cited in the video essay for reasons of time and fluidity, their ideas greatly influenced the script by bringing me greater clarity of the context of the genre. For example, the assertion established by Timothy Shary and reiterated by multiple critics, regarding the age range and subject of the teen film[1] is alluded to in order to establish the genre in the essay quickly. The most significant idea to the essay is that the most defining teen films reflect the culture in which they are set and were made in. As cited in the video essay, Shary writes that “Teen films, like successive generations of teenagers themselves, have grown up and changed with the times, testing their boundaries, exploring their potential and seeking new identities.”[2] Eighth Grade does exactly this, testing the boundaries of the teen genre by genuinely exploring contemporary issues for teenagers, which have gone unexplored in recent years due to the generally lower profile of the teen film in Hollywood. In her book, Betty Kaklamanidou suggests that the end of the studio-era ‘teen comedy’ came in 2010 with Easy A (Will Gluck, USA, 2010), and that this has given rise to more mature indie content[3], like Eighth Grade could be attributed too. However, the crucial themes and motifs of the teen film have now continued to resonate despite this movement.

 

Recurring themes, plots and motifs have been identified by critics, as laid out in the video essay through a variety of films that stretch back to the 1980s, where the genre boomed and many of the key themes were widely established in the cinematic and public sphere. Catherine Driscoll lays out three key themes in her overview: “the rite of passage to social independence; the bodily and social trauma of developing a coherent individual identity; and the interplay between developing agency and social alienation.”[4] As illustrated in the later sections of the video essay, these themes appear in Eighth Grade through its contemporary viewpoint, displaying how identity has been complicated by social media and the internet as well as the rise in acknowledged anxiety and depression in teenagers.

 

Contributing to the film’s overall impact is the contemporary realism it achieves through the character of Kayla. The overly matured or idealised appearances and/or dialogue of many iconic teen film characters and actors, as observed by Roz Kaveney in her book, Teen Dreams to embody “an adolescence that has nothing in common with anything we actually experienced,”[5] are not seen in Kayla’s appearance. As shown in the video essay, her acne and body is highlighted throughout the film to resemble an actual teenage girl of her age, with little attempt made to look ‘prettier’ unless the character consciously does so herself. Additionally, the true inarticulacy of teenagers is shown through her and the other teen characters’ dialogue, which incorporates vocal tics and mannerisms – such as an overreliance on the word “like” as a connector in sentences.

 

The essay goes onto examine the frank portrayal of social anxiety in the film, which is pointedly relevant to today where reported cases of teenagers suffering from mental health issues has risen substantially in the last fifteen years alone. The discussion is based around the ‘Pool Party’ sequence, where the heightened sense of stakes inherent to the narrative conflicts in teen films manifests by the event becoming a social minefield for Kayla. The sequence first depicts her candidly experiencing a panic attack before rendering the scene of the party to be horrifying through her gaze. By rendering these experiences, the film illustrates its exploration of the genre and strong relation to today’s social issues.

 

Tied into her anxiety is the question of identity, a pivotal theme to the teen film considering these are the ages that are most formative to the development of people’s identity. As referred to earlier, the prevalence of social media and the internet amongst adolescents further adds to the complexity of identity. From an early age, youths are consciously constructing identities through social media platforms as a form of self-actualisation, while the way they interact has directly informed the way they interact. The film reflects this in Kayla, who makes vlogs on YouTube giving advice, as a method of creating her ideal self. The reality is her quiet and anxious demeanour, demonstrating that the advice is really addressed to herself. These personas are both made visible within clips highlighted in the essay.

 

The reliance and importance of social media and the internet is not heavily critiqued by Burnham in the film, who has stated in interviews that instead the general “living with (the internet) is what I was trying to visualise” and that “it’s not some giant crisis.”[6] Most significantly, this is vital to the current youth generation, where the apps displayed in the film, such as Instagram and Tumblr, are increasingly popular platforms in the real world. By non-judgmentally displaying these social trends that define childhoods in the twenty-first century, the film again reflects today’s culture and thus matches the significant feature of the teen film as written by Shary.

 

These illustrations of contemporary culture are indeed what make Eighth Grade the defining teen film of our current generation. Like how the films of John Hughes define the youth culture of the 1980s, the video essay asserts that the film is firmly marked as a powerful indicator of this period for generations to come.

 

 

 

Filmography:

 

American Pie. Dir. Paul and Chris Weitz, Prod. Universal, 1999. Main cast: Jason Biggs (Jim), Alyson Hannigan (Michelle), Chris Klein (Oz).

 

Bring It On. Dir. Peyton Reed, Prod. Universal, USA, 2000. Main cast: Kirsten Dunst (Torrance), Gabrielle Union (Isis), Eliza Dushku (Missy).

 

Clueless. Dir. Amy Heckerling, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1995. Main cast: Alicia Silverstone (Cher), Brittany Murphy (Tai).

 

Easy A. Dir. Will Gluck, Prod. Screen Gems, USA, 2010. Main cast: Emma Stone (Olive), Patricia Clarkson (Rosemary), Aly Michalka (Rhiannon).

 

Eighth Grade. Dir. Bo Burnham, Prod. A24, USA, 2018. Main cast: Elsie Fisher (Kayla), Josh Hamilton (Dad).

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Dir. John Hughes, USA, 1986. Main cast: Matthew Broderick (Ferris), Alan Ruck (Cameron).

 

Grease. Dir. Randal Kleiser, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1978. Main cast: John Travolta (Danny), Olivia Newton-John (Sandy).

 

Heathers. Dir. Michael Lehmann, Prod. New World Pictures, USA, 1989. Main cast: Winona Ryder (Veronica), Christian Slater (JD), Shannen Doherty (Heather).

 

High School Musical: Senior Year. Dir. Kenny Ortega, Prod. Walt Disney, USA, 2008. Main cast: Zac Efron (Troy), Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella), Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay).

 

Juno. Dir. Jason Reitman, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2007. Main cast: Ellen Page (Juno), Michael Cera (Paulie).

 

Love, Simon. Dir. Greg Berlanti, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2018. Main cast: Nick Robinson (Simon), Katherine Langford (Leah).

 

Mean Girls. Dir. Mark Waters, Prod. Paramount, USA, 2004. Main cast: Lindsay Lohan (Cady), Rachel McAdams (Regina).

 

Pretty in Pink. Dir. Howard Deutch, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1986. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Andie), Jon Cryer (Duckie).

 

Risky Business. Dir. Paul Brickman, Prod. Warner Bros, USA, 1983. Main cast: Tom Cruise (Joel), Rebecca De Mornay (Lana).

 

Riverdale, second series, USA, The CW, 2017-2019. Main cast: Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl), Madchen Ameck (Alice).

 

Scream. Dir. Wes Craven, Prod. Dimension, USA, 1996. Main cast: Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courteney Cox (Gale).

 

Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Dir. Ian Samuels, Prod. Netflix, USA, 2018. Main cast: Shannon Purser (Sierra), Noah Centineo (Jamey), Kristine Froseth (Veronica).

 

Sixteen Candles. Dir. John Hughes, Prod. Paramount, USA, 1984. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Sam), Michael Schoeffling (Jake).

 

Superbad. Dir. Greg Mottola, Prod. Columbia, USA, 2007. Main cast: Michael Cera (Evan), Jonah Hill (Seth).

 

The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes, Prod. Universal, USA, 1985. Main cast: Molly Ringwald (Claire), Emilio Estevez (Andrew), Judd Nelson (Bender).

 

The DUFF. Dir. Ari Sandel, Prod. Lionsgate, CBS Films, USA, 2015. Main cast: Mae Whitman (Bianca), Robbie Amell (Wes).

 

The Fault in Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone, Prod. 20th Century Fox, USA, 2014. Main cast: Shailene Woodley (Hazel), Ansel Elgort (Augustus).

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Dir. Francis Lawrence, Prod. Lionsgate, USA, 2013. Main cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta).

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Dir. Stephen Chbosky, Prod. Summit, USA, 2012. Main cast: Logan Lerman (Charlie), Emma Watson (Sam).

 

Thirteen. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, USA, 2003. Main cast: Evan Rachel Wood (Tracy), Nikki Reed (Evie).

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Dir. Susan Johnson, Prod. Netflix, USA, 2018. Main cast: Lana Condor (Lara Jean), Noah Centineo (Peter).

 

Twilight. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke, Prod. Summit, USA, 2008. Main cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward).

 

Bibliography:

 

BUILD series, ‘Bo Burnham and the Cast of “Eighth Grade” discuss their new film’ (20 July 2018), online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUzFkqby6-c.

 

Colling, Samantha, The Aesthetic Pleasures of Girl Teen Film (London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2017).

 

Driscoll, Catherine, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011).

 

Hill, Logan, ‘Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade,’ Anxiety and Why Social Media Is a Curse’, Rolling Stone (2018), online: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/bo-burnham-eighth-grade-interview-700514/

 

Kaklamanidou, Betty, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018).

 

Kaveney, Roz, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006).

 

Murray, Iana, ‘Bo Burnham and the Changing Face of Internet Comedy’, The Skinny (21 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/film/opinion/eighth-grade-bo-burnham-and-dissecting-the-internet.

 

Oscars (Youtube), ‘Academy Conversations: Eighth Grade’ (19 July 2018), online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJmunVzdvLY.

 

Sandberg, Bryn Elise, ‘Making of ‘Eighth Grade’: How Bo Burnham Brought His Anxiety to Screen in the Form of a 13-Year-Old Girl’, The Hollywood Reporter (21 November 2018), online: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/making-eighth-grade-how-bo-burnham-brought-his-anxiety-screen-1162239.

 

Shary, Timothy, ‘Teen Films: The Cinematic Image of Youth’, in Grant, Barry Keith (ed.), Film Genre Reader IV (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2012).

 

Shary, Timothy, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005).

 

Slater-Williams, Josh, ‘Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, teens and the internet’, The Skinny (14 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/uk-festivals/film/bo-burnham-on-eighth-grade-internet-social-media.

 

Music used:

 

Meredith, Anna, Eighth Grade (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Columbia Records, 2018. Simple Minds, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’, The Breakfast Club (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Virgin/A&M,

 


 

[1] Timothy Shary, ‘Teen Films: The Cinematic Image of Youth’, in Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Film Genre Reader IV (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2012), p. 581.

 

[2] Timothy Shary, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005), p. 3.

 

[3] Betty Kaklamanidou, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018), p. 25-28.

 

[4] Catherine Driscoll, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011), p. 6.

 

[5] Roz Kaveney, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006), p. 1-2.

 

[6] Josh Slater-Williams, ‘Bo Burnham on Eighth Grade, teens and the internet’, The Skinny (14 Feb 2019), online: https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/uk-festivals/film/bo-burnham-on-eighth-grade-internet-social-media

Ellyse Partington: The “lived body” in contemporary horror cinema

Creator’s Statement

The “lived body” in contemporary horror cinema

The thesis for this video essay originated from an interest in the use of sound in A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018). The use of diegetic and non diegetic sound brilliantly portrayed the perspective of Reagan, the deaf daughter, and how her experience of being deaf aided in the family’s survival within the film. A Quiet Place was a success amongst critics and received a fair amount of recognition as a unique and creative horror film. Whilst previous films had experimented with sound in the past, in films such as Dawn of the Deaf (Rob Savage, 2016) and Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016), others had not been credit for its delineation of deafness to the same extent as A Quiet Place.

Whilst debating the avenues of discussions the horror genre presents, following careful consideration of the themes of mental illness and disability, it was useful to ponder over the influx of films that explored disability such as Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016) and Bird Box(Susanne Bier, 2018). Disability became a topic that has been present within recent texts, however, deafness and the presentation of sound was a stronger area of study for this video essay to focus the trajectory of the project.

After considering the use of sound within the contemporary horror film to explore the representation of deafness, I began to consider how the use (or the lack of) sound encouraged the spectator to consciously become aware of how they use their senses in their viewing experience. In aid of this contention, Vivian Sobchack explores the notion of the “lived body”.[1] She explores the physiological responses the spectator experiences whilst watching a film. It was this theory that grounded my analysis in which I could explore the stylistic techniques of contemporary horror films, to understand how they represented deafness.

Horror is possibly the first genre to be considering to evoke a physiological response from the audience, through its ambition to insight fear within its audience. The subconscious and immediate response of the audience to the action on screen is the desired response of the filmmaker. However, the aim of this video essay is to explore how cinema can construct a sensory event for the spectator for a larger purpose than a jump scare. The primary ambition of this video essay is to execute how sound encourages the audience to utilise their senses to enjoy the tactility that the contemporary film, and horror as an extension, can present.

Through the analysis of Dawn of the Deaf, Hush and A Quiet Place, this project attempts to explore how the sensorium of the spectator, and their physiological being is called upon to experience the story of the respective deaf characters. Sobchack’s notion of the spectator subjectively experiencing the films through the objective body of the character, positions the audience to the explore a fictitious scenario that they would otherwise not experience. Through the exploration of sound, image, and theory, this video essay explores how the representation of deafness in the contemporary horror film. The provocation of the spectator’s senses through the relationship of sound and image, fabricates an immersive event for the audience to relate to a character.

Bibliography

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Walter Benjamin Illuminations: Essays and Reflections,ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: schocken, 1968), 240.

Miriam Hansen, “ ‘With Skin and Hair’: Kracauer’s Theory of fIlm, Marseilles 1940,” Critical Inquiry 19, no.3 (1993): 458.

Barker, J. 2009. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience.Oakland: University of California Press.

Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.

Filmography

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven,1984)

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018)

Bird Box (Susanne Bier, 2018)

Dawn of the Deaf (Rob Savage, 2016)

Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016)

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

Hush (Mike Flanagan, 2016)

Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz,1945)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

The Exorcist (William Friedkin,1973)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

The Silence (John R. Leonetti, 2019)


[1] Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.

Alfie Watson-Brown: Baths and Bathrooms as Narrative Spaces in the work of Lynne Ramsey

 

Click on the link below for the video essay:

 

 

Abstract

 

Lynne Ramsay’s tackling of social and emotional issues, particularly poverty and trauma, is frequently revered as ground-breaking- or at least expertly crafted, due to the element of artistic poeticism her films are centred around. Studying cinematography at the National Film and Television School, her films are often viewed through a cinematographic lens. However, much discussion of Ramsay’s work is so centred around cinematography and visual poeticism that it neglects the narrative, characteristic and emotional impact of said visual focus, meaning that many readings of the emotional content of her films are left underdeveloped, without sufficient focus on textual analysis. Most video essays centred around Ramsay focus purely on her visual style, with popular essays such as Tony Zhou’s (under the pseudonym ‘Every Frame a Painting’) ‘Lynne Ramsay- The Poetry of Details’, amassing almost one million views[1], focusing on tiny visual elements of Ramsay’s work without giving significant depth to the impact of this style. This is not necessarily a misdemeanour on the respective essayist’s part, merely it is a symptom of a heavy focus on as large and undefined topic as visual poetry. For this reason, my project is given more specificity, focusing in on a smaller subsection of Ramsay’s stylistic tendencies, centred around the significance of the bath and the bathroom. In this project, I first aim to give some contextualisation over the previous uses of baths and bathrooms in cinema, arriving at the conclusion that while these examples, do contain key scenes in baths, the bath is mostly used to symbolise something which is already present, namely, in these examples such as Scarface (1983) and Pretty Woman (1990), the luxury their respective characters have come into. There is a sense that while these scenes take place in a bath, much of the narrative effect could have still been achieved in a completely different setting. However, in Ramsay’s films, largely due to her incessant return to the theme of water, there is a sense that the bath is perfectly suited to the narrative and characteristic through lines she aims to explore. Through justifying these thoughts alongside a foundation of texts such as Annette Kuhn’s ‘Ratcatcher’ and Stella Hockenhull’s ‘British Women Film Directors in the New Millenium’, as well as interviews with Ramsay where she gives some background to her films, I aim to digest the emotional connections Ramsay seeks to explore through the bath and bathroom. One potential drawback of this style of analysis could be the lack of academic founding. Despite considering the two key texts listed above, this textual analysis-heavy approach to film criticism requires much of my own input, and with a lack of pre-existing, relevant research into the narratives of Ramsay’s films, the project risks being too subjective. However, I have aimed to counter-balance this, with much credit being lent to the unique format of the video essay, by justifying my points with on-screen references and backing.

 

Content Focus

Screenshot 2019-06-07 at 07.28.22.png

Ratcatcher- Ramsay’s first feature, following a guilt-ridden child, James, who finds himself responsible for the accidental manslaughter of his friend, Ryan. In this film, the bath acts as a vessel to hold the recurring theme of water, offering a place for Ryan and Margaret Ann to take some respite from their harsh surroundings, and indulge in play. However, due to its associations with water, it also acts as a merciless reminder of James’ guilt, tied strongly to the canal through Ramsay’s use of montage between the bath scenes, and scenes of James’ dad saving another child, Kenny, from the canal.

You Were Never Really Here- Following hitman Joe as he tries to save Nina from a child-exploitation ring, Ramsay here makes use of the bath to tie Joe’s work life to his home life. While he cleans up the overflown bath for his mother at home, he also cleans up the pedophile ring for Nina. This works as a tying together of Joe’s affinity for the two important women in his life, and when his mother dies, Joe transfers his emotional connections on to Nina, marked by a crucial scene in the lake. However, this connection is foreboded in the previously mentioned bath sequence.

Swimmer- Our brief relationship with a long distance swimmer becomes increasingly convoluted, and we begin to wonder what his true connection with the water is. Although there is no space for a bath scene in this short, Ramsay’s classic use of water is ever-present, and we can carry some of the ideas explored in this film in to our discussion of the bath.

Morvern Callar (2002)Holding a scene which I would argue is symbolic of Ramsay’s depiction of the bath and the bathroom, the film sees born-again Morvern take control of her life in the wake of her boyfriend’s suicide. The bath scene works as a depiction of her growing confidence, and preludes her further emotional development in the film. Before she can fully move on with her life, she has to completely end any previous connection with her deceased boyfriend, and it is no coincidence that Ramsay decides to host this scene in the bathroom.

Don’t Look Now- I argue that this self-professed influence on Ramsay carries into her use of trauma explored through water, with the opening scene, following John’s despair at watching his daughter drown, carrying particular relevance.

 

Through tying these examples together, I aim to provide a cohesive, pragmatic, and comprehensive view of Ramsay’s use of water, which is exemplified in her use of the bath.

Screenshot 2019-06-07 at 07.28.45.png

Bibliography

Kuhn, A., Ratcatcher (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

Hockenhull, S., British Women Film Directors in the New Millennium(London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

 

Filmography

Morvern Callar (2002), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

Seven Pounds (2008), dir. Gabriele Muccino, Overbrook, USA.

The Shining (1980), dir. Stanley Kubrick, Warner Bros, USA.

Pretty Woman (1990), Garry Marshall, Touchstone, USA.

Scarface (1983), dir. Brian de Palma, Universal, USA.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), dir. Wes Craven, New Line, USA.

American Beauty (1999), dir. Sam Mendes, Dreamworks, USA.

The Big Lebowski (1998), dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Working Title, USA.

Fight Club (1999), dir. David Fincher, Fox, USA.

Psycho (1960), dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Universal, Paramount, UK.

Ratcatcher (1999), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

You Were Never Really Here (2017), dir. Lynne Ramsay, Film4, UK.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK.

Swimmer (2012), dir. Lynne Ramsay, BBC, UK..

 

 

 

 

 

[1]Every Frame a Painting, ‘Lynne Ramsay- The Poetry of Details’, published on 7/5/2015