A video essay demonstrating Hans Epp’s descent into nothingness in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Merchant of the Four Seasons (1972):
A video essay demonstrating Hans Epp’s descent into nothingness in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Merchant of the Four Seasons (1972):
For almost 25 years, Guy Ritchie has been directing stylish feature films. Best known for his British gangster films, such as: Lock, Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), Rock n’ Rolla (2008) and The Gentlemen (2019) as well as the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Junior.
Ritchie is often criticised for his gonzo entertainment filmmaking and his inconsistent performance at the box office. His films have received – at best — a mixed critical reception across his careeer. As a result, Ritchie is not taken very seriously as a filmmaker.
The aim of this video essay is to demonstrate that Ritchie is very much under-appreciated as a director and has a unique style worth studying.
Richie’s stylish editing can be boiled down to the concept of a ‘fast & slow’ framework using a range of experimental formal elements (speed ramps, freeze frames, slow motion, intercutting, parallel action, and superimposition) to control the temporality of his sequences. It is Ritchie’s action scenes that best showcase this use of the framework, with careful consideration for shot length and manipulation of time through the use of editing & experimental formal elements.
Ritchie employs his framework to manipulate the passage of time in his scenes, creating pauses in action that encourage contemplation. To achieve this effect, he balances the use of a faster-than-average cutting rate with moments of stillness, seamlessly transitioning between the two speeds of cutting from one moment to the next. By leveraging this framework in tandem with his experimental formal elements, Ritchie generates a singular sense of motion and movement on screen. His meticulous attention to shot selection and average shot length (ASL) yields striking moments of spectacle and action that demonstrate his playful manipulation of film form.
In recent years, Ritchie has shied away from the style of action that put him on the map substituting fast and slow action for a greater focus on narrative cadence and control, with elements of action implemented throughout his films. I would like to see Ritchie return to his style of old and see more action films using the tried and tested fast and slow framework.
— Jack Brazil
Lock, Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels (1998), Dir. Guy Ritchie,Ska Films
Snatch (2000), Dir. Guy Ritchie,Ska Films, Columbia Pictures
Swept Away (2002), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Searchlight Pictures, Sony Pictures
Revolver (2005), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Lionsgate UK
Rock n’ Roller (2008), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures
Sherlock Holmes (2009), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures
The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures
Aladdin (2019), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Walt Disney Pictures
The Gentlemen (2019), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Miramax
Wrath of Man (2021), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Miramax
300 (2006), Dir. Zack Snyder, Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures
Watchmen (2009), Dir. Zack Snyder, Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures
Fight Club (1999), Dir. David Fincher, Fox 2000 Pictures, 20th Century Fox
Transformers (2007), Dir. Michael Bay, Paramount Pictures
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), Dir. Matthew Vaughn, Marv Films, 20th Century Fox
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), Dir. Matthew Vaughn, Marv Films, 20th Century Fox
Hundred Mile High City, Ocean Colour Scene. 1997 Universal Island Records. Dir. Guy Ritchie
The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind), The Bucketheads. 1995 Henry Street Music. Dir. Guy Ritchie
Deep, Marusha. Low Spirit Recordings 1995. Dir. Guy Ritchie
A Real Love, CB Milton. 1996 Cloud 9 Music. Dir. Guy Ritchie
Rave Can Can, DJ Jacques O. 1996 Kontor New Media Music. Dir. Guy Ritchie
Upside Down, Joelle. 1995 Hansa. Dir. Guy Ritchie
The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind), The Bucketheads. 1995 Henry Street Music.
I Wanna Be Your Dog, The Stooges. 1969 Elektra/Asylum Records.
Diamond, Klint. 2000. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Payback, James Brown. 1973 Polydor Records.
Fuckin’ in the Bushes, Oasis. 2000 Big Brother Recordings Ltd.
Che vuole questa musica stasera, Peppino Gadliardi. UMG (on behalf of Decca (UMO) Classics (CAM)); ASCAP, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc.
Get Down, Nas. 2002 Columbia Records
Powerbeats Pro Commercial (2019), Dir. Hiro Murai, Zambezi
Guy Ritchie Interview on Lock Stock with Charlie Rose https://youtu.be/biVd5r4i52A
Intensified Continuity Visual Style in Contemporary American Film Author(s): David Bordwell Source: Film Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Spring 2002), pp. 16-28 Published by: University of California Press
Tasker, Yvonne. The Hollywood Action and Adventure Film, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/warw/detail.action?docID=7104343.
Interpreting Music Video, Popular Music in the Post-MTV Era. Brad Osborn. 2021.
Only Entertainment. Richard Dyer. 2002. pp.64-69
Sheep without a Shepherd: The Power of Montage
A Video Essay by Yilin Duan
If you have committed a crime, how can you then prove your innocence? By a perfect alibi? By a witness? Or by public opinion? In the film Sheep without a Shepherd (Sam Quah, 2019), the main protagonist Li Weijie (Xiao Yang) creates all the evidence mentioned above to cover up the crime of his family through the idea of montage. Starting with the question of how to commit a perfect crime by montage, this video essay aims at exploring the effects of this widely used editing theory by comparing the murderer of the case Li Weijie to the director of a film, as montage is used both when Li Weijie tries to fabricate the evidence and when the director wants to affect audiences’ reading and perception of a film. What they both do is to arrange the footages to form a new meaning, so that the interrogators, or the audiences, can understand their thoughts clearly.
I have always been interested in technical post-production stage of films throughout my learning in film studies, and this is why I choose to analyse the power of montage. The style of editing is a very important element of the final film, and it is inseparable from the personal preference of the director. The idea of montage is developed by many former Soviet filmmakers, and one leading theorist among them is Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein’s contribution to montage editing technique is indelible, therefore he is a very important figure to refer to when talking about montage. I also prefer his theories, which I found very interesting and useful in the editing stage of the film, so in the video essay I used a lot of his quotes to apply to the films and examine the utility of montage. Following this I then also compared Sergei Eisenstein with André Bazin, because they have different opinions toward the style of editing, and each held a very enlightening editing theory, which both makes sense. Since my focus in the video is on montage, Bazin’s theory works as an evaluation of Eisenstein’s.
There are many reasons why I choose Sheep without a Shepherd in relation to this topic. Firstly, its editing aligns with Eisenstein’s theory. There are several different ways of montage used in this film, and I talked about mainly two of them in my video essay. Secondly, it is a very new film released in 2019, showing that even it was several decades ago when Eisenstein suggested his montage theory, until nowadays montage is still a very effective technique for the present cinema. And last but not least, I suspect most people have not seen any Chinese films or done much analysis before, so I am also more than delighted to introduce my personal film of the year, which although is a niche crime theme, but has gained huge success in China and achieved a box office of more than 1 billion RMB.
My video essay consists of mainly three parts. The first part is ‘what is montage’, which can be answered from two aspects: technical and functional. Technically, to create a montage sequence is as simple as ‘splices shots together and adds in sound effects’, which is said by Li Weijie in Sheep without a Shepherd to educate audiences the basic process of montage. But to make this sequence meaningful, the main function of montage must be taken into account. Therefore, I quoted from Eisenstein, that “the combination of two ‘representable’ objects achieves the representation of something that cannot be graphically represented.” (Eisenstein, 1949: 15). Therefore, montage does not simply mean adding any two or more shots together, but the aim is to form new meanings or add emotional effects to the sequence, which cannot be visually presented straightforwardly.
As mentioned above, the second part of the video essay is the comparison between Eisenstein’s montage theory and André Bazin’s long take theory. While they are both very influential film theorists throughout the industry, their editing theories are completely opposite. Eisenstein believes that montage contributes to the plot and meaning of the film, but what Bazin pursues is realism, that the avoidance of editing, i.e., long take shots, is a form of realism of the cinema. Since the two held opposite opinions, I think it would be useful to compare and contrast them, to see what montage can achieve and what it cannot. Bazin himself also did the comparison in his book What is Cinema, arguing that montage ‘impose[s] its interpretation of an event on the spectator’ (Bazin, 1967-1971: 26), while his use of long take and depth of focus helps audiences ‘enjoys the reality’. (Ibid., 35)
The third part is examples of practical uses of montage. Montage can be used in many ways, and in this video essay I took two common montage techniques as examples, one is intellectual montage, the other one is parallel montage, and both are applied in the film Sheep without a Shepherd. Since intellectual montage is one of the most significant concepts suggested by Eisenstein, I therefore quoted from him as well, that intellectual montage means ‘not of generally physiological overtonal sounds, but of sounds and overtones of an intellectual sort: i.e., conflict-juxtaposition of accompanying intellectual affects.’ (Eisenstein, 1949: 82) I focused on the sequence when the police open the coffin. As I captured, on the left side there is only close-up shots of Li Weijie, and on the right side there is close-up shots of the coffin lid. I aim to use this sequence to show that a third meaning can be conveyed by two superficially irrelevant shots, so that Li Weijie’s mental activity can be inferred when he sees the bloodstain on the coffin lid.
To dig further into the idea of intellectual montage, one other function of it that I included in the video essay is to create visual metaphor. I use the scene of the stone lion from Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) as an example of visual metaphor. To represent the rise of the people and the triumph of the revolution, Eisenstein spliced together the shots of the stone lion, from sleeping to waking up to rising, which indicates people’s determination to resist and fight for themselves. This use of montage can also create non-visual effects, as Ashley Brown argues that, ‘Sergei Eisenstein uses visual metaphor to teach audiences the benefits of cooperative action from all industries of production and defense.’ (Brown, 2018: 63).
Besides the stone lion, in Sheep without a Shepherd the director also uses goat as a visual metaphor. I took three similar scenes in the film of Li Weijie giving donation to the temple to point out that the emergence of goat is intentionally designed. The goat appears when Li Weijie does not commit the crime at the beginning of the film, and when he confesses the crime at the end, but does not appear when Li Weijie tries to cover up the crime. Though it is not a political propaganda use of visual metaphor, the goat here might stand for Li Weijie’s conscience and criticized him morally.
Finally, the film also uses parallel montage, and one significant scene is the Thai boxing scene, that while Li Weijie is watching the boxing match, his wife and daughter are hit by the son of the interrogator. This fast cross cut on the one hand shows the relevance of the two events, that the temporary faint of the boxer also hints that the son does not die immediately, and on the other hand, the contrast between Li Weijie’s excitement and wife and daughter’s fear also creates a tense atmosphere for the whole scene.
Now that we are aware of director’s ability to affect audiences’ reaction and perception of the film by montage, and finally I went back to the initial question of how does montage help commit a perfect crime. Surveillance footage became the protagonist Li Weijie’s footage, and he reordered them to create a new montage sequence to prove his innocence. Thus, the power of montage is huge, as it can affect the meaning and atmosphere of a story.
‘American Honey: Redefining the Road Movie Through the Female Gaze’, by Edie Straight
This video essay aims to explore how American Honey utilises the female gaze to depart from the traditional masculine aesthetic of the road movie, so as to achieve a better understanding of how the female gaze is constructed – visually and thematically – and of why the film is so ground-breaking within its genre.
When I first watched American Honey I was struck not only by its focus on the story of a young female protagonist, but how it framed the women of the film with an unobjectifying and realistic perspective. This was especially significant as its status as a road movie placed it alongside an archive of genre films that predominantly prioritised male protagonists and the exploration of masculinity. As Timothy Corrigan notes, it’s “a genre traditionally focused, almost exclusively, on men and the absence of women”, and even when they are included, they’re relegated to the roles of, as David Laderman describes, “passive passengers and/or erotic distractions”.
When I began to delve further into an investigation of American Honey’s style (one that evoked feeling, compassion and total absorption) I realised how wholly it diverged from the cinematic viewpoint of the male gaze. Instead of fetishizing the women of the film, treating them as objects viewed purely from the heterosexual masculine perspective, it aligned the viewer with them and gave them the space to express their own desires and needs. During my research I came across a masterclass given at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival on the female gaze. Delivered by Joey Soloway, the lecture highlighted how the female gaze is a way of shooting a film that allows the audience to be plunged into its world through the visceral and tactile visuals of the feeling/seeing camera, and to not just experience how it feels to be seen as an object of the male gaze, but also how it feels to take ownership of it (and subsequently return it). With the knowledge of this theory, I began to explore how and why American Honey was an exemplary instance of the female gaze in action.
Instead of just “inserting female protagonists into this male-orientated genre”, which Shari Roberts asserts “neither simply subverts or subsumes its masculinist tendencies”, the film uses a variety of formal aspects and thematic techniques to redefine the road movie from a feminine perspective. The film’s poetic cinematography that reveals both beauty and brutality, the camera’s physical proximity to Star, as well as its expression of the world from Star’s perspective as we follow her gaze, establishes this. Simultaneously, the audience experiences how it is to be gazed by the male characters that Star encounters throughout the film.
The format of a video essay fully lends itself to the ability to express these points, as a visual and aural engagement with the text is necessary to experience the female gaze in totality. The soundtrack of American Honey is equally significant in establishing the film’s ambiance and reinforcing identification with the characters. Therefore, the ability to incorporate this iconic music into my video essay aided in recreating the atmosphere of the film, a tone that was an integral product of the female gaze.
Arnold, A., ‘Director Andrea Arnold on the Cross-Country Party that Produced American Honey – Interview’, The Verge, (September 29, 2016), https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/29/13109072/american-honey-movie-director-interview-andrea-arnold-tiff-2016, date accessed January 30, 2021.
Cohan, S., Hark, I., (ed.), The Road Movie Book, (London/New York: Routledge, 1997)
Corrigan, T., A Cinema Without Walls: Movies and Culture after Vietnam, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1991)
Laderman, D., Driving Visions: Exploring the Road Movie, (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002)
Mulvey, L., ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Screen, 16(3), (Autumn 1975)
Roberts, S., ‘Western Meets Eastwood’, in Cohan, Hark (ed.), The Road Movie Book, pp. 45 – 69
Soloway, J., Masterclass lecture given at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LukysI8R4g8&ab_channel=FestivaldeCannes%28Officiel%29, date accessed January 2, 2021
A Perfect World (Dir. Clint Eastwood, Prod. Malpaso Productions, USA, 1993)
American Honey (Dir. Andrea Arnold, Prod. British Film Institute/Film4 Productions/Maven
Pictures, United Kingdom/USA, 2016)
Badlands (Dir. Terrence Malick, Prod. Warner Bros., USA, 1973)
Bonnie and Clyde (Dir. Arthur Penn, Prod. Warner Bros. Pictures, USA, 1967)
Die Another Die (Dir. Lee Tamahori, Prod. Eon Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Pictures, United Kingdom, 2002)
Duel (Dir. Steven Spielberg, Prod. Universal Television, USA, 1971)
Easy Rider (Dir. Dennis Hopper, Prod. Pando Company Inc./Raybert Productions, USA, 1969)
Fish Tank (Dir. Andrea Arnold, Prod. BBC Films/UK Film Council, United Kingdom, 2009)
Mad Max 2 (Dir. George Miller, Prod. Kennedy Miller Entertainment, Australia, 1981)
Midnight Run (Dir. Martin Brest, Prod. City Light Films, USA, 1988)
The Mask (Dir. Charles Russell, Prod. New Line Productions/Dark Horse Entertainment,
Thelma & Louise (Dir. Ridley Scott, Prod. Pathé Entertainment/Percy Main
Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, USA, 1991)
Vertigo (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Prod. Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions, USA, 1958)
Wasp (Dir. Andrea Arnold, Prod. FilmFour/UK Film Council/Cowboy Films, United Kingdom, 2003)
 Timothy Corrigan, A Cinema Without Walls: Movies and Culture after Vietnam, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1991), p. 143
 David Laderman, Driving Visions: Exploring the Road Movie, (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2002), p. 20
 Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Screen, 16(3), Autumn 1975, pp. 6 – 18
 Joey Soloway, Masterclass lecture given at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2016
 Shari Roberts, ‘Western Meets Eastwood’, The Road Movie Book, Steven Cohan, Ina Rae Hark (ed.), (London/New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 64
How does Wes Andeson represent fatherhood? Georgia Smithies tells us in this lovely and perceptive video essay. That ‘an Andersonian father, if he´s ruined his child´s life, must also be able to fix it in some way, dead or alive,´ is but one of the many insights offered in this enjoyable video.
Wes Anderson and Fathers – Author’s Statement
Wes Anderson is critically revered for his visual style, with his auteur status hanging on elements such as his use of symmetry, colour and, of course, the Futura font. Often overlooked however are ‘Anderson’s themes – While his films could be regarded as shallow and pretentious, the honesty and emotion with which Anderson and his collaborators write their familial dynamics should also be held with great consideration. Anderson’s fathers in particular stand out as key elements of his works, and are a continuous and repeated feature, with all nine of his films including some kind of element of fatherhood or paternity.
The Andersonian father, as argued in this video essay, is generally either a ‘surrogate’ or ‘absentee’ father, with almost all of his paternal characters fitting into either or both of these categories. A ‘surrogate father’ is a character who is not biologically related to their ‘child’, but forms a familial type bond with them, whereas an ‘absentee father’ is a character who is biologically related to their child, but is absent from their life either physically or emotionally. In both categories, fathers tend to be somewhat aloof, and are all invariably flawed, but are not difficult to like. A key aspect of Anderson’s narratives of fatherhood is that the fathers and/or their children grow as a result of their familial relationship.
Anderson also frequently touches on Oedipal themes, with both The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Rushmore giving centrality to a complex love triangle between a father, his ‘son’ and the woman they both love. Joshua Gooch discusses Anderson’s Oedipal narratives, including his tendency towards ‘paternal castration’, however he also claims that these ‘paternal plots’ can be considered limiting to ‘what his characters – and films – can do.’
Anderson’s daughters could perhaps be suggested to be somewhat represented, which is here explored through Suzie Bishop in Moonrise Kingdom and, more primarily, Margot Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums. Both women lack a sense of identity, tied in various ways to their strained relationships with their fathers. In particular, Margot’s loss of her fingertip – a representation of her sense of identity – while seeking out a family, is reflective of her inability to slot comfortably into any family she seeks out, with both her adoptive, biological, and marital families seeming unsatisfactory for her.
The establishing of an ‘intertextual fatherhood’ is key to Anderson’s films, as we recognise certain actors as performing specific roles – namely that of fatherhood for actors like Bill Murray. Murry is the most essential example of Andersonian fatherhood, as he plays a father character in at least four of the eight Wes Anderson films he appears in, and thus becomes emblematic of the paternal figure in Anderson’s work. This plays a significant role in The Darjeeling Limited, where fatherhood is a vital element of the plot – while the Whitman brothers’ father does not appear physically, he is ever present in the brothers’ hints of mourning for him. Murray, who appears only briefly in the film, is abandoned on a train platform by Peter Whitman in the film’s opening sequence, and according to Kim Wilkins ‘shadows the thematic presence of the Whitmans’ deceased father.’ This is illustrated through a comparison between the first and final scenes of The Darjeeling Limited. He thus eventually represents an abandonment of Anderson’s usual patriarchal characters when the Whitman brothers abandon their father’s suitcases on another train platform. Peter Whitman must abandon the influence of his own father in order to become one himself, his wife due to give birth to a son.
Anderson’s focus on fatherhood should thus not be overlooked when discussing his films as it often plays a vital role. While his visual style is one of the main draws of his films, Anderson’s narratives are capable of being deeply effective, owed in part to the attention he draws to fathers and their complexity17.
Kunze, Peter C. (ed.), The Films of Wes Anderson: Critical Essays on an Indiewood Icon, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
Gooch, Joshua, ‘Objects/Desire/Oedipus: Wes Anderson as Late-Capitalist Auteur’, in Kunze (ed.) The Films of Wes Anderson, pp. 181-199.
Wilkins, Kim, ‘Cast of Characters: Wes Anderson and Pure Cinematic Characterisation’, in Kunze (ed.) The Films of Wes Anderson, pp. 25-39.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Dir. Wes Anderson, Prod. Touchstone Pictures
American Empirical Pictures, (2004).
Rushmore. Dir. Anderson, Prod. Touchstone Pictures, American Empirical Pictures, (1998).
Moonrise Kingdom. Dir. Anderson, Prod. American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, (2012).
The Royal Tenenbaums. Dir. Anderson, Prod. Touchstone Pictures, American Empirical Pictures, (2001)
The Darjeeling Limited. Dir. Anderson, Prod. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Collage Cinematographique, American Empirical Pictures, Dune Entertainment, Cine Mosaic, Indian Paintbrush, Scott Rudin Productions, (2007)
 Joshua Gooch, ‘Objects/Desire/Oedipus: Wes Anderson as Late-Capitalist Auteur’, in Kunze (ed.) The Films of Wes Anderson, pp.181, 183
 Kim Wilkins, ‘Cast of characters: Wes Anderson and Pure Cinematic Characterisation,’ in Kunze (ed.) The Films of Wes Anderson, p. 33.
Lovely, observant, exuberant, and illuminating video essay by Bianca Giacalone , in an experimental vein, that deploys Sontag´s work on Interpretation to attemtt to ‘reveal the sensuous surfaces’ of the film, and with an extended Creator´s Statement whose reading is an essential component of understanding and enjoying the viewing:
THE EROTICS OF 8 1/2
“To enter the theatre is to enter a woman, to surrender, happily, yet with a touch of fear and the excitement of anticipation to viscosity, liquidity, milkiness” writes Sam Rohdie when describing what cinema represented for the great cineaste Federico Fellini.
“To film, to look, to see are erotic acts” he reiterates.
What both the writer and the filmmaker mean by “erotic” does not relate though simply to the field of the sexual, even if the imaginary of the Italian director has often been particularly suggestive in that direction. The stance on erotics is more akin to the origin of the word Eros in Ancient Greece (especially the Platonic conception of it) and Susan Sontag’s theories as delineated in her essay Against Interpretation.
Eros, one of the many terms used to describe the concept of love, is the type of passionate love born out of attraction, out of the appreciation of beauty (particularly of a person). As written by Plato in his Symposium, eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth.
Loyal to the heritage of the Classics, Sontag aligns with that perspective and configures Erotics as an alternative method to modern hermeneutic interpretation, which instead reappropriates the value and power of the sensory experience of the work of art.
Fellini’s grandest, most imaginative, allusive and vivid work of art 8 1/2 is a visual quest for the hidden essence of things, for something higher and able to purify a sick spirit from the effects of a depraved modern lifestyle. Erotics are what move the film, what fuel its soul.
This video essay attempts to “reveal the sensuous surface” of the film, by slowing down key moments of the film, enabling the viewer to unashamedly lust for their undeniably voluptuous formalism and calmly absorb their epiphanic and cathartic power.
Lo-fi hiphop music is used in the video to reconstruct the rhythm of selected scenes, in order to recreate their emotional effect and to immerse the viewer in the aesthetic experience of the film. This contemporary and now widely popular type of music, alternatively called “chillhop”, is indeed composed “specifically to activate neurone activity associated with focus, meditation and relaxation” and has also been defined “[…] like music for daydreaming”. The subtle analog feel also channels a tender sense of nostalgia, fitting with the sensibility of Fellini’s cinema and the themes analysed, while at the same time using its electronic elements to re-contextualise the film in a modern key.
The introductory section of the video essay serves the purpose of establishing how Fellini visually translates the sensorial experience of purity, luminosity and clarity in the film through the point of view of the main character Guido (Marcello Mastroianni), once again playing the director’s alter ego after the worldwide sensation La Dolce Vita (1960). Throughout the whole video we just briefly see Guido in order to align ourselves with his perspective and with his position as external observer in his own chaotic world (while being one of the very atoms that compose and cause that confusion).
Brian Eggert, in a Deep Focus review of the film, writes that “whenever Guido’s reality becomes too much to bear, he escapes into a memory or a fantasy that eases his current predicament”, a situation parallel to the director’s in his real life.
As a matter of fact, in the scene chosen to explain this dynamic, the nauseating confusion of his reality is interrupted by a mystical vision: Claudia Cardinale, slowly floating towards him in a candid dress and offering him sacred curing water with a soft, loving smile, like a beneficial, soothing balm.
To watch 8 1/2 is to watch this vision, again and again, appearing out of nowhere like a reassuring magician inviting you to his circus, a beautiful stranger in a hotel lobby and the ghost of a loved one. Gasping for a second, getting teary-eyed all of a sudden and then breathing out, returning to reality. Most of the times, not logically understanding what has just been witnessed. As if our mind visualised a primordial safe space.
Consequently, the main body of the essay depicts these poetic moments, revealing a pattern that connects them all and helps the audience associate them with purity, beauty and truth.
The Director of Photography Gianni Di Venanzo and the Art Director Piero Gherardi dressed the film in a tailored black and white, a bold and voluntary choice in a period when the technique was at its last moments. In this way, “black and white becomes its own idea” and consciously dramatises contrast.
The recurrent use of white cloths, veils and other items of clothing, so starkly luminous against brooding darkness and cluttered kaleidoscopic designs, makes Fellini’s thematic obsessions visually rhyme. Childhood, religion, women and death are beautifully connected in a white fluid dance. Sensual like the body of a beautiful woman, yet tender and reassuring like a child or an old cardinal being taken care of and wrapped in warm towels. Carnal and at the same time spiritual.
This simple trope, is something the director carried with him even in his works in colour, like in the 1962 The Temptation of Dr. Antonio (in which a billboard version of Anita Ekberg holds an inviting glass of milk, both sin and salvation), or most prominently in the baroque Juliet of the Spirits (1965), with its iconic finale in which Giulietta Masina accepts the benevolent presence of spirits in her life, walking out of the gates of her house and cage in a white dress against the vastity of florid woods, expressing an incomparable sense of freedom and liberation.
For how naive and unpretentious as a filmic choice this may appear, Fellini’s genius and virtuosity consists in showing how a white veil framing a woman’s face can express a multitude of meanings and yet exude always the same particular sense of melancholy (as we see in parallels between the characters of the wife and Claudia), charging the intensity of the medium to give the viewer “not a verbal idea but an emotional-packed visual experience”.
To quote again Sontag, these images have a “pure, untranslatable, sensuous immediacy”.
Magically, it appears that the purpose of her approach to art ultimately coincides with the resolution of the film: both converge on finding acceptance of the mystery and the magic at the basis of artistic intuition, acceptance of the non-rational, of the perceptible yet inexplicable.
We must not demand more from a work of art than its sensuous momentum, just as we must not question the irrational beauty in our lives. Peter Bondanella, writing about the “Celebration of Artistic Creativity” in 8 1/2, reinforces this vision. “Fellini’s cinema in general, and 8 1/2 in particular, argue that art has its own imperatives, that it communicates a very real kind of knowledge aesthetically (and therefore emotionally) rather than logically, and that this form of knowledge has its proper and rightful place in human culture”.
The ending sequence of the video essay marks the realisation of self-acceptance, recreating the mystic moment in Guido’s mind as he imagines the “beautiful creatures” that populate his reality and fantasy, looking even more beautiful, purified in his mind. All the people Guido “wasn’t able to love” walk together towards the sea, without a real destination but all in harmony and sheer joy.
These images are beauty, truth and soul. They feel good. All a viewer has to do is take in their curative effect.
The video ends on Anouk Aimée, whose role in the film is Guido’s wife Luisa, as she bravely walks up to the camera showing the turmoil in her expression as she elaborates her feelings, processing her forgiveness for her husband and learning with him to accept the uncertainties of a life together, both with the joys and the pain it will bring.
“Transparence means experiencing the luminousness of the thing itself, of things being what they are”.
At the beginning and towards the end, two moments of the film are shown integral and with their original audio, not reconfigured through the use of music or editing. The first shows Guido sharing with his magician friend Maurice, a strange private thought expressed in the form of a silly phrase. “Asa Nisi Masa”, the magician assistant’s writes on the blackboard. “What does it mean?” Is the question we are left with before starting the analysis, with a tone of irony. By the end we get to see what the protagonist meant with his quirky expression, as a memory comes to life: a safe, happy childhood in the remote Italian countryside, sharing whispered jokes and tender kisses under warm white blankets.
The words come up again, through the mouth of a cousin, as a magic formula that will make everyone rich if said at the right hour. The catchy joke stands for something more: result of a word game similar to pig latin, its root is “anima”, the Italian word for soul, spirit, conscience, another wink at Fellini’s restless preoccupation with the illogical.
It is not a surprise that that thought lingers in Guido’s mind, since it represents what he yearns the most and what the film wants to achieve: a symbiosis with the magical, so strong in its ingenuity to wipe away any intellectual uncertainty. While he is asked constantly throughout the film, and not with the irreverent yet kind tone of Maurice, what his thoughts and ideas mean, to what ideologies and philosophies they adhere to, all Guido (and correspondently also Federico behind the real camera) wishes to express is “something simple and useful for everyone”, “one that can be seen and embodied on the screen but not easily explained by rational discourse”.
Through the erotic process of watching 8 1/2, we learn “to see more, to hear more, to feel more”, to accept the unfathomable, the mysterious, the poetic and the beautiful. In film and in life.
That is the legacy that the magnificent Fellini has bestowed upon us, and it is imperative to cherish it now more than ever for the 100th Anniversary of his birth.
Bondanella, Peter (2002), The Films of Federico Fellini, Cambridge University Press Cambridge
Costello, Donald P. (1983), Fellini’s Road, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, Indiana
Eggert, Brian (2015) THE DEFINITIVES: Appreciations and critical essays on great cinema – 8 1/2, Deep Focus Review,
Geduld, Carolyn (1978) Juliet of the Spirits: Guido’s Anima, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism ed. by Peter Bondanella, Oxford University Press: Oxford
Hyman, Timothy (1978) 8 1/2 as an Anatomy of Melancholy, in Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism ed. by Peter Bondanella, Oxford University Press: Oxford
Kezich, Tullio (2002) Federico Fellini: His Life and Work, translation by Minna Proctor (2006), I.B. Tauris: London and New York
Miller, D.A. (2008), 8 1/2, BFI Film Classics: London
Perry, Ted (1975) Filmguide to 8 1/2, Indiana University Press: Bloomington
Rohdie, Sam (2002), Fellini Lexicon, “(The) Eye”, p.54, BFI Publishing: London
Seppala, Timothy J. (2018) The science behind the ‘beats to study to’ craze
Sontag, Susan (1964), Against Interpretation, p.13, Penguin Classics: London
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Boccaccio ’70 (1962), dir. Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti
8 1/2 (1963)
Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
 Rohdie, Sam (2002), Fellini Lexicon, “(The) Eye”, p.54, BFI Publishing: London
 Sontag, Susan (1964), Against Interpretation, p.13, Penguin Classics: London
 Seppala, Timothy J. (2018) The science behind the ‘beats to study to’ craze
 Woods, Kevin in Seppala, Timothy J. (2018) The science behind the ‘beats to study to’ craze
 Eggert, Brian (2015) THE DEFINITIVES: Appreciations and critical essays on great cinema – 8 1/2, Deep Focus Review,
 Miller, D.A. (2008), 8 1/2, BFI Film Classics: London
 Bondanella, Peter (2002), The Films of Federico Fellini, Chapter 4 “8 1/2: The Celebration of Artistic Creativity”, p.114 Cambridge University Press Cambridge
 Sontag (1964), p.9
 Bondanella, Peter (2002) p.114
 Sontag (1964), p.13
 Bondanella (2002)
 Sontag (1964)
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.
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 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.” 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, 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.” 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,” 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.” 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.
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).
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.
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,
 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.
 Timothy Shary, Teen movies: American youth on screen (London: Wallflower, 2005), p. 3.
 Betty Kaklamanidou, Easy A: The End of the High-School Teen Comedy? (London: Taylor and Francis, 2018), p. 25-28.
 Catherine Driscoll, Teen film: A critical introduction (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2011), p. 6.
 Roz Kaveney, Teen Dreams: Reading Teen Film and Television from Heathers to Veronica Mars (London & New York: I.B. Taurus, 2006), p. 1-2.
 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
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”. 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.
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.
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)
 Sobchack, V. 2004. Carnal thoughts: embodiment and moving image culture. Oakland: University of California Press.