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New German Cinema: focused on Germany?

Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) is at its simplest level, a film set in Berlin where immortal angels coexist alongside humans, passively watching and comforting those who are distressed. However, through his use of the visuals in the film and more importantly his use of colour and lack of, Wender is able to communicate his ideas about the political trauma caused by the war that was still present in the late 1980s.

The attached clip takes place towards the end of the film where Damiel decides to shed his immortality and existence as an angel to experience life as a human. As soon as he is reborn, he wakes up in West Berlin and as an audience we are immediately struck by the transition from black and white to colour as we can see the stylistic and metaphorical difference between either side of the wall. The colours of the graffiti on the wall and the red of the blood in his hand show the vividness of life as a human on the west side of the wall in comparison to the East side. In doing so, Wenders is able to clearly show the political division and separation between the East and the West when he shows Damiel being ‘born’ in the West. Wenders chose to showcase this rebirth in such a manner to show that the West was more human and natural compared to the oppressive nature of the black and white East Side. Wenders said himself that “no other city is to such an extent a symbol, a place of survival. It is a site more than a city” (Paneth, 1988, p. 2) showing that he feels that the conditions of the East side were hostile compared to that of the West.

Wenders also uses the sites of Berlin seen in the movie to acknowledge the history of the city to show the effect it has on late 1980s society;

The library, the war monument, the shots of bombed-out buildings, Homer’s ruminations on the Potsdamer Platz, and the clips of documentary World War II footage all point to Wenders’s concern with troubling memories and the weight of the past. (Caldwell & Rea, 1991, p.49)

If we also consider that angels are classically those who are dead and are in the afterlife we can also connote that Wenders has done this to show that the actions of those in the War still live on even 40 years after the war and that they still continued to shape society.

Through the sites of the film and his switching between colour and black and white, Wenders is able to create strong feelings of division and separation in a society still injured by its past, which heavily echoes the feelings of post war Germany showcasing the fact that this is focused on Germany and it’s history.

Bibliography

Caldwell, D., & Rea, P. (1991). Handke’s and Wenders’s Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism. The German Quarterly,64(1), 46-54. doi:10.2307/407304

Paneth, I. (1988). Wim and His Wings. Film Quarterly, 42(1), 2-8. doi:10.2307/1212430

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La Haine: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: For Everyone?

The tricolour motto states an ideal that everyone should experience three things: Equality, fraternity and Liberty and these themes can be seen throughout Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film La Haine. The symbolism of the stolen police pistol in the scene in which the group encounter the skinheads (https://youtu.be/ABNs5ck5nB8?t=58) shows how the themes of the tricolour are demonstrated in Kassovitz’s “presentation of radicalised youth” (Sharma and Sharma, 2000) in La Haine.

If we focus on the symbolic nature of the police pistol in this scene, we can see that immigrants and those who live in cites and banlieues are forced into breaking the law to be able to experience the ideals of the tricolour motto. When Vinz holds the pistol to the skinhead’s head he puts himself on the same level as the police officers who discriminate on the ‘beurs’ by using the weapon that is used against them to gain power in this situation, and for a fleeting moment there almost a sense that he is equal to the police because he has taken justice into his own hands. This allows the audience to get the impression that in banlieues and amongst immigrants there is no equality and that they are separated and segregated from society because to feel equal they have to break the law and commit criminal acts of delinquency to gain any sense of liberty.

This idea is supported by Paris & Ault (2004) who stated “Youth engaged in behaviours that remove themselves temporarily from the dominant culture but at the same time acts as agents of change”. This idea is extremely prevalent in this scene as the three boys from the banlieue have almost broken the cycle of discrimination by using the pistol to elevate their position of power and give themselves a brief moment of liberty; with this weapon they are in control. When they first corner the skinhead in the back alley Vinz shows obvious excitement and it is clear to see he feels empowered by the pistol. The framing of the shot also supports this because we see the three boys stood over the skinhead showing that they are for once the ones who are superior. It is very important to note that Kassovitz cast himself as the skinhead in this scene. Because Kassovitz is a member of the Parisian bourgeoise (Siciliano, 2007) it shows that by harnessing the pistol and breaking the law, Vinz has temporarily given himself a moment of liberty and power over those higher up than him.

However, even though the pistol creates moments where the youths from the banlieue feel equal or liberated it is extremely important to recognise that these moments are only temporary and when they are over all the boys are left with is the feeling of fraternity for one and other because that’s all they really have, they rely on each other for support and even though throughout the film they have their differences and disagreements they always end up looking out for eachother until the very end. This shows the audience that not all three tricolour ideals consistently apply to those of a lower class living in cités in a post World War 2 France.

Bibliography:

Sharma, S., & Sharma, A. (2000). `So Far So Good…’: La Haine and the Poetics of the Everyday. Theory, Culture & Society, 17(3), 103–116.

Siciliano, A. (2007) La Haine: Framing the ‘Urban Outcasts’. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies6(2), 211-230

Paris, J., & Ault, M. (2004). Subcultures and political resistances. Peace Review, 16(4), 403-407

Kassovitz, M. (Director). (1995). La Haine [Motion Picture]. France: Canal+

How did New Labour ideology affect British filmmaking during the ’90s and naughties?

Love Actually Is Getting a Sequel—but There's a Twist | Vanity Fair

The term ‘New Labour’ was first coined in 1994 by Tony Blair in a Labour Party Conference. It was aimed to “appeal to all social classes, but above all it tried to capture new, young, white-collar middle class voters from Thatcher.” (Goldsmith, 2020) They felt that after the period of Thatcherism as a society we were evolving and needed to adjust our policies to reflect this; New Labour had “come to terms with changes in society, and forged ideas and policies to our new times.” (Bevir, 2005)   As well as introducing monetary polices like ‘welfare to work’ and ‘minimum wage’ after their success in securing parliament in 1997, New Labour introduced new ways of monetising the UK’s creative industry to transform the cultural image of the UK.

This monetisation of the creative industry included the UK film industry and New Labour set a series of aims to help establish the film industry so it could be more beneficial for British filmmakers. The Government realised they had a role to play helping to create this self-sustaining film industry. So with the creation of the Film Policy Review Group in 1997 the aims for the industry were carefully set out to help grow the industry with one of the larger aims being “a financial framework that facilitates and encourages sustained investment in the British film industry.” (The Film Policy Review Group, 1998) This strategy saw almost immediate positive results in the film industry as 1997 saw its highest cinema attendance in almost 15 years and British films earned twice as much in the box office as they did the year before. However, unlike their transformation of the British film industry “New Labour’s foreign policy was more an adaptation to a changed international context than a genuine transformation.” (Daddow & Gaskarth, 2011) Which was mirrored by how the industry performed internationally, as instead of defining British film in the global film market, they instead chose to incentivise and support films that would have a greater international appeal or films that had already secured distribution deals.

This idea of a British produced film created to appeal for the international audience is extremely present in Richard Curtis’ 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually. The film is considered a Christmas classic in British cinema but has received criticism for being overly Americanised. “Curtis has frequently been taken to task for failing to represent the ethnic, social and regional varieties of contemporary Britain” (Leggott, 2012, p186) If we also consider how America is portrayed in the film we can observe the aforementioned argument that this film gained its $40 million budget due to its international appeal.

This scene where Colin travels to America is important as it as the inclusion of it in the film doesn’t advance the plot in anyway, it is merely there to acknowledge the American audience by showing America in a positive light in a predominantly British dominated film. This once again shows that despite its success, New Labour’s ideologies almost cornered some films into having to appeal to an international audience to gain financial support.

Word Count: 510

Bibliography:

Bevir, M. (2005). New Labour. Psychology Press. P

Daddow, O., & Gaskarth, J. (Eds.). (2011). British foreign policy: the New Labour years. Springer.

Film Policy Review Group. (1998) The Bigger Picture Retrieved fromhttps://bigpictureresearch.typepad.com/files/a-bigger-picture.pdf

Leggott, James (2012) “Travels in Curtisland: Richard Curtis and British Comedy Cinema” in Hunter, I. Q and Porter, Laraine (Eds.) British Comedy Cinema. London: Routledge pp184-195

tutor2u. (2020) New Labour Retrieved From  https://www.tutor2u.net/politics/reference/new-labour

Peer Assessment: https://up901217.weebly.com/

After reading all the blogs and after considering the marking scheme I decided this blog would probably be the highest graded. Each blog post is consistent in quality and they all give a clear cohesive and well-structured responses to the argument.  The blogs are extremely visually engaging and include stills and a few clips from the film which help support their argument too. I think if they used a few more video clips and analysed them closely it would help reinforce their argument. What I found to be most impressive about the blog however was how they showcased their ability to read around the subject and carefully choose academic sources which seamlessly supported their argument. You can also see that the author has taken on feedback throughout the year and has adjusted their tone to be less personal and more professional. In a few areas their referencing looks to be done incorrectly but for the most part their spelling, grammar and punctuation looks to be solid and the blog reads well.

The Devil’s Backbone: More Fantasy than Fact?

Watch The Devil's Backbone | Prime Video

Guillermo Del Toro’s 2001 The Devils Backbone takes place in 1939, the final year of the Spanish civil war and follows Carlos, a 12 year old boy, left at an orphanage after his republican father’s death in the ongoing war against the fascists. We soon find out that the orphanage is haunted by the ghost of murdered orphan Santi, as Del Toro toys with themes of the supernatural and fantasy to mirror and symbolise the effects and pressures the Spanish civil war had on the country and its people in years to come.

Jacinto, the first and oldest orphan at the orphanage and the murderer of Santi, is the embodiment of Francisco Franco, the commander-in-chief of the fascist nationalist forces and eventual dictator from 1939-1975. Much like Franco, Jacinto is oppressive and will commit heinous acts to achieve his goal (finding the gold and gaining infinite wealth), the Spanish civil war was the first time a country had dropped bombs on its own people and this is mirrored closely in the film when Jacinto blows up the orphanage, killing and maiming many innocent children. Because of these similarities it is clear to see Del Toro uses Jacinto as a vessel to embody Franco and the nationalists so we as an audience can observe the attitudes the Spanish people had towards him.

Once we determine how Del Toro uses Jacinto to symbolise Franco, we can then start to analyse his use of supernatural and fantasy elements. The ghost of Santi is used to show the traumatic memories of the war as he is always present in the background, present like the constant pain and reminder of the war on the Spanish people who would soon have to live in a harsh dictatorship. The ghosts in del Toro’s film do not tell how to live with them once they are found; on the contrary, they admit the fact that they have always already been there and that they need to stay to ideologically support the notion of a Spanish nation. (Ibarra, p.39)

The clip “introduces the viewers to two juxtaposed worlds, one of ghosts and one of war” (Hardcastle, p. 119) but the pre-credit scene also theorizes that a ghost could potentially be “a tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again?”. If we assume this is what Del Toro’s interpretation of what a ghost is, we can see that to him that a ghost encapsulates the trauma of its past life, it relives it memories and never forgets. This can be seen even in Santi’s appearance as his most distinctive feature is the blood emanating from the top of his head, which shows the damage caused by Jacinto.

So, if we assume that Jacinto is the embodiment of Franco and the Nationalist party and Santi is a metaphor for the Spanish people and their memories of the war, we can observe how Del Toro uses fantasy to mirror reality. Jacinto’s past comes back to haunt him and ultimately causes his demise as the ghost of Santi is the one to kill him, much how like years of pressure from the Spanish people caused the demise of Franco’s dictatorship in 1975.

https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/169119

In conclusion, we can observe that despite the fact Del Toro uses fantasy elements in the film, The Devils Backbone is a well observed depiction and metaphor of the struggles and mentality of the Spanish people in regards to the oppressive nature and tragic results of the Spanish Civil War.

Bibliography:

Hardcastle, A. E. (2005). Ghosts of the Past and Present: Hauntology and the Spanish Civil War in Guillermo del Toro’s” The Devil’s Backbone”. Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts15(2 (58), p. 119

Ibarra, E. A. (2012). Permanent hauntings: spectral fantasies and national trauma in Guillermo del Toro’s El espinazo del diablo [The Devil’s Backbone]. Journal of Romance Studies12(1), 56-71.

The Devil’s Backbone pre-credit Scenehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5py2QPbxco

IS SOKUROV REJECTING SOVIET FILM/HISTORY?

Image result for russian ark

“The innovative use of montage in film by the Soviet film-makers had its roots in art forms such as painting, literature and music from pre-revolutionary Russia” (Joyce, 2003, p. 394). It largely uses the Kuleshov’s findings in the “Mozzhuhkin experiment” (also known as the Kuleshov effect) to create an objective element to film which allows the viewer to piece together information gained from quick cuts, allowing them to create their own understanding of the film. This technique was widely used amongst Russian film makers in the 1950s and the prolonged use of it through out a film was coined the “Soviet Montage”. However, in the space of around 30 years, Russian film maker “Andrei Tarkovsky changed what cinema as an artform could achieve” (James, 2015) with his use of “The long Take” which was referred to as the ultimate rejection of the soviet montage’s “technique of manipulation. The long take reinjected a sense of reality with an uninterrupted flow that doesn’t ‘collide’ like in the montage.

In 2002, Russian film maker, Alexander Sokurov released his awarding winning film Russian Ark (2002) which is dubbed to be the first full length feature film shot in one take. The fundamentals of the production of Russian Ark rejects the classic Soviet Montage even more so than Tarkovsky ever did and Sokurov stated that “his aesthetics weren’t a discovery for me, rather it was a conformation of my own vision” (Sokurov, 2015, p. 1).

In this clip we can see that Sokurov’s attention to detail with the costumes and artwork here shows he had a real passion for authenticity when it came to re-creating Russian history. This suggests that even though he wishes to reject the stylistic approach of historic Soviet film-making, he wishes to honour soviet history though the way he deems is most respectful and authentic; one continuous take that allows the audience to properly admire it without any cuts that cause a break in their immersion. “Sokurov does not so much salute the new emerging Russia and celevrate its glorious past that he sadly enshrines and mourns the latter as irretrievable” (Szaniawski, 2014, p. 179)

In conclusion we can see that although Sokurov rejects the idea of the Soviet Montage and cooperates with the ideas set by the Tarkovsky legacy. He chooses to use modern techniques to look back Soviet history, suggesting that maybe he is disengaged and unhappy with the route in which Russian life and Russian film is taking and wishes to relive the past through techniques he feels are more fulfilling and justified, using the long take which is free of ‘collisions’ to create a harmonic atmosphere which we see throughout Russian Ark.

Bibliography:

James, N. (2015). The Tarkovsky legacy | Deep focus | Sight & Sound. Retrieved 4 March 2020, from https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/features/deep-focus/tarkovsky-legacy

Joyce, M. (2003). The Soviet montage cinema of the 1920s. An Introduction to Film Studies, 329-364.

Szaniawski, J. (2014). The cinema of Alexander Sokurov: Figures of paradox. Columbia University Press.

Was A Taste of Honey a typical film of the British New Wave?

Image result for a taste of honey arch

Was A Taste of Honey a typical film of the British New Wave?

The British New Wave was a series of films released between 1959-1963 which depicted a realistic and raw view of working-class life and the issues they faced.

A Taste of Honey is a multi-award-winning film which finds itself being considered a part of the New Wave. It was written as novel by Shelagh Delaney, but she then adapted it for the screen because she hoped to revitalize the British theatre and film industry and present issues in society no one else were mentioning. The film follows the story of Jo, a 17-year-old girl not that much younger than Delaney herself who has to deal with the challenges of teen pregnancy in a society looking down on her and the working class as a whole.

If we watch the clip alone and compare it to the aforementioned features and characteristics of the British New Wave we can see many similarities. The scene starts with a wide shot where we see Jo and Geoff speaking to eachother under the arch. Because of the heavy use of location shooting and the fact that it wasn’t shoot in a studio with perfect lighting and sound engineering it gives the whole scene and film as a whole a much more rugged feeling; its rough around the edges but it forces the audience to appreciate the plot and societal comments within the plot a lot more because they are not distracted by flashy visuals or perfect sound. Everything the viewers sees feels real and because of this Delany and Richardson were able to make the content feel more relatable because the audience can recognize the similarities between the character’s problems and their own problems.

Location shooting also allows creates the sense of “what McFarlane calls the “insistent evocation of time and place” is to suggest that the lives of the working class protagonists are inescapably defined and limited by their environment.”( Hanley, 2011) So, by using location shooting Richardson and Delaney were able to show the limited impact that the working class has and in a literal and metaphorical sense in this scene, their voices are quiet and insignificant and they are dwarfed by their surroundings much like how they feel dwarfed in importance in comparison to the other classes.

Overall, through the use of location shooting, Delaney’s deliverance of comments on the treatment of the working class makes A Taste Of Honey a typical British New Wave film; it addresses the same issues as it’s counterparts and it does so using the same techniques.

Bibliography

Hanley, D. (2011). The British New Wave and Its Sources. Retrieved 24 January 2020, from https://offscreen.com/view/british_new_wave

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