Posts Tagged ‘Video Essay’

This video essay looks at the themes of grief and addiction in George R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and the way characters are tormented by “poisoned memories”.

NOTE: This essay was originally published on TowerOfTheHand.com in 2015 http://towerofthehand.com/blog/2015/02/15-poisoned-memories/

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This video essay looks at how the 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project manages to frighten its audience; in particular, how its pseudo-documentary technique generates an unsettlingly familiar aesthetic and evokes themes of technological paranoia.

A slightly unhinged (get it!) theory about Euron Greyjoy being a disciple of the Church of Starry Wisdom, and serving as the prophesied champion of the Great Other.

This is a brief rebuttal to the R(haegar)+L(yanna)=D(aenerys) theory, popularized by A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE fans, such as Preston Jacobs and SmokeScreen.

This is a video essay looking at how Kevin Smith’s 1995 comedy Mallrats depicts the American shopping mall as a simulated world. In particular, it draws on Anne Friedberg’s theory of the mall as a distinctly cinematic and performative space.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

In Mallrats (1995), Kevin Smith interprets the American shopping mall as a distinctly cinematic and performative space. Like movies, malls are all about creating a fantasy, a simulacra of the real world, in which the shopper is privileged with the spectarial gaze, and feasts upon the visual and auditory pleasures laid out before them. The character Brodie signifies something of a postmodern (or anti-modern) flâneur, using consumerist and popular culture as way of mediating his place within society. Like the nineteenth-century “city stroller”, Brodie is compelled to capture the “convergence of new urban space[s], technologies and [the] symbolic functions of images and products”. He enjoys simply wandering that space without any particular destination in mind, enthralled by the “pleasures and potentialites of a world removed from the presence, stricture and restraint of tradition” (Clarke 5). The postmodern irony lies, of course, in the fact that the mall is not the cityscape, but a microcosm of the cityscape, complete with all of the consumerist luxuries the modern mind has become accustomed too, but with none of the complexities of life. (more…)

This is a video essay looking at how Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 thriller The Conversation explores the psychology of sound. In particular: Kaja Silverman’s theory of the “maternal voice”.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

The maternal voice is a fantasy of origins: a representation of an individual’s pre-lingual, pre-cultural form, and their inauguration into subjectivity. Kaja Silverman writes that it is “a moment prior to the creation of the world”, when the infant is wrapped in the “sonourous envelope” of the mother’s voice, and unaware of its own selfhood (72). However, this state of “uterine night” is soon severed once the child becomes aware that it is a separate entity from the mother, thus establishing the subject-and-object (73). This realisation creates in the individual a feeling of incompleteness, and a desire return to the “bath of sound” the mother has nourished them with, which now serves as the “prototype for all subsequent auditory pleasure” (84). The fantasy contrasts the maternal “voice” (which is identified with sound and sense) with the paternal “word” (which is identified with meaning). From a psychoanalytic viewpoint, the subject enters language and symbolic order, but yearns to return to the pre-lingual “wholeness” of the maternal voice (Zizek 47). (more…)

Happy Halloween! This is a video essay looking at why people are so attracted to horror movies, and the artistic and psychological insights that the horror genre can provide.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Why do people watch horror films? It’s a fair question, I think. Why would any sane person seek out something that they know is going to frighten or disturb them? Is it the sign of an unhealthy mind, an unhealthy society? Few would dispute that the horror genre has played an essential role in the evolution of cinema—as a narrative medium, as well as an exercise in formal and technical craft—from the German Expressionism of Nostferatu (1922), to the Academy Award winning The Exorcist (1973) and Silence of the Lambs (1991). There are countless elements of horror that a film critic can appreciate – the delicate symphony of visuals and sound necessary to draw in the viewer, capture their nerves, and elicit a physical response, is truly a dazzling example of filmmaking potential. (more…)

This is a video essay looking at how Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 sci-fi thriller District 9 works as an allegory for racial tensions in modern society. In particular: the effects of segregation and dehumanizing representations.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

The aliens encountered in District 9 (Blomkamp 2009) are treated with the same level of distain and indifference usually reserved for refugees and ethnic minorities. While the majority of “alien invasion” films depict humanity’s initial contact with extra-terrestrial life, District 9 concerns itself with the aftermath of “first encounter”; the process and struggle of co-existence. The film is set in South Africa and bears significant similarities to “Apartheid” system, particularly the “District 6” initiative. Here, black and white characters are reconciled by their hatred of the “prawn”, whose continual segregation from society seems to correlate with the moral decay of the state. However, while proposing to examine the causes and consequences of racism, the film has been criticised for being as racially simplistic and insensitive as those it condemns. This may have been an intentional technique on Blomkamp’s part, in order to permeate the audience with a racist mindset. District 9 offers some hope in the overcoming of racism and xenophobia, specifically through integration, but for the most part, hatred, fear and greed prevail. (more…)

This is a video essay looking at how Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2008 action drama, Bronson, examines violence, masculinity, and the “true crime” narrative. As well as the voyeuristic gaze of the audience.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Charlie Bronson, “Britain’s most violent prisoner”, has spent 38 years beyond bars, most of it restricted to solitary confinement. Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2008 film is a dramatic recounting of Bronson’s life, and an example of the “true crime” narrative. True crime texts are generally inspired by media headlines, which reflect press and public obsessions with violent events and criminal personalities. They often reveal as much about the audience’s fascination with deviant and depraved acts, as they do about the deviant subjects themselves. (more…)

This is called the “Arya is Batman” theory, and it addresses the similarities between Arya Stark (from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire) and Bruce Wayne (from DC’s Batman comics). The video also speculates on how Arya’s character arc will develop in books 6 and 7 of the series.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

This is called the “Arya is Batman” theory, and rather than addressing a specific mystery in the story, it is more a general theory of how Arya Stark’s character arc might align with that of Bruce Wayne from the Batman comics. I’m going to read an extract from a Batman: Origins comic, but I’m going to replace the name Bruce Wayne with Arya Stark. See if you can tell difference. I think it’s been taken from Year One, but I could be wrong. Anyway, so the panel reads: “Arya Stark learned the power of fear as a girl, watching in frozen horror as her parents, two of Westeros’ leading citizens, were brutally murdered. Arya swore a solemn vow to avenge their deaths. Relying less upon her family’s name than on his iron will, Arya travelled the globe, gradually training her mind and body to the peak of human perfection while studying under the best warriors, thieves and fighters the world had to offer.” (more…)