Archive for the Essays Category

The Birth of the Horror Film: German Expressionism and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

Posted in Essays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by helenparker1212

“rarely before or since has a body of films exerted such a pull towards verbal paraphrase, in which epithets like ‘dark’ and ‘demonic’, ‘twisted’, ‘haunted’ and ‘tormented’ leap onto the page.”

(Elsaesser, 2000:19)

Robert Weine’s 1920 film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is unanimously agreed to be both a prime example of German Expressionist cinema, and also a seminal horror film. However, the film is also something of an enigma, combining as it does, a mixture of gothic, psychologically motivated narrative, and Expressionist set design. The film’s influence on the horror genre can certainly be attributed to this gothic narrative, but the influence of it’s Expressionist aesthetic has to be considered far more sceptically than it has been by past theorists. The question of why the Expressionist aesthetic influenced Film Noir so strongly, and not horror, has to be asked when considering the film’s legacy as horror.

This essay will attempt to address the legacy of the film within the horror genre, from its origins in Modernism, the Expressionist influence in its scenography and perspective, and the Gothic influence in its narrative and themes, specifically those themes which have helped formulate some of the iconic elements of the horror genre, such as the monster, the male anxiety, and the notion of the ‘other’.

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GINGER SNAPS: Horror, Genre and Kick-ass Feminism

Posted in Essays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by helenparker1212

“They don’t call it the curse for nothing”       (Ginger Snaps tag line)

John Fawcett’s 2000 film ‘Ginger Snaps’ is a teen-werewolf film that deals explicitly with themes of gender, deviance, transformation, violence, body-horror and the monstrous feminine in the horror genre. I am going to analyse a sequence from the film to support this claim, and believe that the penultimate scene before the finale is, in its mise-en-scene, lighting, direction etc, the most overtly ‘horror’ sequence of the film and the themes of the scene comply with my own reading of feminist themes in horror.

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Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ as cult film – an essay

Posted in Essays, Film Tirades with tags , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by helenparker1212

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moment will be lost, in time. Like tears, in the rain…Time to die.” (Roy Battey, Blade Runner)

“like science fiction pornography – all sensation and no heart.” (Pat Berman State and Columbia Record, Columbia, South Carolina, July 2, 1982)

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In this essay I have chosen to discuss Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner as a primary example of a ‘cult’ film. I will begin by exploring the various definitions and debates surrounding the term ‘cult cinema’, and the different categories of cult film, with particular focus on the debate over the relevance of the ‘midnight movie’ phenomena in the age of the internet, TV, and video/DVD rental. I will then analyse Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner as an example of the cult category ‘the resurrected financial/critical flop’. I will then explore the reasons why this film attained cult status, looking at its appeal to niche audiences, and also its appeal to those attempting to unravel the mysteries and mistakes surrounding its production history. I will explore the relevance of generic hybridity in a film’s progression from cult to mainstream success, and ask whether or not a cult film can still retain its cult badge of honour once it has achieved this success.

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White British Cultural Identity in Film – an Essay

Posted in Essays, Film Tirades with tags , , , , on February 20, 2009 by helenparker1212

“The English are great lovers of themselves and of everything belonging to them. They think there are no other men like themselves and no other world but England and whenever they see a handsome foreigner, they say he looks like an Englishman and it is a great pity he should not be an Englishman…”

The Venetian Ambassador of 1497, quoted in ‘English Traits’ In Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays 1856 London: Read Books (2006 edition p.85-6)

“They’re rubbish the French. They’ve never forgiven us for the Armada.”

Irate English holidaymaker, interviewed by the BBC during the 1995 French seamen’s blockade of English ferries.

The film I have chosen to analyse as a representation of my personal cultural identity is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006). My identity, at its broadest level, is ‘white English’. However, the white identity is one in crisis, and has been since the mass immigrations of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw a totally unprepared Britain become a multi-racial society in the space of one generation. I personally find the racial definition ‘white English’ entirely unhelpful when considering contemporary cultural identity.

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Today, with the added threat of global Islamic terrorism, and the converse emphasis of Islamic rights and culture, a dangerous breed of white English anti-immigrant sentiment, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s and 70s, is threatening to rear its ugly head once again.

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Does Avant-Garde Film Constitute a Coherent Body of work? – an Essay

Posted in Essays with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by helenparker1212

“The idea of an avant-garde cannot, by its nature, be static or agreed. It is perhaps best understood as, in the philosophers’ term, an essentially contested concept, always open to dispute or redefinition.”

(Christie, 1998:453)

It has always been something of a trend in film academia to either make blasé definitions of ‘avant-garde’ film, or to blandly refute the possibility of doing so, as can be seen from the above statements. It is a ‘contested concept’, to say the least, and certainly ‘maddeningly obscure’, but that does not mean there are not definitive attributes that the ‘avant-garde’ school possesses, which other schools of film lack. The question of this essay is about coherence. But I posit that it is impossible to have coherence in experimentation, the two together are oxymoronic. What is possible though, are shared themes, shared tools, and shared ambiguities.

In this essay I will first attempt to rectify the common confusion in the academia between the Modernist movement and the Avant-Garde movement. I will explore the notions of Modernism and the Avant-garde, also known as High Modernism. I will then examine the division of the Avant-garde into to two different schools, the Narrative avant-garde; where I will look at Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919); and the Non-Narrative Artistic avant-garde, where I will look at Dziga Vertovs’ Man With a Movie Camera (1929). I will then explore the claims of the importance of ‘auteur theory’ and modes of production in avant-garde filmmaking; for this I will be using David Lynchs’ Eraserhead (1977).

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