Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Week 16 (Mon 11 Feb - Storytelling)

Today's tasks were about modernist narratives. In the lecture, we watched the French surreal black comedy, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, directed by Luis Bunel (a Spanish film maker, who famously posed for an Oscar, for this film nonetheless, while in a wig and cartoonish sunglasses and even joked that he had bought off the Academy to win it), which dealt with a group of wealthy French couples and their friend, an ambassador from a South American country, and their various misadventures over the course of the film as they try to dine with each other, which turn out to be dreams. While watching, I wonder if ZAZ (Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker) were influenced when they made Kentucky Friend Movie, which was similarly a comedic film with a surreal edge that had a number of different sketches in it, and the same for the Monty Pythons. The film is not necessarily laugh out loud funny, but it's manipulation of the audience's expectations and turns into the macabre make it a very different type of film, especially from the early 70s, which was the beginning of a 'Silver Age' of film making and moved away from the stuffiness and overblown nature of most films, and bringing things to a much lower-key, more restrained note.

Moving on to the seminar, we looked at Modernist narratives, a concept that originated in the early 1920s, often having internal contradictions and multiples events going on at the same time, obviously owing to the rise of psychology, spearheaded by men like Freud. It was a style that tossed out conventional ways of creating narrative, often handling time in complex and interesting ways, and often putting events in a non-linear fashion (seen today, similarly, in films like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club). Our first exercise was to create, in groups, a plot that concerned a character who feels guilt and wants punishment that never comes (in part brought on by an excerpt from an Italian film concerning a man who feels guilt over the death of a cat that we watched beforehand): My team came up with a teenager who steals a car to impress his hotheaded friends, but having seemingly killed someone with it and damaging the vehicle, feels guilt and attempts suicide,but decides against and turns himself over. Turns out, the kid was fine and the car was on its way to scraping anyway.

Briefly, we turned to writer Frank Kafka (most famous for Metamorphisis, the tale of a man turning into a giant beetle), who had a distinctly modernist tyle of writing, often having a great deal of dream-like uncertainty and ambiguity, an unreliable narrator (again, think Fight Club) and often dealt with guilt. We saw an excerpt from Orson Welles' adaptation of one of Kafka's works, The Trial, noting its dark, dream-like quality, thanks to its atmospheric cinemtography with great use of shadows, and how it, in many senses, lacked a set ending and could really go on with these characters ina never ending pursuit. Moving along to the second exercise, we took the character from our previous exercise and put them in an environment that reflects their mental state: we chose a dingy, dark, claustrophobic basement to reflect the isolation and despair our teen protagonist feels at his actions.

Closing off, today was really fascinating, opening up strongly with Discreet Charm setting a strange bit accurate tone for the work, and the seminar, being jam packed full of information and concepts that really make one look at writing in a new light as more than just purely questions of say, mere characters and plot, and any discussion of psychology, given my background, is always a highlight, and the team activities allowed for some laughs and fun as we pooled our minds together.

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