Thursday, 7 November 2013

Yr2 Week 4 (Mon 28 Oct - Screenwriting the Short Film)

In today's lecture, we discussed the subject of, well, Fantasy (alongside elements such as Surrealism and Mysticism). And to get ball rolling, what better place to start than one of the main sources of human fantasy - Dreams:
  • Freud (and, on a sidenote, through my own observations, having dabbled with mental therapy and psychoanalysis before) said that dreams often represent our deepest desires and fears, the imagery often representing our subconscious wants for wish-fulfillment. And in by proxy, nightmares are arguably used a means to confront and solve that problem head on i.e. facing our darkest fears and taboo wants.
  • The irrationality and oddity produced by dreams has lead to movements like the Dada and Surrealist artists, who attempted to channel their dreams into their work, often using to represent deep seated anxieties and concerns, allowing the viewer to read in and see what was being said through the strange images.(For example, a number of Dali's paintings make reference to various real world events and issues, notably Soft Construction with Boiled Beans, which depicts a creature fighting with itself, much like Spain did during the brutal Spanish Civil War in the mid 1930s).
  • Under certain circumstances, however, dreams can, in part, lead to certain neurosis, a n over protective defense mechanism that can lead to more harm than good. For example, a case Freud studied involved a young boy, Hans who was traumatized by the collapse of a white horse, and this same horse would appear in his dreams, attacking him.
When looking at dreams, one has to consider the manifest content (content of a surfaced dream) vs latent content (what the manifest is based on), and this turn can be distilled as four key ideas, or operations:
  • Condensation/Synedoche - Combination or part of a whole
  • Displacement/Allusion - What the latent is replaced by
  • Representation - transformation thoughts into imagery
  • Symbolism - what the relation is between dream and representation
Building upon this, we got to watching the 1943 short Meshes of the Afternoon, which, frankly, takes on a very 'strange' dimension, and is a little tough to describe while doing it justice: its essentially  dealing with a woman who is reliving the same events again and again within this dreamlike context; picks up a floower from a hooded flower, goes into house and then goes upstairs. Eventually she seemingly wakes when her husband arrives, although she ends smashing 'him' to pieces like a mirror, and it reveals her bloodied corpse.

The class drew a number of different meanings from this, such as the transformation of the house key to a large knife being symbolic of the danger she feels within the household (mine), as well as possibly a bad relationship, the repetition perhaps indicating a monotonous relationship and how the flower is meant to mean some sort of spark or desire she wishes to bring her life, and the constantly ringing phone and frequent reference to upstairs perhaps indicating some type of affair, either hers or one she suspects her husband of having.

And on the note of the strange, we then moved along to discussing actual Surrealism, a movement that emerged from the aforementioned Dada in the 1920s, and very much used the irrational and bizarre to find and express some type of meaning, and the absence of conventional reason or morality. (there are many famous individuals who really ran with this concept, such as the aforementioned Salvador Dali, as well as many film makers, most notably David Lynch (Eraserhead instantly springing to mind with its bizarre, nightmarish visuals and how they are used to talk about that fear of parenthood) and Luis Bunuel (last year, we looked at some of his work, mainly The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and how it played with story ordering and conventions).

Following this right up, we looked at the short, Copy Shop, another surreal short dealing with man who starts seeing copies of himself after he deals with a malfunctioning copy/printer. Throughout the short, the film made use of its 'copier' aside from its core idea, with the idea often strobing or crosscutting akin to the way the machine works, and the sound of said device was used throughout the short film to reinforce its central idea and the appearance of new clones. Furthermore, the film very much used the 'copying idea' as a sort of commentary on the mundane nature of day-to-day life, where each day can feel similar (a fact that was exploited for a major visual joke in Edgar Wright's Shaun of The Dead, with far grislier results).

Moving on to the seminar, this was considerable more streamlined and basic: all it amounted to was feedback for the pitch we went away to produce: Mine was for a more comedic short, where a young man suspects his girlfriend of cheating, and using his film fandom, dons the manner of a 1940s private eye to track her down, which leads to a number of Looney Tunes/Three Stooges style mishaps i.e. getting attacked by old ladies as a peeping tom, being blown by a discard skinhead bomb, getting runover by a senile older driver etc. until he has enough and confronts her, only to reveal she was working on an art project. The feedback was pretty positive, the only criticisms being a stronger, more darkly comic ending, and perhaps tightening ot down due to the short film's length.

And with that, we were then given our assignment for the following week: do a 100 word synopsis and step outline (all the key dramatic events of the story). To conclude, today was pretty meaty, and gave me a lot to sink my teeth into; the lecture got my intellectual curiosity really aroused and had me really thinking about the way films can convey ideas and views, and really reminded of how powerfully even simple imagery can be, while the seminar was a good confidence boost, given how well my idea went down (at the time of it, it was the only comedy out of the group, as everyone else went for more darker, grittier drama).

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