Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Requiem for a Dream a beautiful montage excercise

Darren Aronofsky’s second filmic exercise, Requiem for a Dream, is a moralistic tale of four characters that slowly succumb to drug addiction because of their mental weakness. It might be called a requiem because the narrative assimilates the orchestration of a musical composition. The use of montage shows an introduction to the character’s dreams and aspirations, a built up of events, the conflict and the point of no return.

Following the Pudovkin reading, we could agree that Requiem ‘s edition is working up towards a destructive emotion. It is so, because there are a lot of close shots and close ups that glued together, show the hidden world of objects and persons. These, tell a story inside the story and provide guidance of the attention of the spectator to different elements of developing action. Requiem’s shots, juxtaposed with fast cuts, and split screens, show the physical and mental degradation of the characters in a chronological order with a speeding up rhythm. This feature also serves as a great example of parallelism (4 thematically unconnected incidents develop in parallel) when the viewer is confronted with the actions of the characters.


Simultaneity of the character’s actions (the outcome of one depends on the outcome of the others) is clearly embodied when Harry and Tappy don’t make it big, Marion and Harry start fighting because they don’t have money to buy drugs. Hence, Harry, asks Marion to get money at any cost and in any way and suggests being a prostitute. She was maybe determined to do it only once, because she had faith that Harry would make it big and bring money to the house, but since he does not come back, she goes back and does it again. The orgy sequence, has close shots that cut by cut,show you Marion’s face, the other girl’s face, Marion’s sweaty body parts, excited and aroused expressions of the men that were surrounding them. Close shots of the two behinds pumping together and all these, combined with music, guided the viewer to an incredible amount of tension and crudeness.

The use of split screens and tight shots of drugs, constantly reminds the viewer of the leitmotif (same shot repeated several times). When Sara consumes her pills, we see the tight shots of the colored pills and how they disappear. When Harry , Tappy or Marion consume cocaine, there’s one shot of a dollar bill rolled, a line of coke inhaled, and the dilatation of the eye’s pupil. As well as with marijuana, we only see a shot of the weed, and then the joint rolled up. In case of the heroin, we see the tight shot of the spoons surface with a boiling substance, and the tight shot of the syringe being filled up with the same substance, and the a microscope shot of the blood cells being invaded by the substance. Basically, Leitmotif: Drug abuse. We barely get to see the characters actually inhaling, injecting or smoking... we see the reaction the substance has on their behavior. Speeding them up, or slowing them down (Sara, would clean her house and this would be shown in a time lapse. Harry would put music and start dancing or Tappy and Harry would sit on the dinner and Harry would not respond quickly to the waiter).

Even though, Pudovkin provided some theories that were logical, Einsenstein, worked up this idea of montage in a less Marxist and perhaps in a more psychological way. I must agree that Requiem for a Dream, is an excellent example for the understanding of Decomposition (decomposition makes a scene naturalist and attractive). The scrutinizing decomposition of the movie does not only provide realism, it provides crudeness, this same crudeness might be seen as an attractive image even though its an unpleasant thing to see. The beauty of this shots and this story lies in the human condition and how it is portrayed, the frailty, the conflict of the characters with themselves and the conflict of every shot when combined with the others. The intensity of perception in Requiem, increases because of its constant decompositions thru cuts. But the greatness of this movie is not only because of montage, I believe that the character’s portrayal, and the performances were overwhelming. The last sequence, with those backs and forth, completely tore me out. This Film is so psychological intense that when you are done watching it, you are exhausted and drained.

Rushmore: More than an eccentric coming of age film

In 1998, Wes Anderson presented Rushmore, a romantic comedy that takes the viewer on a journey to the charmingly eccentric and quirky world of Max Fischer (Jason Swartzman), a fifteen year old attending a prestigious prep school where he is in all the extracurricular activities but has poor grades. His life changes after he meets Mr. Blume (Bill Murray), and falls in love with Miss Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). In this film, I would like to revise a series of scenes, that contain subtle but rich text about woman’s objectification, drawing on Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” essay .

To dissect psychoanalytically the scenes that show Max’s intense infatuation for Miss Cross, it is important to agree with Laura Mulvey as she comments that “fascination of film is reinforced by preexisting patterns of fascination already at work within the individual subject and social formations that have molded him.” According to this theorist, pleasure in looking has been split between an active/male and a passive/female, which means that woman are looked as objects of male desire, provoking a man to take action in various ways. Miss Cross’ appearance, a thirty something first grade teacher at Rushmore, represents truth and grace. Her unreal rosy cheek look and english accent make her an attractive female that both Max and Mr. Blume want to date. She represents the passive female, she is just herself and whatever she does or does not do becomes a mystery for her pursuers.

When Max secretly observes Miss Cross from behind the classroom door she -woman- becomes the image and he -man- becomes the bearer of the look or the spectator of such beauty and grace. A similar situation is portrayed when Mr.Blume hides behind a tree while observing her supervise a kid painting outdoors on a canvas. Miss. Cross’ appearance provokes Max to engage in extraordinary deeds to get her attention. According to Mulvey , the male makes things happen and controls the events while the woman, creates anxiety.

A n excellent example is found in the sequences that show how Max puts all his effort and creativity to impress Miss Cross. He becomes the active male, that driven by adolescent infatuation and desire decides to; save Latin Lessons after knowing she loves Latin, writes and directs a new play that receives rave reviews, and does research, gets a sponsorship and conducts the construction of a twenty five thousand dollar aquarium for her to teach biology in .

In the beginning of the scene when Miss Cross wants to make clear that she would not date Max, he “stares at her as if she were a statue.” (Anderson), and she proceeds to ask “Has it ever crossed your mind that you're way too young for me?”
Max looks up and answers “It's crossed my mind that you might consider that a possibility, yes”. and Miss Cross adds “Not to mention you are a student”. Max replies with arrogance and in a patronizing tone “And you are a teacher. And never the twain shall meet. I know, I’m not trying to pressure you into anything, Miss Cross. I’m surprised you brought it up so bluntly.” This actions show that Max did not like her coming up to him so directly. She is the woman, and according to Mulvey she should not demystify herself or set things straight and she is not entitled to act or speak for herself.

Taking a close look to the scene that precedes Maxis successful play, he goes to a fancy restaurant with Mr.Blume, Miss Cross and her friend John (Luke Wilson). He gets drunk because he is upset due to the fact that Miss Cross brought a male friend to his dinner party. He is being sadistic in a non vulgar way treating John with disrespect. When Miss Cross asks him what’s wrong?, he makes a scene and replies screaming “You hurt my feelings. This night was important for me” as everybody in the restaurant stares disrupted. This behavior shows his sentimental regret towards her, he is punishing her with his attitude, which could be explained in Mulvey’s comment in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”:
Thus the woman as icon, displayed for the gaze and enjoyment of men, the active controllers of the look, always threatens to evoke the anxiety it originally signified. The male unconscious has two avenues of escape from his castration anxiety: preoccupation with the reenactment of the original trauma (investigating the woman,demystifying her mystery),counterbalanced by the devaluation, punishment or saving of the guilty object; or else complete disavowal of castration by the substitution of a fetish object or turning the represented figure itself into a fetish so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous... The first avenue, voyeurism, on the contrary, has associations with sadism: pleasure lies in ascertaining guilt (immediately associated with castration),asserting control and subjecting the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness.(844)

On the other hand, Max does not pay attention to Margaret Yang, a smart and outgoing classmate that is the same age as he is. In the scene after Max makes an introduction speech in a classroom at his new school, Grover High, she comes up to him and behaves indifferently. Since Margaret is intelligent, she represents competition for Max. There is no mystery about Margaret, and that is why there are no close ups of her. “The beauty of a woman as object and the screen space coalesce; she is no longer the bearer of guilt but a perfect product, whose body, stylized and fragmented by close-ups, is the content of the film, and the direct recipient of the spectator’s look.” Therefore, she is not being objectified by Max but he notices her until the scene where Max and Dirk are flying a kite and are interrupted by her remote control airplane. The look on Max’s face as he talks to her, changes, it becomes tender and sweet unlike the looks he gives to Miss Cross.

In this film, spatial relationship is an important element that the director used. The scene of Max and Miss Cross sitting on the bleachers shows her face in various close ups. Every time there is a shot of her talking, it is as if she is being looked down (because she is looking up to Max that is sitting on the top bleacher). Max looks bigger, wider and more powerful than he is. “There is little or no mediation of the look through the eyes of the main male protagonist “(Mulvey). The spatial relationship element is also noticeable when Mr. Blume visits Miss Cross’s house. When she opens the door and he walks up to her, she shrugs her shoulders as if in need of protection.

To conclude, I must say that Max Fisher objectifies Miss Cross because she reperesents something he will never have. Therefore, when he tries to break the barriers between them by forcing her to kiss him, she reacts by using a different language. Miss Cross sabotages Max with dirty talk (“not if you fuck me... do you want me to make you a handjob”) and looses her glamour, her poise. This words are too abrasive for him. In that moment, she ceases to be the object of his desire.

Works Cited

Anderson, W. & Wilson,O. Rushmore. film script. date of retrieval Oct 29th 2004.

Mulvey, L. (2004). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In L. Braudy & M. Cohen (Eds.), Film Theory and Criticism (pp.837 - 848). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Rushmore. By Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.Dir. Wes Anderson. Perf. Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymor Cassel, Brian Cox. 1998.