Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Postmodernist cinema, and questions of 'reality'

75 views

Published on

This paper will address the representation of various levels of ‘reality’, especially the psychological, in postmodernist cinema, particularly in the work of Jean-Luc Godard. Various theories of realism will be addressed. Reference will be made to dramatic structure, acknowledging art cinema’s debt to theatre, particularly the theories of Aristotle, Artaud, and Brecht. For instance, Godard clearly has been influenced stylistically by some of the tenets of Brecht’s Epic Theatre, such as his emphasis on presentation versus representation. The main argument of the paper is that postmodernist cinema, marked by excessive stylization in its presentation of various levels of reality, in fact manages to capture the ‘real’ in a deeper way than observational cinema and so-called ‘reality TV’

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Postmodernist cinema, and questions of 'reality'

  1. 1. RESEARCH POSTER PRESENTATION DESIGN © 2012 www.PosterPresentations.com Psychological reality is quite different from physical reality though not less bizarre; in the words of one of the torchbearers of Imaginal Psychology (IP): “Psychological life as a reality of reflection is psychological life as metaphorical reality” (Romanyshyn, 2001). Whereas with Structural Realism (SR), we try to identify the mathematical structure of physical reality (Worrall, 1989); with IP we try to identify the metaphorical structure of psychological reality. The key is that both structures reflect two different yet interrelated realities, and to say reflect we mean that each structure/reflection is not exactly the same as what is being reflected, that is, reality. A person in front of a mirror is not identical to her figure because the reflection is a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional being. However, the reflected image is to be taken as seriously as the source of the image because it can be a glimpse into some aspects of the metaphorical structure of said person’s psychological reality. Abstract Structural Realism This paper will address the representation of various levels of ‘reality’, especially the psychological, in postmodernist cinema, particularly in the work of Jean-Luc Godard. Various theories of realism will be addressed. Reference will be made to dramatic structure, acknowledging art cinema’s debt to theatre, particularly the theories of Aristotle, Artaud, and Brecht. For instance, Godard clearly has been influenced stylistically by some of the tenets of Brecht’s Epic Theatre, such as his emphasis on presentation versus representation. The main argument of the paper is that postmodernist cinema, marked by excessive stylization in its presentation of various levels of reality, in fact manages to capture the ‘real’ in a deeper way than observational cinema and so-called ‘reality TV’. Psychological Reality As is clear so far, we are dealing with a multi-layered reality, whether physical, psychological, philosophical, or spiritual; film handles these layers of reality in different ways. With film, we try to construct or identify the dramatic structure of cinematic reality. Aristotle laid down the early rules of dramatic structure in The Poetics (Butcher, 1911) more than two millennia ago; many screenwriters as well as screenwriting gurus today still follow them—knowingly or unknowingly—as exemplified by the clear-cut three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end that we see in most films. Dramatic theorists did not necessarily see eye to eye when it came to the purpose of drama. Aristotle thought that plays should move audiences on an emotional level, Antonin Artaud—a surrealist and the founder of the Theatre of Cruelty—, millennia later, was more for a visceral/gut-level experience, and Bertolt Brecht—a Marxist and a proponent of the Epic Theatre—was far more interested in a dialectic between plays and audience members on an intellectual level. In the world of theatre, there are two broad categories for how reality can be handled on stage, through representation or presentation. Put simply, representation means trying to replicate ‘real life’ on stage and presentation means having an artistic license with how real life is stylistically and structurally presented on stage. In film, melodramas and documentaries would belong to the first category, while more experimental and avant-garde films—esp. surrealism with its historical affinity with psychodynamics—would belong to the second category, but honestly there have been many films, too, that combine elements from both, they can be labeled as trans-genre (Kaplan, 2005). All of these different styles differ on the purpose of drama or its effects. For instance, to Aristotle the purpose of tragedy was catharsis, or the purging of emotions through pity and fear, which usually happens when audience members empathically identify with the protagonist and her struggles as if they were their own. This sense of shared suffering can be healing or therapeutic but it can also be numbing as a form of escapism from our own suffering as we project our suffering onto film characters, or repress our suffering altogether. Brecht saw it as the latter through the lens of Marxism, to him the illusion of recreating reality on stage is a deceptive capitalist mechanism that does not challenge us, so he wanted his theatre to have the opposite effect (Brecht, & Willett, 1964). Even though Brecht had little respect for cinema, his influence on some filmmakers—namely, Jean-Luc Godard—has resulted in impressive results. ‘Brechtian cinema’ follows some of the conventions of dialectic theatre, such as the alienation effect, or A- effect. Dramatic Structure Conclusion To conclude, I would like to reflect on how all of these layers of reality can inform cinema structurally, and how filmmakers can approximate reality on the big screen as informed by SR. Possibly, we could contemplate something like quantum cinema. This may seem like a completely foreign concept and it is, but it is based on a literary genre called ‘quantum fiction’ that has become recently popular, and which is defined as: “Any tale in which synchronistic adventures (entanglement theory), multi-dimensional reality, interactive metaverses, nonlinear time, or consciousness as a participant in the creation of physical reality are central to the story” ("Quantum Fiction Literature & Books", n.d.). Based on this definition, one can imagine all sorts of surreal science fiction films that are based on the findings of quantum mechanics; a recent one that comes to mind is the non- linear almost three-hour long film Cloud Atlas (Tykwer, Wachowski, & Wachowski 2012), which features multiple plotlines set across six different eras with reincarnation acting as the over-arching thread that units the whole film. References •Brecht, B., & Willett, J. (1964). Brecht on theatre: The development of an aesthetic. London: Eyre Methuen. •Butcher, S. H. (1911). Aristotle's theory of poetry and fine art: With a critical text and translation of the Poetics. London: Macmillan. •Caouette, J. (Director). (2003). Tarnation [Motion picture]. USA. •Chalmers, A. F. (1999). What is this thing called science?. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. •Edwards, M. (n.d.). A Brief History of Holons. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://www.integralworld.net/edwards13.html •Godard, J. L. (Director). (1960). À bout de souffle [Motion picture]. France: Les Films Impéria/Les Productions Georges de Beauregard/Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie (SNC). •Keiser, C. C. (n.d.). Poly Solipsism. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://www.modern- thinker.co.uk/9g-comment02.htm •Kaplan, M. A. (2005). Transpersonal dimensions of the cinema. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 37 (1), 9-22. •Lynch, D. (Director). (2006). Inland empire [Motion picture]. France/Poland/USA: Studio Canal. •Lynch, D. (Director). (2001). Mulholland dr [Motion picture]. France/USA: Les Films Alain Sarde/Asymmetrical Productions/Babbo Inc./Canal+/The Picture Factory. •Marker, C. (Director). (1983). Sans soleil [Motion picture]. France: Argos Films. •Quantum Fiction Literature & Books. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.velocityebooks.com/quantum/index.html •Romanyshyn, R. D. (2001). Mirror and metaphor: Images and stories of psychological life. Pittsburgh, P.A: Trivium Publications. •Tykwer, T., Wachowski, A., & Wachowski, L. (Directors). (2012). Cloud atlas [Motion picture]. Germany/USA/Hong Kong/Singapore: Cloud Atlas Productions. •Welles, O. (Director). (1973). F for fake [Motion picture]. France/Iran/West Germany: Janus Film/SACI. •Worrall, J. (1989). Structural realism: The best of both worlds?. Dialectica, 43(1-2), 99-124. •Zahedi, C. (Director). (2005). I am a sex addict [Motion picture]. USA: Reinventing the Wheel. Contact Robert Beshara PhD student in Consciousness and Society rbeshara@westga.edu Psychology Department The University of West Georgia 1601 Maple St. Carrollton, GA 30118 SR is a middle ground, between naïve realism and irrealism, that looks at the mathematical structure of reality, and in that sense it is formal. Also, it humbly tries to approximate reality as opposed to suggesting that one can have direct access to, or no access at all, to objective reality. According to SR, two incompatible theories could imply the same structure regarding the object of study, e.g., light as vibrations, and have predictive power, but still differ in terms of representation; such was the case with the theory change from Fresnel’s equations to Maxwell’s equations (Chalmers, 1999, p. 244-245). It seems impossible to know the nature of the universe, or its ontology, independent of our minds; however, to avoid the trap of idealism, the author of this paper is sympathetic to this view known as, poly-solipsism (Keiser, n.d.), that frames humans as perhaps inter-idealists, who co- construct a shared reality. It is hard to write about reality without thinking about truth. Which theory of truth would contain SR? Perhaps a Neo-Kantian coherence theory of truth, wherein there is a noumenal world/objective reality, and a phenomenal world/subjective reality. How can we study the former ‘objectively’ if we are entirely embedded in it? The latter is our interpretation of the former filtered by our limited senses, processing abilities, experiences, etc. as humans, but how reliable are we in terms of measuring reality, with or without scientific instruments? SR, as a Middle Way, looks at the structure of reality through the lenses of inter-subjectivity and inter- objectivity à la Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, wherein an observer affects observed reality, hence, blurring the line between subject and object… transcending false dualisms in the process. I find that postmodernist cinema ironically captures reality through the use of artificial techniques—which it is at least aware of and does not try to completely hide—more authentically than, let us say, observational cinema, e.g., direct cinema or cinema vérité, wherein the documentary filmmaker is supposedly a ‘fly on the wall.’ In other words, observational cinema is not more objective than postmodernist cinema because any film—observational or not—is made up of specific angles and is edited in a particular way, so clearly the filmmakers’ intersubjectivity enters into the equation of the filmmaking process, with or without our awareness of that fact. Postmodernist film auteurs are guilty of the same intersubjectivity but they do not try to hide it; in fact, there is often a sense of self-reflexivity at work, such as in David Lynch’s cryptic critique of the Hollywood system using the surreal mise en abyme structure of a film-within-a-film, e.g., Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001) and its sequel INLAND EMPIRE (Lynch, 2006). Metafilms are reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem A Dream Within A Dream as well as Arthur Koestler’s notion of holons or “[t]he idea of hierarchy and of their constituent part-wholes” (Edwards, n.d.), a concept popularized by integral theorist Ken Wilber. Other examples of postmodernist cinema that are worth highlighting here include the film essays, e.g., F for Fake (Welles, 1973) and Sans Soleil (Marker, 1983), and confessional cinema, e.g., Tarnation (Caouette, 2003) and I Am a Sex Addict (Zahedi, 2005). Postmodernist Cinema Robert Beshara The University of West Georgia Postmodernist Cinema, and Questions of ‘Reality’ ARISTOTLE BRECHT GODARD À bout de souffle (Godard, 1960) 1963 2010 The E8 Lie group, a perfectly symmetrical 248-dimensional object and possibly the structure that underlies everything in our universe. Courtesy John Stembridge/Atlas of Lie Groups Project

×