Today we we delved a bit further into the Iranian New Wave, again viewing a scene from the film “Gabbeh” that we saw on Tuesday.
From this we discovered the actual impact this way of making movies had on the Iranian people and culture, because as most of us know, Iran is a country known for it’s conservationism and it’s wars with, primarily, Iraq that have teared up millions of families throughout. So we know that these political and social conflicts had to have an impact on how the film industry acted and that meant it was highly controlled and censored, by the Government, as a means to maintain it’s people under the “leash” of repression. But it was after, the long awaited, Revolution of 1979 that the national cinema was finally more embraced by the government and it’s public, showing more and more depictions of women and love, which was nearly considered a blasphemy in earlier times.
So after cinema was considered less and less of a taboo, the Iranian filmmakers felt they had more and more creative liberty to create their stories without the fear of consequences, and a perfect example of this is the film “Gabbeh” that I already mentioned in a previous post.
This films depicts a woman who wants to marry the man she loves that her father doesn’t approve, so he sets her these ‘ground rules’ she needs to abide by before thinking of being wed herself. It’s an emotional journey told through Gabbeh’s own perspective and it depicts the inner strength women possess when they are fighting for something they want.
So by the end of the lesson, we had two questions to answer:
- How does Gabbeh explore the relationship between form and content?
- Gabbeh explores this relationship through the use of a non-linear structure that keeps the viewer intrigued about the faith of Gabbeh and her lover, the story is generally told through her perspective since she is the one re-telling her journey to an old couple and the principal theme that guides this film is the one of longing, for Gabbeh is always wanting for someone who she knows she can’t have until her father allows it, and that same longing can be felt in Uncle’s constant struggle to find a wife that can “sing like a canary”.
- How does Gabbeh help you to gain a new perspective on continuity editing strategies?
- It helps me to acknowledge that the term ‘continuity editing’ can have a multitude of meanings, since it can either follow a linear or non-linear storyline, since it doesn’t need to follow a specific temporal space.
In the Tuesday’s session we saw an Iranian film from 1996 called “Gabbeh”. This film was, at the least, intriguing. It dealt with matters of mysticism, supernatural and drama. So I don’t think it is inserted into a specific genre, but more of a compilation of different sub-genres.
This story commences with an old couple’s task of washing their gabbeh (somewhat of a carpet in Iranian tradition), and who would do the mighty task. They eventually put it under the water of a river and said a poem/song that brought forth the keeper of the gabbeh called, so originally, Gabbeh. And from that point forward it is understood that the actual protagonist of the story is actually this young woman who recounts her life’s story to the old couple. It is made clear that she is in love with a man that her father doesn’t approve and that he would kill her and her lover if she were to run away with him. Thus knowing that her father is not a very appealing guy. Furthermore Gabbeh’s uncle is introduced, and is made apparent that she likes very much and that her faith lies with him, because only after her uncle finds the woman he wants to marry will it enable Gabbeh to be with the man she loves, although we are not quite sure how this comes to be or how this helps her case with her father. The film ends fairly simply, with an ending that might leave the viewer wanting more and not really getting it.
This story uses a lot of mysticism represented, for example, in the fact that Gabbeh’s family symbol is a tree from which branches grow whenever a new member is born into the family and get cut down whenever someone perishes; and it’s also exemplified in the way that merely through the use of water can Gabbeh “see” and “hear” everything that is happening with her family even though she is, assuredly, far away. So it is never known if the story is told in the present with Gabbeh simply being in another part of the country and acting as a simple observer, or if she is retelling the story of her distant past.
From the movie, it is understandable some of the director’s preferences in terms of shot composition and thematics, shown through some static shots that hold for quite a while through different points in the plot line, and also illustrates that the filmmaker is probably a spiritual person who likes to delve into the mystique of the supernatural and work it to his advantage but always staying as faithful as possible to the original traditions of the Iranian people.
So this week, we saw a film that would introduce us to the Hong-Kong New Wave cinema called “In The Mood For Love” by Kar Wei Wong.
This film recounts the story of a man and a woman who are both married to people who are constantly away on work, and so they each in their own apartment, alone. They lead their lives as normally as possible but always wanting more, wanting someone, wanting their spouse, yet their spouse is nowhere to be seen which immediately gives the film a melancholic tone. So why these two lonely souls meet each other, their familiar situations helps to create a distinctive bond between the two that borders on the line of love and friendship, making the viewer unsure about where the two characters stand in relation to their feelings towards one and other. It’s a sorrowful yet romantic film.
From this viewing, I found myself concentrating more on the director’s characteristics, meaning his unique trademarks that I already saw him use in Chungking Express in a previous lesson,:
- Slow motion: Wai Wong enjoys the use of this technique, and this film it is used when following Mrs. Chan when she makes her way through the streets at night. That combined with smooth close-ups of her movements, convey an erotic sensuality to the film.
- Repeated song: Once again, Wong enjoys to use one song that will be replayed over and over and over again throughout specific plot scenes in the movie. This is something that quite noticeably characterize him as a director.
- Undefined ending: When we reach the end of the film, there are still so many questions left hanging that the audience doesn’t actually know for certain what has or will happen to the main characters. Turning that same ending, subjective to each viewer, giving them the power to decide by themselves the fate of the protagonists.
From this viewing, I learned that it was during this New Wave that washed through Hong Kong, that some of the most creative and original films came to be. It is certain that you wouldn’t find a film like this in Hollywood in the 2000’s. The way the main characters act around each other, with each touch being so chaste yet, at the same time, so full of want is something that rarely happens in the American industry. It’s either in your face or not at all, so I think that in that sense “In The Mood For Love” accomplished it’s goal. However, I felt that the pace of the movie was a bit too slow for me and the constant repetition of the same song made it annoying to witness time and time again (being these the same issues from when I watched Chungking Express.) But overall it had a really good cinematography that almost made up for the movie’s slow pace.
So this week we had a viewing of a film from the French New Wave called “La Jetee” by Chris Marker. It was a quite unusual to what we have been presented up until now, so I decided to add my own brief synopsis of the story of the film:
We follow the journey of a man who is forced into taking part in scientific experiments that are done with the intention of manipulating time traveling to their own will. This experiment has been already implemented on other captive individuals as well but with not so fortune outcomes for them. But when this man is put under the experiment it is shown that he is actually the only one who can survive it for the length that he has. So it is during this trial that whenever he is “put under”, so to speak, he begins to be captivated by a blonde beauty and whenever he slips into the unconsciousness, he always travels to see her (intentionally or not) and eventually falls in love with her. These experiments happen during a period of if not weeks, months and they only help to establish his personal desire to actually be with her always and not only during brief flashes of time. It is a beautifully tragic love story told by the means of black and white still images, almost like a slideshow, with a compelling voice-over to navigate the audience through what is being presented to them.
It is quite intriguing to see the evolution of film making, because in this film you can see how the storyteller was able to work with the idea of “time traveling” and work it to his will. I think it was well accomplished in that sense.
Now to simply answer the question that was presented to us in class:
- How does the film reflect on film form? It is reflected, as I previously mentioned, through the use of still images and voice-over, primarily. But it also is presented to us through the use of the soundtrack because it appeals the audience to feel a certain specific emotion during specific parts of the storytelling (ex: a lyrical choir singing at the beginning when the pictures of a burning Paris is shown and the soft tones when the pictures of the woman are shown.)
This film is an example of how directors where during this New Wave of cinema. They wanted to make films for the simple pleasure of doing something beautiful and that was appreciated as it should, as an art form. They didn’t want to have to follow the “rules” of the Old Hollywood type of industry who made films to appeal to the masses without even thinking twice about how compelling the actual narrative should be. Although, I don’t completely agree with this saying, because even there were quite a few films only done to impress audiences visually that no significant back story to them (ex: Bus Stop, 1956) I do think that quite a few of the Old Hollywood films had a sort of poetics and beauty about them that wasn’t solely based on visuals ( ex: Gone With the Wind, 1949). I inspired myself from this site about the French New Wave for beginners. Anyways, these filmmakers intended to follow their own rules and to let their creative juices flow. So from what I’ve gathered, Italy’s neo realism and France’s New Wave were basically the one’s who rebelled against their own industries and funded their own.
To me, that’s pretty baddass.
In today’s lesson we saw a vintage film from the early 1920’s by film director Robert Wiene that was one of the pioneer films from the German Expressionism era. This cult film represents an era, during the First World War, where filmmakers felt the urge to rebel against what was considered “normal” and real, and decided to showcase their deepest fears and anger through these films filled with some sort of darkness, being it insanity, prejudice, betrayal amongst others.
This particular film centers a lot of on the psychological introducing the idea of somnambulism as a means to make someone who suffers from this disease to do whatever you wish. Throughout the film we witness murder, a sort of “mind control” on the somnambulist, unrequited love and just… complete insanity.
After the viewing, we delved into specifically the meaning behind the set design of the film. Because the sets used had different geometrical shapes as well as the props within them were disproportional to the size of the actors. So we, the class, came to the conclusion that this film had a quite surrealistic set as to probably shock the audiences of the time.
From this lesson I learned, that filmmakers throughout the ages did movies that could be based off their own personal insecurities or even those of the people whose film is directed to. Basically we can always give ourselves completely to a film and hope that it will reach people’s understanding and maybe even comfort them.
Today we started the seminar, going back to the definition of neorealism, specifically the film genre. After we watched “Rome, An Open City” on Tuesday, we went back to discussing how the film was made in 1944. For example, we discovered how it was shot mostly in a studio due to the fact that the city where it was being filmed got bombed. How Mussolini, himself, was the host for the very first Venice Film Festival in 1932, which served as a means to show fascist propaganda movies to the masses.
But the main focus point of this class was about the specific film techniques of neorealism. This specific genre, as I mentioned in a previous post, likes to illustrate the “reality” of the events that may relate directly to the situation a country might be going through and to show the “real” pain that common people feel. It’s through these notions that we began to view a few scenes from the film, once more, as to identify particular neorealistic styles that Rosselini imposed onto the film. The most obvious one was upon Pina’s death, the way the focal length of the camera changed drastically. By this I mean, that up until that point nearly every character that came on screen was presented in a somewhat tight close-up as to make the audience feel like they are there with them and going through the same journey, whereas when Pina is killed, we see her being shot from afar as if she is meaningless. As if she never meant anything to anyone, and that’s her ending.
By the end of the class, our teacher prompted us to answer a question that is: Can a style of film be political?
From this, I did a bit of research online as discovered that “style” has a very different meaning from “genre”. Style is in regards to filming technique whereas the genre means the type of film it is, more or less. So in regards to the film’s style, I do think a film can be political although it is all down the director’s choices. For example, in the film we saw on the Tuesday class, I felt that the director did a good job portraying through the use of camera framing, length and even the use of stereotypes within the fascist regime was well presented as to give the sense that he does not support or condone the way the fascist arms acts towards the people of Italy. It’s through also through the script, that we can see the real struggle that these characters go through in their fight for liberty. And in a particular moment, when we see a moment of weakness in one of the officers as he recalls all the bloodshed from his past that he caused, and how that guilt just eats away at him. That is a real moment that the director wanted to portray as to show that even people that have killed thousands, can still have times where all the killing and the pain is just too much even for them.
In our first screening this semester, we saw Roberto Rosselini’s “Rome, An Open City”. The basis of the story is about a italian man, Manfredi, who is being hunted by the Fascist regime for being the leader of a revolutionary organization who threatens to bring down their conformist hold over Rome in 1944. Despite him being the main character, we are further introduced to secondary leads that may or may not influence him directly. We see Pina, a widowed young mother, anxiously waiting to be married to Francesco, so that they can finally have their own happy ending in the middle of the terrible war. Marina, Manfredi’s girlfriend who is shown as being a woman who would do anything to get her way, yet only wishes for Manfredi’s love and affection. Don Pietro, the priest, helps Manfredi in his hiding out from the regime and even serves as a messenger with other people inside the the Resistance.
All these different plots, at the end, will only bring tragedy upon these characters yet the story gives them so much life that not even their demise can erase that fact. I enjoyed this film because, mostly, it brings a new spin on events that have already been told and retold countless times and yet they are never told in the exact same way. Thank God. I’ve felt that this movie had such good character one-liners and the way the story was presented was interesting to me.
After the viewing, I researched about the origins and meanings of “neorealism” and became quite elucidated as I discovered and finally understood the meaning of this type of film movement. It’s definition is to present, to the audience, the real everyday life struggles that come along with living under repressiveness. This specific movement was very popular in Italy during Mussolini’s regime, and directors like Rosselini, decided to show their resentment through the creation of films that show the reality of the country’s struggles. It showed the poverty and the injustice that the italian people was going through. So through this viewing I learned a bit more about this movement and how a specific theme that has been told so many times throughout history, can still be original and interesting.