Question 3 ?Our experience of watching a film is informed by or social and cultural context (for example, our race, class, gender or sexuality). Do you agree with this? Use any two films of your choice, to back up your argument?. Adam Pillay ? 2276167 When watching a film, the viewer clearly is affected by their social and cultural influences. The viewer carries some cultural and social baggage when entering the cinema or living room that will alter the experience of the film. By this I mean to imply that one?s lifestyle has great influence in how one will view a film. Gender, sexuality, race and class are some characteristics that influence the viewer?s opinion and overall experience of the viewing. This piece will explore this by reviewing two films, The Virgin Suicides, directorial debut of Sophia Coppola, and American History X, directed by Tony Kaye. These are two very different films in subject matter but there are similar issues presented in the films.
American History X, starring Edward Norton in his Academy Award Nominated role, is the story of two brothers and how they are drawn in to Neo-Nazism and their path to reformation and loss of race hatred. The Virgin Suicides starring Kirsten Dunst, is the story of the Lisbon family and the strange events that follow the suicide of the youngest of 5 daughters effects the lives of 4 local teenage boys and their neighbourhood. Based on Jeffrey Eugenides? well-received novel, the film is told largely from the point of view of a group of boys enraptured by their mythic womanhood as much in life as in death. Both of these films will be interpreted differently depending on your views on suicide, teenage life, race, sexuality. As both films attracted a MA15+ rating for the adult themes that are approached they are excellent candidates to review the different interpretations that can be found by having a different social and cultural context.
The Virgin Suicides is set in the mid 1970s in suburban Michigan, in a neighborhood with the kind of narrow streets that invite neighborly eavesdropping. Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon are strict parents, or rather; Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner) had the hold over her daughters and her husband (James Woods). The Lisbon sisters inhabit the stuffy household, wanting to get out and about as a cadre of worshipful neighborhood boys watch their every move and try in vain to decipher them. The first suicide of Cecilia, at age 13 the youngest Lisbon, made the fascination of death for the sisters stronger.
Cecilia is treated by Dr. Hornicker (Danny DeVito), a psychiatrist who thinks she knows nothing of life?s pain. But Cecilia holds the same view as him. Dr. Hornicker asks the Lisbon parents to loosen the reins on their girls, but this strategy backfires. After getting a taste of teenage adventure, the sisters naturally can?t let it go. Lux (Kirsten Dunst), age 14, is the boldest, as her explosive interlude with suave school stud Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) results in her missing her parents? curfew. The ensuing crackdown sends the girls into a spiral of despair, as they are taken out of school and locked up at home for weeks. After this, the neighborhood boys? distant friendship never can fulfill the fantastic ideas left festering in the girls? minds, and eventually the girls end up taking their own lives.
Sophia Coppola approaches many ideas in this film but is hindered by the violent changes in the script. There are extremely effective scenes which show emotional textures being produced but then are cut away by the changing script which makes it difficult for the film to explore these developing sequences.
Many themes that are approached by the film will be viewed differently depending on the viewer?s social and cultural influences. The scene where Trip Fontaine leaves the Lisbon house after barely saying a word to Lux all night is very effective as it shows the pain of adolescence and unrequited love. The viewer will be affected by scenes in the film depending on their cultural context by their ideas on suicide, love, parenting and more. Parents will leave with a changed opinion on parenting after seeing the way that this family has dealt with their problems. The film has strong imagery in presenting the lives of these teenagers and their families.
?American History X? is the story of Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a young man who becomes the leader of a gang of skinheads on Los Angeles? Venice Beach. He is recruited by a shady elder neo-Nazi and uses his ability for fierce rhetoric to entice new members to take up the cause. After an incident with a black gang on the Venice Beach battleground, Derek catches two of the members trying to steal his car. Berserk, fuelled by his race hatred, he murders the two and is committed for voluntary manslaughter. After being sent to prison, the film focuses on Derek?s younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong), and how the traumatic experiences in his life have led him to follow a similar path to that of his older brother. The film is set over the 24 hours after Derek is released from prison, and how his reform of his ideas of race and society affect his surroundings.
A powerful film that is very black and white in the way it portrays the very different points of view held by the lead character but it is let down by the way that only one of the characters is truly developed. Edward Norton gives a stunning performance as the violent and impressive Derek Vinyard. There are scenes that present Derek?s changing views on gender, identity, race and culture that are provocative and affect the viewer.
These two films present ideas that clearly affect you when you watch them as will most films of this nature. Films that deal with adult themes show the points of view of other adults that perhaps differ or mimic your own. The degree that these affect the viewer is dependent on their social and cultural influences. Perhaps children will not be affected as much by the contemporary ideas presented in these two films but definitely a person from an American culture (or one similar to that, like Australians) will be affected. It is difficult to fully explore the necessary ideas to show how these films and certain scenes can affect the viewer in one thousand words, but in my opinion I definitely believe that our experience in watching a film is informed by our social and cultural context.
Adam Pillay 2276167