Thoughts On: May 2019

27/05/2019

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu - What's The Point Of Live-Action?

Thoughts On: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

A young man investigates the curious death of his estranged father and pikachu.


A live-action Pokémon movie sounds about as good as a live-action Mario, Donkey Kong or Dragon Ball Z movie. It seems we are living through a moment in which the American film industry in particular has found a new way in which to recycle both itself and pop culture. CGI has slowly been woven into the fabric of cinema since the early 90s with landmark movies in the likes of Jurassic Park. For the last decade or so, a blockbuster has not considered complete or true without an abundance of CGI. Marvel movies have done much to cultivate this, as well as a cinematic culture around 'live action'. Cinema has predominantly always been 'live action', but this term has only become relevant as the line between animation and film has been blurred by digital technologies. Marvel movies are epithets of live action; comic books should be drawn, yet on screen they are rendered with digital photo-realism. Something is lost and something is gained in the process of live action adaptation. One could study Avengers alongside Into The Spider-Verse alongside a Marvel comic as a means of exploring this, and furthermore as a means of questioning the legitimacy of adapting comic into live action. In my view, whilst there is something gained from comic book adaptation, the practice of adapting animated classics into live action blockbusters bears next to no legitimacy. Detective Pikachu seems to sit some place between the Disney's live action pillaging and Marvel's cinematic universe under a question of legitimacy. To explore this a little further, two avenues of investigation can be followed. What can be done with Pokémon in a photo-realist realm? What has Pikachu Detective achieved?

We will start with the former question. Put simply, Detective Pikachu is not a very good film. This fails, most broadly, to appeal to a specific audience type. It does not appeal to grown audience members, nor children, and it certainly doesn't feel like a family film. The jokes are awkwardly pubescent and yet the logic of the narrative is childishly lax. One may chalk this up to be a teen film if they wanted to. Alas, as it fails to successfully mediate between narrative and characterlogical complexity and simplicity, Detective Pikachu just feels icky and uncomfortable within itself. There is no cohesive world, no thematic wholeness, that binds together various plot strands and character motivations. And I'm not certain what kind of audience member could do this leg work for the film. Suffice to say that this is rife with serious lapses in logic and bears profoundly unexplored and unexplainable characters/motivations. Such is so jarring as Detective Pikachu clearly aims to generate a character-centric narrative - one most simply about a son connecting with his father. The Pokémon have their place in between this relationship, but it feels stilted. The Pokémon as characters should provide the narrative its bulk of meaning as something equating to thematic agents; Pikachu is just this, he is a device that brings father and son together, and thus encapsulates and motivates this element of the narrative in its basic essence. That said, Pikachu is embroiled in a melodrama that has no draw to its start and end (father and son), and no real punch in the journey in between. This is all a means of saying that you fail to care for the goings on in the narrative. Such is an issue with the script, acting, and other such elements - visual beings a key one.

Above all else, Detective Pikachu feels visually... loose. I think I have a bias against live action adaptations, but what this film fails to do visually is draw the eye and emotions together. The human presence in the cinematic space is then interruptive and jarring - visually and narratively. This is an issue of 'human cinema'. We see this in play in abundance in the world of modern sci-fi. Sci-fi has the ability to tell stories about anyone and anything. But, all too often, it ends up telling stories about humans. This is human cinema. It can be witnessed in Transformers, Godzilla and a litany of superhero films - all of which focus on human characters as opposed to alien figures, or highlight above all else the physical and overt humanity of otherwise alien beings. Detective Pikachu suffers from this defect of modern sci-fi. The main title is Pokémon, and yet the creatures are a mere element of narrative framing and spectacle for the most part of this film. I remember being a kid and watching the first Pokémon movie (which I recently re-watched - something I will return to). There were short films on the VHS version of the Pokémon movies that proceeded the features. They were often about Pikachu wandering away from humans and existing in the world of Pokémon. Though the creators of these films have no real faith in their ability to extract humans from a feature-length film, they do much, and well, in the human-less shorts. What stands out as the main achievement of the Pikachu shorts are their silence, depth of subjective-impressionism and tonal wholeness; with the Pokémon alone, all feels coherent - narratively and visually. In short, the functioning of the characters matches their world and the visuals projecting them. This also translates over to the feature-length films to a good degree as animated humans can carry melodrama of a rather grating kind so much better than real human characters. This is all to do with the logic of a cinematic space. If one considers that they, in an indeterminably significant way, are taught how to watch a film as they watch it. I do not mean this in terms of ideological coding, but conventional logic. An animated film often exudes a logic centred on potential and fantasy; stories told by animated films (the narratives of Studio Ghibli as a wondrous example) often exude logic centred on potential and fantasy. This is witnessed in the first Pokémon movie. The narrative is concerned with the fantastical emergence of a being demanding unlimited power. I don't believe that there is a shred of significant realism about this narrative; the aesthetics concur. The aesthetics and narrative are dictated not by theme as filtered through reality, but impressionistic perception (imagination). This is what makes the first Pokémon work. Though it is cheap and childish, it is whole thanks to logical parallels drawn between visuals and story.

We bridge towards the first question asked of live action films. What can be done with Pokémon in a photo-realist realm? If films teach us how to watch them with their conventional logic (aesthetic, narrative and otherwise), what does a live action Pokémon movie want to teach us? That Pokémon are real? This is certainly the logic of the fantasy in something such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? This film uses its aesthetic logic in parallel with its narrative's intent: to explore toons as real, working beings. The effect of this is both comedic and thematically evocative; one could then easily suggest (as some have before) that this has subtext exploring the alienation of minorities. What is the relevance of Pokémon being real in regards to a deteriorating father and son relationship? No strong answer is provided by Detective Pikachu. A film such as Hook uses the idea of a fictitious world separating parent and offspring as a narrative device with the revelation of fantasy as reality being what unifies Peter and his children. (A similar revelation is held in Disney's animated Peter Pan). Detective Pikachu uses the conflict of fantasy and the unreal to be realised without particular effect. So, what does the film achieve? Not much. Did it have much potential? Maybe. If there was a reason for fantasy and reality to be put alongside one another provided in the narrative, Detective Pikachu may have been a more coherent film to experience. Furthermore, if there was a greater focus on the Pokémon themselves, thus the issue of 'human cinema' subverted, this could have been more than it is. Alas, are photo-realistic Pokémon battles a reason to make a live action Pokémon movie?

I'll leave the final question with you having emphasises that the Pokémon battles in Detective Pikachu are minor and unfulfilling. In total, I don't see too much of a point for this film to exist and certainly did not enjoy it. More could be said, but I turn to you. What are your thoughts on Pokémon: Detective Pikachu?






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Midnight In Paris - Egoic Film

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Midnight In Paris - Egoic Film

Quick Thoughts: Midnight in Paris (2011)

A meandering romantic lost in dreams of Paris in the 1920s falls into fantasy.


There is a naivety and courage in being yourself. But, if the truth be presented truly truthfully, then it can but affect.

Woody Allen's cinema, what little I know of it, is fuelled most evidently by the man's ego. More so than most auteurs, Allen is an egoist - maybe as much as Tarantino, von Trier and Godard are. Egoism on film, in art generally, is fascinating and equally prevalent. If art is communication, the artist speaks to an audience in the dark; a darkness that sometimes has a highly mirror-like sheen. At least this is what one reads from the cinema and films of the mentioned directors. There is something impossibly endearing and wondrous about certain forms of egoism. The intellectualism of Godard is sickening at times; the pseudo-cine-intellectualism of Tarantino incredibly grating; the grimy self-absorption of von Trier gag-worthy; and the neuroticism of Allen tiresome. Alas, these filmmakers are adored as they are despised. Maybe it is the egoism of the audience member that resonates with that of a given auteur. Yet, I believe there is something of greater subtlety occurring.

One can witness this in Midnight in Paris. Midnight in Paris is a minor melodrama. What the melodramatic form does so well is express truths felt with unabashed unreservedness--which is to say, they fail to embarrass themselves with their truth. Speaking as himself, with much ego, Allen somehow doesn't embarrassing himself. Such is true of his main character, cast and played well by Owen Wilson. He whisper-waxes poetic with romantic cliche after cliche without reserve, without embarrassment, without pretence. Earnest one can be if their pretence emerges from a place of truth--a paradox that Midnight in Paris revels in. This idea resonates up through theme and character from the very ego and personality of the man that penned them. This is a pervasive element of Midnight in Paris' cinematic space. It operates on the basis of honesty that challenges the viewer to do away with cynicism - indeed, this is what much melodrama does. Such is what makes this a triumphant, though minor and not particularly brilliant, film. It understands its own naivety and is subtly courageous in doing so.






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Logos & Pneuma Pt. 1

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21/05/2019

Logos & Pneuma Pt. 1

Thoughts On: Narrative and Associated Elements

An attempt to make some sense of 'narrative' as a concept.


My mind has been clogged by a question of narrative recently. This began as I was making my way through Metz's Film Language - specifically his chapter on a phenomonology narrative. I struggled emphatically with this chapter because, whether it be my short-coming or his, I could not conceive of the fundamental concept which he was attempting to define with much clarity. Still there then remains a question of what narrative could be after reading Metz's work. He speaks of narrative as a discourse, blocks of time, events and unrealization, therefore defining the cinematic narrative to be 'a closed discourse that proceeds by unrealizing a temporal sequence of events'. So unsatisfactory and seemingly arbitrary this definition is to me that I fail to see its relation to any cinema I know. This is a consistent problem I have with the work of Metz; his thoughts on cinema are so distant from my own perception that I fail to understand their fundamental elements. Such is precisely why I find Metz interesting, but equally so, frustrating. How can one think of narrative without mention of meaning making processes and their function? Indeed, narrative has a temporal aspect in that it requires time in its description of spaces, thus in its manifestation in drama. Indeed, also, narrative, due to its utilisation of time and space (however abstractly) is made up of events that sit alongside one another, thus in sequence, and that furthermore formulate something appearing linguistic (discourse). However, the pertinence of unrealisation - of a narrative being understood as not truly real - seems loose to me. This theoretical element is already encapsulated by Metz's relatively limited description of discourse. In describing cinematic narratives as discourses, Metz merely suggests that narratives are told, or have some kind of author, and so are contrivances of human imagination communicated. In turn, narratives are briefly defined as determined imaginings. Here is where I struggle and cease to follow Metz's thinking with much ease.

It is not that Metz's definition is null and void. It merely describes certain aspects of the abstract phenomenon that is narrative film. As I read through his chapter, I found my self discomforted, waiting for narrative (as he defines it) to be situated within a wider phenomena - maybe termed 'story'. After all, how does Metz's definition do anything more than describe the motion of narrative? The spectator is left untouched in his theoretic composition. Narrative is something that moves in accordance to Metz; it was made and it moves, but there must be more. How does the fact that narrative is made and moves account for the related phenomenon of affect? If narrative has any obvious or universally evident function, it is to impact those who come into contact with it. Metz, seemingly intentionally, alienates this fundamental element of the experience of narrative. I do not understand why.

My mind has then wandered through my own understanding of narrative and in watching a selection of films I have came upon two new ideas. Narrative and story are sticky terms, so sticky I dare not differentiate them. I have toyed with this idea previously, but narrative and story point us toward 'the telling' and need not be manipulated beyond this. A foundation of our ontological theory concerns cinematic manifests emergent from a reasoned unknown: Tao. Narrative operates mimetically, it is thus an imitation of both known and unknown elements of being. This mimetic practice formulates a mode of communication - this communication may be conceived linguistically (how specifically, I do not know). Cinematic mimetic communication translates meaning from Tao through consciousness (thus tangible, knowable reality) to the conscious and unconscious of the spectator. Art, generally, exists as a process that establishes the path between the human mind, reality and its unknown reason. Narrative's place is in the medial dimension between Tao and spectator unconsciousness.

Such a formulation takes care of the function and place of narrative, describing it as a communicative process of meaning-making, or rather, meaning-translation. This outline is but one step towards a more comprehensive description of narrative. Another can be taken in the clarification the relationship between unknown and known, symbolic and semiotic, semantic and syntactical. It is the under-representation of symbolic discourse in film theories such as Metz's that motivate the present theory. It is not that cinema is entirely a symbolic process, primed only for the exploration of unknowable meaning. As humans, our natural state of being is, so to say, to walk on roads with the earth hidden beneath. The road cannot stand without the earth below, and the earth below cannot be walked without a face that hides it. The work of Carl Jung stands as a testament to this philosophy. His psychoanalysis positions consciousness over an unfathomable void of the collective unconscious. To perceive outwardly from the Jungian mind is to open a door to reality and a back-window to the realm of the archetypes. Just as important as the recognition of the unconscious mind is, however, is the practice of living in with one's ego or consciousness. Narrative and the cinematic art, too, has its unconscious recess. Attached to this is an ego, or rather, consciousness. That suggested, how do consciousness and unconsciousness operate in simultaneity during the procession of narrative?

One formulation concerns established concepts of known and unknown mimesis. Known mimetic process are a reflection of that which the conscious mind has access to; unknown mimesis reflects that which is ultimately unknowable, yet receptible to the unconscious mind. In one respect, unknown and known mimesis can be considered statically, or rather, atemporally. In my analysis of unknown and known mimetic practice, I would point to signs and symbols; characters and objects in the cinematic space. Characters and objects have arcs and transform as a narrative proceeds and progresses. This kind of analysis can be attached to narrative, but because it requires the abstraction of character from narrative to some degree, it can be considered atemporal or static. We can consider narrative and the unknown and known process entirely temporally, however. We now then come upon our two new concepts: logos and pneuma.

Logos, in these constraints, defines the narrativisation of known mimetic material. Pneuma on the other defines the narrativisation of unknown mimetic material. These phenomena presented themselves to me as I re-watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy and have further solidified until I most recently was re-watching Bergman's Persona. We shall talk briefly about these two films to exemplify the concepts.

Logos concerns logic or the Word of God. Theologically, the term could possible be argued to be a symbolic process; God knows more than the the human mind can conceive of, thus the enaction of his words is never precise and true, one can only hope to follow in the steps outlined by the Logos. With this symbolic logos becoming attached indelibly to logic, the theological perspective is not incredibly pertinent and is subject to transformation. Logos can be considered to be the conscious enaction of reason. Logic then has its relationship with the unknown, but it is often consciously alienated from this with a 'scientific' rationalisation reliant on observable reality and fact. Logic then sits alongside faith, connected maybe, but conceptually dissimilar. I am drawn to this term because of this character - it is not simple, but it presents itself with clarity. To appropriate the term and immerse it into film theory, I would like to use it to describe the element of narrative that requires a degree of realism and cohesive, conventionalised logic. Lord of the Rings provides on of the most stark and expressive examples of narrative logos or logic's command in narrative. Why didn't Gandalf just call the eagles in the beginning?

This is a satirical critique of the trilogy that is, in itself, either entirely self-destructive or disengaged. Even someone who loves The Lord of the Rings trilogy may ask this question. You can only do so comedically, however, because the narrative that you have come to love emerges from what you might call a plot hole. Plot holes, as glaring as they may sometimes be, serve a function for the audience. One hears this most commonly in regards to melodramas and certain classes of typhlodrama. Why question Star Wars? You'll only run it. Why poke holes in Avengers? Just enjoy watching it. Maybe we've all heard or said something that equates to this: 'yeah, but... what does it matter? The eagles could have dropped the ring into Mount Doom, but the fact that they did not gave us the great trilogy that is The Lord of the Rings'. Here we have our opportunity to discuss narrative logos. It is not that narratives should be forgiven for having holes, but that it should be recognised that narratives require themselves to operate in certain ways. It is because narratives want to, are required to, or even must operate in a certain way that plot holes open up. These may be masked with exposition: the eagles cannot fly over certain areas as it'd be too dangerous. Alas, these are merely further projections of the narrative logos or logic. That is to say that that there are certain elements of a narrative that are only in place so that it can logically function. Whether the element be a plot hole or a plaster that masks a hole, it represents a constant demand of narratives to be coherent. This coherence is subservient to the true meaning-making process as it is related to pneuma and unknown mimesis. Alas, let us not be hasty. The logos of a narrative has its own meaning-making abilities. I do not regard the meaning produced by the logos to be the 'true' meaning of a movie as it is a pathway to, a road above, more fundamental meaning. That said, there is a class of film and filmmaker that privilege the logical meaning of narrative and so require an analysis of the narrative logos. We can return to this idea later. Let us step back.

Narrative logos is the strain of a story that is demanded by its own creation. For The Lord of the Rings, the narrative - a manifestation of meaning from Tao, an exploration of goodness and power - necessitates a journey. For the narrator to present a discourse, they require key processes. Joseph Campbell can be leaned on here as a key example. In his conception of the hero's narrative, certain elements are conventionally demanded. There must then be a hero, a mentor, thresholds, a showdown, an abyss, etc. The Lord of the Rings narrative requires some of these elements. The narrative logos composes them, drawing the lines between them so that a symbolic sculpture may manifest tangibly. Without logical composition, without the eagles neglecting to take the ring to Mount Doom, the sculpture cannot manifest. Important to emphasise is my insistence on prerequisite meaning. Stories are told as meaning something, yet simultaneously they are told and mean as a consequence; meaning transcends the telling, which is exactly why meaning can be so fleeting, so ambiguous, fluid and transformative between consciousnesses. The meaning a narrative can hold is something of an illusion: a narrative does not intrinsically bear truth, instead, is a mimetic process that allows light from Tao (which bears all truths unknowable) to hit one's inner eye. Narrative logos facilitates this expression.

There is another imperative characteristic of narrative logos. Beyond facilitating symbolic expression (pnuema), it realises meaning - which it to say, it transforms unknown mimesis into known mimesis or rather binds the two modes of representation. This occurs in two key respects: narratively and spectatorily. One of my favourite quotes from Jung is this:

Whoever speaks with primordial images speaks with a thousand voices.

Primordial images are realised in art as representational archetypes: the hero for example. The hero performs archetypal actions. The realisation of the archetype, the actual rendering of a primordial image, is a major function of narrative logos; logos embodies symbolism. To speak with a thousand voices requires relational logic. To then say one thing, especially if that one thing is really worth saying - if it allows you to speak of the unspeakable - we must offer signs and symbols. True meaning is, as Extreme teaches us all, more than words. Similar words may be spoken of the spectator. For the spectator to comprehend unknown mimetic elements, they naturally do, or are often prompted to, self-realise symbols carrying information of unknowable substance. We can transition towards a short discussion of Persona to make sense of this.

How does one confront Bergman's masterpiece? I personally find the greatest conundrum and a puzzle piece never given by the film rests in narrative perspective; from whose perspective is this story told and to be understood from? Is Persona a film about Alma and/or Elisabet? Or is it about the boy we see in the very start of the film? Who is this boy? Is it the son of Elisabet? Is it a representation of Bergman himself? Is he a surrogate for ourselves? Or is he a pure child archetype? It seems impossible to answer these questions definitively. Alas, the spectator may make sense of the film by making a choice. They may choose to perceive the film from Alma's perspective; a story about misplaced identity. This choice is an operation of logos. It is with this that we discover that narrative logos may be self-realised in the spectator, that the meaning a narrative can bear can prove itself to be highly relative. Alas, I believe that there is still a confined and coherent reading that is non-relative, instead relates to the many meanings produced by the narrative logos. This meaning is the true meaning, the unknowable meaning, captured by the narrative pneuma. Such is what we can discuss next. Before this, let us conclusively characterise narrative logos. Narrative logos has its relationship with known mimetic processes; it frames symbolic elements of a narrative as a conventional demand; and it produces meaning that grounds unknown mimetic material in knowable, tangible representations. Far more could be explored about Logos, but, these are its fundamental characteristics.







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John Wick: Chapter 3 - Sick

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17/05/2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Sick

Quick Thoughts: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)

Excommunicated, Wick must somehow fend for himself in a city of assassins.


Sick is probably not a word you should use if you're above 14 and want to be taken seriously, but no other word suites John Wick 3 better than it. John Wick: Chapter 3 is sick. With a satisfactory degree of self-awareness yet also a seemingly unconscious and giddy desire to be ridiculous, this is a film that dares to be seriously stupid, to construct action set-pieces that go on for an age without wearing thin and to treat human bodies like rubber dolls. It would not surprise me if John Wick holds at least a handful of screen records: most over-armoured yet easily beaten villains; most anonymous henchmen slain in 2 hours; most dog-jaw to the groin strikes; most knives in a body; most steel in a skull; most body throws; and maybe (if not second to Game of Death) greatest disparity between fighters. It cannot be over-emphasised, John Wick 3 is as excessive as it is joyous. It dares to have a horse vs. motorbike fist-gun battle. What more need be said?

I was no a huge fan of John Wick 2. I felt that this chapter was particularly stiff and the action a little too slow. The first Wick stands out as having the best story and introducing some ingenuous action choreography - the integration of judo, jiu-jitsu and guns being particularly astounding. The effect of this waned as the melodramatic element of the Wick series intensified in chapter 2. However, with the melodrama increasing ever more so and Wick 3 being self-conventionalised to a strong degree (the series is becoming its own unique, insulated world as opposed to a work evidently related to others), limitations on action are lifted allowing the filmmakers' imagination to explode with brilliant nonsense. John Wick 3 may then annoy some because it disregards the rules of reality to a much more significant degree than, especially, Wick 1. However, I felt that, with Wick 3, I understood the series as an insulated work improving upon itself by delving deeper into all that makes it brilliant. The corny dialogue is then acceptable and the somewhat hackey Christian-influenced symbolism and play on Westerns (love the reference to listening the gun click from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) enjoyable. As good as the action choreography in John Wick has always been, it has its limitations: Keanu Reeves.being the key factor. Reeves has poured himself into the Wick series much like Tom Cruise does his action movies, clearly learning an abundance of martial arts skills and training with weaponry and vehicles. He does almost all of his own stunts in Wick 3 it seems. CGI and camera trickery is used, but the shooting style (wide and not too impressionistic) is very demanding. We then see where Reeves' skills are limited and how, for safety and so on, things are slow and clunky at many points. This was off-putting in Chapter 2, but, in Chapter 3, the level of action negates much of the criticism. Reeves then comes off as incredibly impressive here (and who knew he was so tall and Indonesian martial-arts star, Yayan Ruhian, so short?).

In total, I felt John Wick 3 to be a level-up for the series and a ridiculously good time. I'd love to see this flourish - as it seems to be doing - into an epic Leone-esque neo-Western, 3 hours long and improbably melodramatic. That said, have you seen Wick 3 yet? What are your thoughts?







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Return Of A President - Smiles & Crossed Arms

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11/05/2019

Return Of A President - Smiles & Crossed Arms

Quick Thoughts: Return of a President (2017)


Made by Lotte Mik-Meyer, this is the Malagasy film of the series


Return of a President is a short documentary giving minor personal insight into the trials of Marc Ravalomanana. Ravalomanana was, in 2002, the first democratically elected president of Madagascar. In 2009, he was deposed by a military coup. Return of a President documents his failed attempts to return to his nation and re-install democracy. This is then a most fascinating insight into small-scale, intricate geopolitics. We are not allowed unbridled access into Ravalomanana's personal bubble, but are instead allowed to observe from a professional and controlled distance. Given access to pointless meetings and professional conversations, we grow to see the tiresome venture that is politics. We are painted a picture of the practice as a series of exchanges between figures whispering through smiles hidden by crossed arms. One could maybe want to ask more from director, Lotte Mik-Meyer, as her approach to interviews is slightly awkward and unrevealing at times. She provides a sometimes comical counterpoint to Ravalomanana, worried where he is reservedly persistent. Such only emphasises the absurdity of Madagascar's political situation, however, and furthermore the subtly heroic perseverance and fearlessness of Ravalomanana. In total the content of Return of a President is deeply fascinating. I recommend you give the film a watch.

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Before The Rain - Pretence & Mimesis

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05/05/2019

Before The Rain - Pretence & Mimesis

Thoughts On: Before The Rain (Пред дождот, 1994)


Made by Milcho Manchevski, this is the Macedonian film of the series.


Whilst Before The Rain is held in regard, an acclaimed film projecting a cycle of war and violence during a time of destruction and dispute in the Balkans, it stands to me as, above all else, a directorial debut. Before The Rain has high aspirations, but, in its efforts to do much work in the thematic realm, it finds itself appearing pretentious due to shortcomings in the realms of fundamental cinematic process - performance in particular. This is a familiar phenomenon. I have encountered it most intimately in my own work. To see lofty aspirations fail to take hold on screen due to a lack of technical ability is rather defeating. It is an indication that, in the cinema, the meaning-making process does not end with the establishment of an idea. So incredibly important in film is transposing one element of quality to various other realms, seeing a good idea become a good story outline, a solid script, a good story board, a striking series of scenes, a strong film. The process is fascinating. Alas, it is just as much so an illusive one.

Cinematic magic is real. One feels it in the films of Spielberg and Tarkovsky alike. It is the undeniably miraculous projection of meaning through the various levels of cinematic construction. To see and not understand the beautiful resonance of concept, script, performance, cinematography, design, choreography, editing, music and more is a mystical experience. This experience is so sublime because of the management of two process: known and unknown mimesis.

Art intrinsically aspires toward lyrosophical projection, which is to say, it means to transform truth into knowledge of a bodily and emotionally affecting class. Truth - reason underlying those innumerable mysteries of nature - most fundamentally emerges from the unknown. It is the imitation of the assumed yet unknown that supplies art its fundamental power and purpose. Truth, alas, manifests in reality, and so has a knowable face. Film not only attempts projects those known unknowns, but does so through filters of known reality. One sees this most directly in the relationship between performance and theme. A performer is often bound to the dictates of realism in their rendering and management of meaning. That is to say, for a performance to be affecting and meaningful, it often requires verisimilitude and an audience's belief. There are many key preformative modes, the melodramatic mode in particular, that are not bound to realism. Alas, often, performers (especially those in the cinema) rely heavily on known mimesis to manifest affective art. It is then by accuracy and genuity that an actor or actress is judged. In dance, movement and performance often operates in an impressionistic manner, evoking unknown processes of truth. On the screen, melancholia is often not an abstract expression as it must be in dance; it must closely represent reality. Theme manages the unknown more often then not on the screen. It is then abstract conceptual motifs that align a film with unknowable attributes of life and being. Performance, especially in typhlodramatic contexts, grounds those lyrosophic packages. An example can be found in Before The Rain.

The unknown mimetic qualities of this film concern time, compassion and violence, its lyrosophic intent can be bound to the motif 'the circle is not round.' The resurfacing of this statement at many points of the narrative implies that its circular structure is not merely a closed loop of drama stretching through multiple lives in different countries. The fact that the circle is not round may imply ill-structure and undulation; the cycle between compassion and death portrayed by the film, not smooth, but treacherous and unpredictable, the cycle a winding path back to where one began. With this abstraction sitting above the narrative, its loose implications and suggestiveness a key reason as to why the film garnered such regard, performers are tasked with realising it through their scripted drama. The results are not satisfactory. It is not so simple as the performances are not good; they are fine. The performances as known mimetic processes are rather in conflict with the thematic projection, an unknown mimetic process. This is to say that the performances do not convincingly portray the melancholy and compassion that the thematic discourse requires to function optimally. Put most simple, how can one be expected to engage the narrative's intellectual side if its emotional elements are disengaging--if characters appear contrived and their performances trite?

What makes the performative known mimesis fail its its inability to be truthful. Truthfulness, despite the implications thus far made, is not necessarily bound to reality or realism - not in art and cinema. Truth is a sentiment bound to the unknown and so manifests cannot be assumed as the only means of accessing knowledge. Alas, in the case of Before The Rain, a semi-realist, typhlodramatic film that, it appears, attempts to ground its unrealism in reality, an inability to capture the truth of how things really are or appear to be is highly detrimental. This film then teaches us much about the relationship between known and unknown mimetic processes as something of a pretentious work of a debuting artist.

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On The Impression Of Reality In The Cinema

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02/05/2019

On The Impression Of Reality In The Cinema

Thoughts On: Film Lanage, 'On The Impression Of Reality In The Cinema' (1974)

A problematisation of an essay on the representation of reality in art and film.


Reading Christian Metz's opening chapter to Film Language, 'On the Impression of Reality in the Cinema,' I was struck with with a rather persistent irritation. The essay, as the title implies, concerns the illusion, representation or impression of reality in arts and cinema specifically. Metz argues, as so many in the history of film theory have, that film is unique and special because of its ability to capture reality more precisely, closely or effectively than any other art thus far. Metz's discourse on this subject is fascinating and very well composed, but his argument is merely satisfactory. Furthermore, it is entirely undermined by the apparent uselessness of the thinking. Such shall be returned to, but first, let us try represent his argument.

In short, Metz suggests that one of cinema's secrets, one of its unique elements that position it in some way above other arts, is its ability to mediate between too-real representation and unreal representation. Motion, as you may expect, is considered a pivotal component. It is motion in Metz's conception that appears as the most real function of cinema. Though film may always be recognised as a construct, its movement will always appear real. Thus, the reality of narrative diegesis is most convincing. Arts such as photography lack time, and arts such as theatre cannot contain and present time as realistically as cinema. Thus they lack some essential element that an audience is attracted to. Cinema's impression of reality makes it popular and successful; this, one may infer, is the significance of cinema's handling of reality.

Metz writes in the 70s, and thus appears rather naive in contrast to the present day in suggesting that cinema is the optimal medium in regards to the presentation of reality. He appears less naive than the likes of Bazin. But, both speak of impressions of reality in rather unimaginative and confined contexts. What now, in the present day, should we be thinking about cinema's reality with gaming as one of the newest, emerging arts?

Modern games are animated, and so less real in principal than live-action cinema. Alas, they have motion. And where they do not have the ability to directly transpose reality to frames, games have embedded into their fabric an essential and groundbreaking tool for rendering impressions of reality: games can be controlled. Metz argues that motion cannot be felt, which is why it appears so real on film; humans distinguish the real from the simulated often with touch, but cannot do this with motion. Gaming complicates this. Characters move in games, but their motion is controlled by the spectator's/gamer's hand. Thus, movement is a tactile function of the art of gaming. Ever more tactile is movement becoming in the world of games with developing VR, motion sensors and other technology that, within the following decades, will undoubtedly unfold into a new fantastical medium of art/entertainment in which full immersion is the illusion.

What gaming teaches film theorists, in my opinion, is that questions pertaining to visual impressions of reality are irrelevant for the structuralisation of cinema. Indeed, realism needs to be referenced, but it is not a crucial secret of filmic art as Metz suggests. Gaming, especially the immersive branch that has been radically developing in the past few years, shows us that, if one wants to now speak of reality in art, one must think beyond perception and in terms of experience itself. The question now concerns not representing reality, but experiencing it. We have always known this, however. Dating back to the 1900s, filmmakers and exhibitioners have sought ways of making film a more tactile experience. One of the earliest attempts at this involved phantom rides - long camera shots taken from the front of trains being screen in fake train sets. The intention of this exhibition was to elevate representations of reality to immersive experiences of it. Sound served the same function throughout the silent era and, of course, after its demise. Later, 3D and immersive cinema experiences all demonstrate that cinema's concerns with reality all too often involved not impressions of observable spaces, but experiences in tangible places. Modern gaming is furthering this exploration. And it is all too easy to conceive of modern gaming technology being supplanted by chemical and neural technology that would 'represent' reality by manipulating the body's biochemistry in the future. We are already seeing this in very crude forms with VR headsets being linked to vibrating vests and even, of course, 'massage machines.' How will we one day conceive of impressions of reality when narratives can come packed in pills and experienced like a drug-induced 'trip'?

It becomes clear now how frustratingly petty Metz's--or rather the more general--discourse on the representation of perceptual reality appears. What is most important when we consider impressions of reality in art concerns all of the the senses. All too easy do film theorists think of the one sense: sight. Here's a fascinating question: what is more real, sound or the moving image, music or silent cinema? How do we conceive of reality in the sonic realm? This question can be pondered elsewhere. More important is a holistic conception of the senses. How real is cinema really if you cannot taste it? How can we judge its immersive abilities in contrast to theatre without considering this? Perceptually, cinema does well in manifesting an impression of reality that is dexterous and immersive. But, the discourse has been limited to the realm of cinema's technological attributes. In my opinion, so much of this discussion needs to be stowed away and returned to after some more rational and broad theorisation.

Before we can think about perceptual impressions of reality, it must be recognised that there are many ways in which reality may be impressed upon the psyche (many of which cinema has little to no management of), and that, furthermore, reality may not be the most important element of the experience of art.

In my opinion, languages (including the languages of the arts) exist in large part as systems of unique complexity. Language is highly limited; it is limited to a band of being accessible and transparent only to mere human cognition and, furthermore, understanding. The universe, one may postulate, has infinite means of communication. Better than most, archaeologists and astronomers understand this. Archaeologists look at an artefact and, via technology and knowledge, can experience history, can communicate with the ghosts of ancient worlds. This is a prosaic conceptualisation, but it is true. With carbon dating, one uses technology to glean information from carbon decay. The camera uses light to transmit information of the present. This is how it communicates; the carbon dating machine has its technological means of communication. And what about the telescope? The astronomer's telescope can see into the past by receiving light travelling from light-years away bearing the information of a space lost in time, not at all present in one realm, but present in another. How uncanny the perception of reality may be through a telescope. How absurd its communication. Of course, it is not particularly artistic in that the means of communication is not very dexterous and cannot produce something such as a narrative. But, communication is present here as, most fundamentally, information is gleaned from a mode of reception. As humans are all too aware of, we can only glean an infinitesimally small amount of information from the universe. Even the electromagnetic waves our eyes receive exist far beyond out perceptual abilities; we can't see microwaves, infrared rays or radio signals. To understand the universe, we require highly specific modes of communication. It is because of this that the language that emerges from information reception (communication) is impossibly esoteric.

All languages operate on a specific plane of existence and reception that require the transformation of raw reality into a perception of reality. Consider for a moment what it means to be an all-knowing entity, to be able to interact and communicate with all of the data that reality holds. This would require a complete knowledge of all space and time and of every way of perceiving it - which would itself require a body capable of receiving each element of the universe as a defining perceptual agent. One would then not only have to be able to simultaneously see the universe's entire history as one instant function, but be able to perceive reality via a perception of nuclear energy, various electromagnetic energies, quantum fields, etc, etc, etc, and via all possible dimensions. (There are probably a great deal many more factors I cannot know to list). The amount of data that the universe can provide and that can be used as a basis of perception (and therefore language) is beyond astounding. Alas, what consciousness does is take from this infinite pool of data certain information that can be placed into the machinery of cognition. Film does this in only one way. How can we measure this one way's grip on reality? How real can the language of cinema be?

It is not my intention to dismiss all questions by posing a post-modern philosophical conundrum. What I mean to highlight at present is the impracticality of questioning realism in regards to esoteric senses. The universe as interfaced with by the senses is infinite and intangible. One is lead to believe here that language can never be complex enough to deal with reality. Alas, what I have come to experience is that it is not that reality is so complex, rather, it is so simple.

Reality is fundamentally simple, yet manifests such as language are complex. Their complexity is a result of their impracticality and lack of knowledge or capacity, and the universe is too simple to be understood by such elaborate systems. This is something that physicists and scientists of various kinds constantly espouse. What a physicists seeks is not an equation that explains a property of reality, but rather, the most simple and elegant equation that does so. Truth is considered here to be most simple; the principals of reality reducable to an equation mere inches long. We experience this phenomenon of the profoundly simple in every day life, too. The better one becomes at anything, the simpler it appears. This is true of basic processes, such as pressing a sequence of buttons, and it is true from the outsider's perspective; the better someone is as something, the easier they will make it appear. Alas, one often finds that creative processes only appear harder when one learns more about them. This is because what one learns of, say, an instrument, is not closed in a loop, but extant in the realm of potential that an object (such as a guitar) has built into it. Let us not get confused, however. To a being of higher cognition than ourselves, playing an instrument may be as finite a practice as pressing a button; one may imagine the spectrum of human emotion being mapped out and all tones and notes understood as frequencies in resonance with chemical impulses that generate emotion, and thus the playing of an instrument being a mere selection of a few specific properties. In this sense, we may philosophically argue that all things understood are simple. In fact, the process of understanding can be thought of as aligning complex manifestations with basic underlying principals.

This discourse is relevant as it provides a means of limiting the definition of what is real. If reality is fundamentally simple, then it is finite in some aspect. Such a philosophy is embodied by Taoist thinking. At the heart of reality is Tao, the Way. Though this is unknowable to the human mind, it exists simply and finitely as reason and rule underlying all existence. Fascinatingly, though Tao may not be perceived in totality, it has its relationship with the human body. Tao can be experienced via imitative alignment; for example, Lao-Tzu suggests acting without intention. It is the abstraction of intent that allows one to operate as a function of Tao, simple, reasoned, pure, knowledgeable.

All language is something of an imitation, is a mimetic process. Languages, as discussed transpose data from reality into cognition via some means of sensory representation. However, the intent of all language is the same. All forms of communication aim to provide an experience of knowledge. This is what makes language functional and not a pointless, infinitesimal abstraction. If all that can be communicated has one universal basic principal underneath it, then all forms of communication may provide valid pathways towards this. Let us not suggest that this path is easy found and, better still, easy journeyed along. However, if we can conceive of reality as finite and simple in principal, then one can understand that the function of realism in art concerns not linguistic representation and sensory reception, but the provision of experience.

Here we may then take a step backwards. All art forms represent reality differently. Though distinction can be made between their representations of reality, more important is the way in which each respective art generates experience. This is what discourses on realism should be focused on if they are to be at all meaningful. How much does it matter how an art represents reality if sensory representation is infinite, yet its intent finite? All art seeks to provide knowledge of some sort. What one can learn from art, from experience, is practically infinite, but there is a hierarchy of lessons one can learn from the universe. That is to say, there may be one ultimate lesson that encompass all lessons. What this is, we do not know, but art as a linguistic variant seeks to one day articulate this in my opinion. There then exists a narrative singularity that necessitates all art and all mediums as unique attempts of investigating reality via experiences that provide knowledge of its simple essence. Art's faithful representation of reality can be pondered in regards to an experience of great knowledge, but not separately. We have already implied this with reference to gaming. Important is not perceiving reality, but generating affecting experiences. This process, thanks to developing technology, has become more complete and holistic - and strives to become ever more so - but reality is a mere tool. This cannot be emphasised enough. Realism is just one element of communication.

Reality defines a medium of communication. As discussed at length, reality can be measured and perceived via visible light, quantum fluctuations, gravitational pull, sonic vibrations, etc. But, the unit or element of reality utilised is subservient to the experience of knowledge it may provide. I would further posit that the verisimilitudinal aspect of the unit of reality utilised as a perceptual tool is slightly irrelevant. That it to say, far more important than how accurately reality is perceived in art is how profound, intense and simple the experience of knowledge it provides is. Why then worry about what is more believable, painting, photography, theatre or cinema? This is not a rhetorical question - we can ask it inquisitively.

There may be an argument for cinema being the most immerse art form (excluding, possibly, gaming). But, does its ability to immerse the viewer make it more capable of providing an experience of knowledge? In my opinion, not necessarily. Art exists not just as something affecting, but something constructed. Just as important as a film's affecting abilities is then its capacity to make impactful that which is translated via affective material. That is to say, alongside immersion must come a clarity of experience. In some ways, more complete sensory immersion may only cloud the process of experiencing knowledge; just because a film is visual, aesthetically and literally loud and chaotic (therefore immersive - like a Michael Bay movie), it doesn't mean that it will be more profound. Maybe a stick-man drawing can communicate more than an intense 3 hour epic? It is understanding that immersion and clarity are not one and the same, nor causally bound elements, that we can suggest that, whilst cinema may be more immersive than painting (as Metz does) it is not inherently the better medium for communicating via the provision of experience. I certainly believe that cinema is the most fascinating medium and it is one in which I can conceive of the most potential. But, in my view, we do not know the best way of communicating information, especially that of the abstract and profoundly simple kind.

Humans appear cognitively biased toward imagery - film theorists may be quick to arguing this - but this is not necessarily true. In what situation does one learn more, from seeing fire burn someone, or by being burnt themselves? This is a trick question. One learns very different things from both experiences. If one is burnt, they may know what heat and pain feels like. However, if they observe this with various heat-measuring devices, then they may gain quantitative data of a completely different class.

What are we to do with all of these thoughts and implications? It appears too hard to say. We briefly mentioned creative processes previously. The creative process involves the experience of potential. All experiences of potential may somehow and eventually be realised as limited. Alas, art exists not because it is a finite mode of communication, but because it appears rife with potential. If we may suggest that the universe is principally finite and simple, our measurement of art should concern the quality of information gleaned via its communicative, perceptual capacities. The illusion of reality is a minor part of this process - especially when one can problematise any illusion of reality to the point of exhaustion with a discourse on infinite sensory means of interfacing with reality. These many modes of sensory interface need to be explored, and many arts established and explored to their depths, so that their creative potential can be tested and maybe fulfilled. We see this process occur within art with the comings and goings of genres. Genres are one means of probing reality within one medium, and so represent just one shade of its potential abilities. If one thinks of mediums of art like they do genres of mediums, the questions of realism is revealed for what it is - an inanity. More important than realism is experience. The more variations of 'realism,' or simulations of reality, humans have at hand, the greater potential they secure in their quest toward the experience of simplicity. This is as true within a medium of art as it is across mediums.

And such concludes my articulation of the reason why essays such as Metz's On the Impression of Reality in the Cinema frustrates me. What, however, are your thoughts on all we've covered today?







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01/05/2019

The Blind Side - Orders Of Truth

Quick Thoughts: The Blind Side (2009)

A black teenager with athletic potential finds a home with a white family.


The Blind Side is an ok melodrama entire subsumed in unbearably uncomfortable dissonance. Whilst this presents a true story about trust, it is a quintessential example of a cinematic 'white saviour' story - slightly self-consciously so. The melodrama can be consumed unconsciously and a debate ignored, but there is an incredibly pertinent conflict between these two perspectives. Does The Blind Side pander to the narcissism of 'white people,' or does it subvert this by telling a true story?

I understand the argument for both sides and I have no definite conclusion to make. It appears one can never have the tools and means of answering this definitively - any person adamant on either argument appears naive as there are two truths juxtaposed in this film; on the one hand, truth concerning American history, on the other, the truth of an athlete's biography. The melodramatic presentation of both of these truths problematises the situation further. Alas, one can only risk appearing naive in taking sides here, in positioning one truth over another.

It seems evident to me that cinematic functions - especially those pertaining to photogénie and lyrosophy - require a moral process of stacking truths in a hierarchy. To understand this, one must consider pornography. Beauty, or photogénie, exists in pornographic contexts, which is to say that there is a reference to truth that one can witness even in libidinous stories of violence and sexuality. Libido is, indeed, a force narrative has always struggled to contain and process. The force of life and will, but simultaneously a source of amorality and evil, libido is troublesome. It has a tendency to present inert or impractical truths. The sight of pornography is often a truthful one; it represents human capacities ruthlessly, yet, in artistic contexts, with some moral edge. How are we to use pornographic truths? I cannot guess. However, from pornography of all places, it becomes self-evident that truth is a pervasive element of art that must be interfaced with by the spectator. That is to say, again, a spectator must judge and rank truths in accordance to their usefulness and moral character.

This is a process in much demand in The Blind Side. Alas, this film, whilst not particularly pornographic (there is an argument that the narcissistic gaze it potentially satisfies is fetishistic and sadistic in a highly subtle way), is not easily dealt with. Presented by The Blind Side is one of the most difficult demands of film criticism; moral judgement and structuralisation. Often, this is a process that does not find itself particularly heated and moral pondering and espousing a particularly free (albeit sometimes dubious) practice. But, with The Blind Side, the process is not just heated, but particularly onerous. I then leave things with you. Have you seen The Blind Side? How do you morally judge the film and rank the truths it presents?







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The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy - Power As Goodness

Thoughts On: The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-03)

A consideration of the basic thematic discourse underlying the entirety of the LOTR trilogy.


The Lord of the Rings sits deep in my bones as a film fanatic in the way Star Wars does for so many others. The mythology gripped my young mind quickly; I was raised on the extended edition trilogy, and so the fantasy and adventure moving into my unconscious long before I could make much sense of it. I watch the trilogy, at the least, once a year, but it was not until the year that has just passed that I could watch it with much more than a child's eyes. Fellowship stands out as the best in the trilogy, but each film falls into a sequence of sublime storytelling. And it is for the first time now that I begin to really see below the surface of this narrative.

Whilst I believe much of the trilogy's brilliance emerges from Tolkien's work, this will not be made reference to. (Indeed, I haven't read the entire trilogy, so the novels have very little impact on my understanding of the film). I will analyse the trilogy as an isolated cinematic adaptation whose narrative is enclosed within the frames committed to the screen. It is having established this that very many questions emerge from the earliest elements of the narrative fabula. What is are the rings of power and why do they exist?

There is great ambiguity surrounding this point despite the iconic exposition of the opening. It is said that Sauron forges the ring of power, and, later, that Sauron gave the rings (those given to each race) to men. It was men succumbing to the power of the rings that Sauron gave them that turns them to the shadow, transforms them to Ringwraiths. Did Sauron give the elves and dwarves their rings, too? This is not answered explicitly in the films, but it seems apparent. The significance of this cannot be understated; this is the birth of a mythological narrative whose subtext is rather astounding. The rings appear to represent the coming of civilisation, or at least, a new form of civilisation, a new age, as it is the rings that gave each race's leaders the strength and will to govern their people. Alas, these rings are the work of Sauron, and so their power is a manifestation of evil. This is a key motif easily picked up on throughout the trilogy: power leads to corruption and evil. This narrative axiom is implanted by the misty history of the rings, which is to say, with Sauron creating the rings of power that birth civilisation, we are told that civilisation is a contrivance of evil. Alas, again--there is greater complication. The mythological discourse opened here is fascinating. We are told that civility is not just given by evil, but that power is a product of the world's shadow. It is in embracing the products of shadow that civilisations ascend, but, with their ascent comes the rise of opposing powers. The good and naive accept the gifts of the dark and powerful, only to empower their enemy - and vice versa. However, evil underestimates goodness, as the courageous wield their power against the will of the shadow.

There is a familiar mythological ring to this story of the origin of an age or of civilisation. Suggested here is the idea that people emerge from an act of embracing evil. For humanity, Prometheus stole fire and, in turn, saw Pandora release woes upon civilisation, bottling up hope, tasking men and women to contrive this themselves. Similarly, to forge their independent existence, Eve and Adam eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; they sin, and thus welcome the suffering that will make them human. The implication of LOTR's mythos establishes power as a preeminent force in the world. The force has a fundamental relationship with evil and is outlined by an ability to control others, to organise and to manifest civilisation. Such is a rather satisfying definition of a rather difficult word in 'power'. Often, power is used to describe something equivocal to a force--as an ability to enforce one's will. This description is relevant to the implications of LOTR, but strength and will are bound, importantly, to civility and a control over people. Such a relationship facilitates the forging of a path between good and evil. If power is singularly an ability to enact one's personal will, then a gauge for moral measurement is not necessarily available. We find this to be true in many stories about powerful beings. If one being becomes singularly powerful - the most powerful entity in the universe - then their morality becomes truth. This is what Sauron intends; if he alone rules, then he alone dictates the state of reality. This, I believe, is what characterises him as evil. Evil emerges from solipsistic moral isolation. Power, however, does not inherently exist in or facilitate the manifestation of the solipsistic bubble. As suggested, power is defined by an ability to govern people. Thus, power is an irrevocably communal device - one requiring hierarchy, a leader. Goodness emerges from this definition of power. Power is being able to lead people well. This is so because leading a large group of people in a wider collective civilisation requires a universal moral bubble - or, at least, this is how a peaceful and ideal world functions.

With reflection, we can realise that there are two conundrums that emerge from this definition of power. If one wants to be singularly powerful - thus evil - they must subvert civility. Alas, if one wants to be truly good, they must become powerful. The evil must risk civilisation to secure their singular power, and the good must risk falling down the path of evil in their pursuit of power. It is because of this that the dialectic between good and evil propagates as it does throughout LOTR's trilogy. Sauron wants power as an evil entity - that is to say, he wishes to enforce his will without regard for civilisation. Alas, he can never secure this power without himself building a civilisation. His plan was then to empower other races, to build armies, only to control them--transform them into mere limbs of his evil faculties. The risk he takes in doing this turns out to be his downfall. By empowering other races, he empowers collective moral being and goodness. Though this collectively moral race face their temptations and exist on the edge of corruption, they embody true power - a cogent confluence of will and collectivisation. This is why the powerful good are fated to overcome the powerful evil. Though they exist in a state of precarity, their foundations are strong. This is why there are numerous rings of the good, but one ring of evil. Though the many rings of good are weak, they represent many collective bodies. The one ring is one body, and easily thwarted is it - or at least appears to be.

So much emerges from these implications. It is because the powerful evil have weak foundations that they may be overturned by the slightest of touches. Thus, Sam and Frodo's journey to Mount Doom. Evil has many manifests, but one heart; evade these manifests and the heart is unguarded. Goodness has its manifests, but many hearts; these many hearts form into one, and so guarded they are, even with their manifests stripped. Such is translated to narrative language many times over with each film in the series depicting innumerable evils overcome by the joining of a few hearts of good; in Fellowship, it is the founding and cleaving of the nine that represent the coming together of differing people and the sacrifices that birth good hearts. The fellowship fractures with the end of the film, but the dispersion of hearts represents the spread of goodness and hope, for if each of the small factions did not separate, then the pathway towards triumph would not be possible. That is to say, if the fellowship stayed together through the journey to Mount Doom, then the kingdoms of middle-earth would not have been united and the manifestations of evil fended off. In fact, it can easily be argued that the journey to Mount Doom would be impossible if, first, the fellowship was not founded and fractured, second, if the fellowship did not gain the allegiance of Rohan, and third, if the fellowship did not unite Rohan and Gondor before the Black Gates. It is the unification of the men of middle-earth that stages a minor confrontation between one of the purest hearts (that of a Hobbit) and the darkest heart (Sauron).

Not mentioned thus far is the role of the individual among the collective. The reason why power is bound to morality and does not have to be inherently evil, is because, though one person may secure the ability to impose and propagate their will and strength, they are judged by their actions' impact on others. A good powerful individual is made so by those they serve. Such is why introspection and self-doubt is so key to LOTR. Aragorn and Gandalf, powerful though they are, fear themselves - as do so many wise entities. The only trust they have in themselves concerns their ability to serve others, to give hope as opposed to keep it for themselves (to use the words of Aragorn). This is what qualifies them to lead and to wield power: they do not want it because they understand it is not personally theirs. The same is said of Frodo. A manifestation of naivety and innocence, Frodo is not necessarily good. He is merely pure. His goodness, however, emerges from the fact that he never assumes he can be powerful and retains such humility even when the key to the greatest power imaginable is put in his hands. His introspection and self-doubt manifest via his relationship with Gollum. Gollum is a pure heart corrupted by power. Alas, Sam is a pure heart who (almost) never even comes into contact with power. This trio is essential. Each are pure hearts, and their drama symbolises the most intimate of conflicts between good and evil. Goodness fails this trio; the ring is only destroyed because of Gollum attacking Frodo - he had decided already to keep the ring. Alas, though Frodo's heart is bared and, indeed, he falls toward shadow because of Gollum, most important is the hand that catches him: Sam. It is only because both good and bad stand beside Frodo that he succeeds; that he is pulled appropriately toward shadow and then away from it.

Demonstrated with this internal battle between good and evil is the individual component of power. Staged in the wider constraints, the battle of men lead by Aragorn, is a discourse on the collective component of power. So whilst Aragorn unifies people, manifesting the courage to lead and manifest morality collectively, Frodo unifies himself, mustering the courage to step in and then out of shadow - with much help from Sam, of course; the good do not stand alone. Such completes LOTR's rumination on power. It is when civility and the individual bare their hearts before evil that true and good power manifest and all else is overthrown.

Far more could be made mentioned of, but, it is having made this somewhat brief outline that I leave you to watch the trilogy and ponder it yourself. So, with my part done, I leave things with you. What are your thoughts?







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