Critical and contextual awareness. Film analysis.
The productions I have looked at for this assignment are Django Unchained, Four Lions, Schindler’s list and Bend it like Beckham. All of the films are contemporary because the films are not very old, all made in the last 25 years but they may have been influenced by historical events apart from Bend it like Beckham where the film just shows how a culture affects the life of a normal teenage girl. I chose these films because I believe they are good to use when discussing how race, religion, gender and ethnicity are represented in the film industry. I will also discuss what theories can be applied to the films.
In the opening of Django unchained, there are slaves in chains walking barefoot. This scene had dark lighting and has shots of the slaves feet with chains around then. This suggests to the audience that they are pitied and treated poorly. It makes the audience feel empathy because of how they are treated almost like animals being sold and transported. This scene shows that the film is about the slavery of black people. This is due to the history of the World and how this certain ethnicity were considered as objects instead of people. They were used as slaves and were treated poorly because of their ethnicity. The ethnicity of the white people are not specified in the film, however, as their race is white, they are represented as powerful people. We see how black people are less valued than white people in the film because white people are superior. White people are in charge and seem as more important. They are empowered compared to the black people in the film. Django Unchained influenced by and made to show the public how black people were treated in the 17th, 18th and 19th century until it was finally abolished. Throughout the rest of the film, we can see that other black people are still being used as slaves while Django slowly gains more power and confidence in being treated equally to white people. The scene with the brittle brothers supports this idea because it shows Django being powerful and confident in retaliating. This is until we get the scene where they meet Calvin J. Candie. We see that this man treats black people as slaves but in a different way. He uses the men to fight showing that he is a cruel man and enjoys violence. When they get to the Candyland, we see that the the character that Samual L. Jackson plays is treated differently to the other slaves as he worked for Clavin’s father. He is not treated as equally as white people because he is like a butler but he is not treated as bad as the other black people and not treated as a slave because he can openly do what he wants.
I think that the Alvarado theory can be applied to this film because the ethnic minority are black people and they are pitied by the audience for being treated as slaves. Scenes where black people are pitied in the film include the scene at the very beginning of the film and also the scene where Broomhilda is locked inside the hotbox, making the audience feel empathy and pity. I think that the film has a passive and an active audience. The audience can be passive because the film is based on true historical events such as slavery but they can also obtain their own opinion of the storyline and whether what happened in the film is actually true or not. I think that some of the audience may be active because they may have already developed their own opinion of slavery from their own knowledge and experience. Not every white person in the film is as racist and acts as a superior. Dr King Shultz is an example. He sees black people to be equal with white people and should not be treated poorly and as badly as they are.
The four lions is another film I watched for this essay. From the beginning of the film, we notice that they are Muslim. In the mese en scene, we notice a gun and a flag behind them to suggest that they are terrorists. It was mentioned in the film how they were planning a bombing. They believe that they are doing the right thing for their religion but I noticed that not one point in the film did they pray and made me thought that although they are willing to harm themselves and others, they may not take their religion as seriously as they say they do. The filmmakers may have done this consciously to show that the muslims in the four lions do not represent muslims as a whole, just terrorists. All four of the men are muslim, and later another joins in the plan, one of the men are white. He may have converted to Islam, but he still doesn’t seem to fit in with the group, most likely because of his race. He in unfamiliar with the language Urdu and gets frustrated when the others speak the language around him because he does not understand what they are saying. The others make fun of him because of this and he has over the top views such as “If you buy chocolate orange, you’re a jew” which none of the viewers would think are true. I think that film represents the religion in a bad light and suggests that they are violent and threatening as well as stupid because of their impulsive decisions. However, we see that not all muslims are like this because of how Omar’s brother behaves yet he is the person being watched because he actually looks like a muslim and behaves the way his religion expects him to. Omar and his group however, do not always look like muslims because of the way they dress and behave. Omar is not a typical muslim because he does not follow his religion closely. He does not have control of his wife and has a more British ethnicity like the others because they all seem to relate to more British things than Pakistani things like the song “Dancing in the moonlight”.
There are many different terrorist attacks that have taken place and this film is supposed to influence the audience to believe what happens before hand and the lead up to the attacks. The Boston bombing of the marathon in 2013 may influence the audiences opinion of terrorists because it happened after the film was made yet they would have seen and developed an opinion of terrorists just from seeing this film. I think that because they are dumb and make bad choices, the hypodermic needle theory could be applied to the film as the audience is led to believe that this is what terrorists are and how they behave. Another event that may have influenced the audiences opinion is the 9/11. After this event, people started to fear the Islamic religion and seen almost all muslims as terrorists.
The next film I watched in Schindler’s List. Straight away, I am able to recognise which historical event influenced the production of this film. This film is about a man, during the Holocaust, trying to help the Jews and tries his best to keep them alive. The film shows how Jews were treated during the Holocaust. It is a film Noir and uses Chiaroscuro. The lighting is dark. Throughout the film is a negative energy and makes the audience feel empathetic for the Jews. The lighting and camera angles emphasise how badly the Jews were treated. One particular scene where the Jews are treated badly is when the Nazi’s raid the Ghettos and shoot any Jew that does not comply with their orders. The religion is represented in a bad way because of the way that they are treated by the Germans. Although we may view the Germans as bad people, we find that it is the Nazis who are bad and that the Germans are not at fault. During the film, we see that the Jews are treated badly by the Nazi’s and so influences the audience’s opinion of them.
I think that the audience is a passive audience because they are being shown what happened through the Holocaust and representing the Germans in a bad light. I think that the hypodermic needle theory can be applied to this film because the audience are practically being told what to think instead of being able to make their own choices. However, once we see the purpose of what Schindler is doing, it starts the change the pinion of the audience and they are then able to form their own opinion making them an active audience.
The final film I chose to analyse is ‘Bend it like Beckham’. This film is about an indian girl named Jess wanting to play football, but because of her family heavily trusting and following their culture, they do not support her decisions. The film represents the typical Indian family, not in a bad light but nor a good light. We see how strict they are considering the culture they belong to. The women are expected to look after the house and family, to cook and to raise the children in a typical Indian family. I don’t think that the film is based on any events, it just highlights what a typical Indian family is and how unsupportive it may be towards some people who want to think outside the box and try new things. The film could also be trying to represent woman in a certain light. Being a footballer is not seen as a common goal for woman. Being a stay at home mother and looking after the family is considered a ‘normal’ job for a typical Indian woman. Being a footballer is not considered a ‘normal’ job for any woman, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. I think that the film is trying to make a point of showing how stereotypes can be broken and that culture should not get in the way of your goal.
Most of the shots throughout the film are long shots. This is because they are trying to establish the location as much as they can. Throughout the film, it shows where she is and what she is doing, or rather what she is not “supposed” to be doing. I think that the Enigma code could be applied to this film because it is representing Jess wanting to be something more than what her culture expects her to be and so the audience is encouraged to watch more of the film to find out the outcome of the situation.
I think that in each of these films, there is one stereotype. In Django Unchained, I didn’t notice any stereotypes but rather the defeat of a stereotype. Django plays the hero in the film which is usually unexpected in such films, especially when they are about slavery in the 19th century. In the scene with the brittle brothers, he said, “I like the way you die, boy”. This quote is unpredicted and could be quite amazing when seen because it looks as though he’s taking a stand, unusual for a slave. In the four lions, I don’t think there are any stereotypes but more that the film is trying to create stereotypes. The film is trying to suggest that terrorists dumb and stupid, reckless and irresponsible and in general have absolutely no idea of what they are doing. In Schindler’s list, there are points where stereotypes are suggested. For example, the Nazi’s make a point of measuring their noses because Jews stereotypically have large noses. Otherwise, I don’t think there are any other stereotypes in the film. From experience, many people thought that Germans were are fault of what happened in the Holocaust. After watching this film, many people would finally understand that many Germans were unaware of the event and that a select few were the main cause. In Bend it like Beckham,I don’t think there are any stereotypes. The film is just representing a typical Indian family. Instead of showing stereotypes, the film highlights what actually happens in an Indian family who follows their culture to closely. After analysing the films, I have some idea of how I need to represent different genders, races and ethnicities. I know that it is important to represent them in different ways to create contrast and involve the audience in making an opinion of a specific person whether it be bad or good. I have taken some inspiration from some of the films that I analysed. For example, in the four lions, if in my future work I have muslims characters in the production, I would represent them in a good light unless they are planning an attack like Omar and his group.
In conclusion, I have found that in film production, no matter the situation, whether it be intentional or unintentional, different races, genders, ethnicities and religions will be represented in some sort of way and would be influencing the opinion of the audience. I know that representing them in different ways is important because if they had no representation or stereotypes were not included, then the film would not be as interesting the audience as you want it to be. It may be dull and have no contrast in any way. Every film has played a part in shaping the opinion of society today. There are many other film including the ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ representing religion, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ representing race, and ‘The Help’ representing gender and also race.
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