Voice-Over Narration as an Active Agent in Film

December 9, 2009

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I wrote this essay for my MHIS 429 Topics in Film/Video course this semester at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Special thanks to Sarah Wichlacz for her essay titled, “Issues of Narration: Voice-Over in Film” which definitely helped me in the writing of my own essay. You can see her very well written piece at http://sarahwichlacz.com/?p=74

– FlashAddict

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Voice-Over Narration as an Active Agent in Film

The use of voice-over narration can and has been used in film to help convey greater depth and meaning to the audience. Whereas on the one hand, there are some who see it as a crutch when the director or writer is unable to move along the storyline effectively within a given scene; yet on the other however, when it is used effectively, voice-over narration can be inserted as an active agent to help provide greater impact and understanding to the audience in a way that a complex actor’s performance or scenery cannot convey. It is within this context that this essay will explore individual examples of voice-over narration from select films in which both sides of the issue will be explored; by not simply analyzing each voice-over narration example as either good or bad, but looking deeper at how the context and overall delivery affect the films, scenes and actors within.

To begin with, a proper definition of voice-over narration in film must be established, “Narration, or voice-over, is used in both documentary and fiction. It may be used to deliver information, provide the point of view of an unseen character, or allow an onscreen character to comment on the action.”(Ascher and Pincus 493) Put more simply, “A narrative text is a text in which an agent relates (‘tells’) a story in a particular medium, such as language, imagery, sound, buildings, or a combination thereof.” (Bal 5) By using this standard, multiple methods of providing voice-over narration in film can be utilized to help tell their respective stories, “In documentary filmmaking some of the key stylistic questions relate to how much the filmmaker attempts to control or interact with the subjects, and to the way information is conveyed in the movie.” (Ascher and Pincus 332)

The style adopted by U.K. documentarians such as John Grierson in the 1930s and 1940s is a kind of hybrid that can involve staged events and real people (non-actors)…Many of these films use a ‘voice of God’ narration-the authoritative male voice that provides factual information and often spells out the message intended for the viewer to take from the film. (Ascher and Pincus 333)

On the other side of the spectrum, Ascher & Pincus further explain:

Cinema vérité (also called just vérité or direct cinema) films attempt to spontaneously react to events and capture life as it is lived…Many of these films use no narration or interviews and attempt to minimize the sense that the material has been influenced or interpreted by the filmmaker. (Ascher and Pincus 333)

Within this context, one of the most notable examples of the use of voice-over narration can be seen in the opening of the film, Citizen Kane (1941), “The film’s plot sets another purveyor of knowledge, the ‘News on the March’ short. We’ve already seen the crucial functions of the newsreel in introducing us both to Kane’s story and to its plot construction, with the newsreel’s sections previewing the parts of the film as a whole.” (Bordwell and Thompson 105) In essence, this scene of paramount importance was purposely written by Orson Welles in order to allow the principal characters follow-up with further details later on in the film in their own flashback narrations.

The reinforcement of the scenes, characters and events detailed in this brief montage showcasing Kane’s life over the span of only a few minutes is accentuated, as referenced earlier by Ascher and Pincus, via the deep authoritative voice in which the booming male narrator speaks, which was quite representative on the actual newsreel footage of the era. In other words, by creating a fictionalized representation of a factually based newsreel within a film and having a similar sounding voice actor provide the narration within it, Welles provided the audience with further reinforcement of the importance of Charles Foster Kane on a global scale, in which he truly was within his own Xanadu.

Further evidence of life imitating art and vice versa comes from the voice-over narration within the film, Little Children (2006) which featured the deep resonating male voice of Will Lyman as the film’s narrator. Lyman’s voice was already recognizable, even his face wasn’t, for the 125 episodes of the PBS documentary television show Frontline (1982-2009) that he has narrated. With such various titles as, A Death in Tehran (2009), Breaking the Bank (2009), and Black Money (2009), Lyman has narrated multiple episodes for the series, while remaining unseen to the audience, in which investigative journalists scour the globe looking for corruption, abuse of power and instances of government, humanitarian and ecological tragedies.

To that end, Little Children (2006) director Todd Field must have realized the impact that Lyman’s voice would have on the film’s audience as an implied and trusted broker of knowledge and wisdom. “In the history of the documentary, this voice has been for the most part that of the male, and its power resides in the possession of knowledge and in the privileged, unquestioned activity of interpretation.” (Doane 369)

One scene of particular note from the film is where the character of the husband, Richard Pierce, shows the length to which he will go in order to satiate his obsession. The scene opens up with him in his work office as his secretary heads home for the night and now suddenly alone, Richard decides to indulge his favorite pastime of late, masturbating to pictures of the internet sensation that is Slutty Kay. In comes the booming, authoritative and faceless voice of narrator Will Lyman, as the audience begins to realize the level of Richard’s obsession at not being able to truly connect with her.

Lately, Slutty Kay had become a problem. He thought about her far too often and spent hours studying the thousands of photographs available to him…Though as close as Richard sometimes felt to Slutty Kay, as much as he believed that he knew her, he could never get past the uncomfortable fact she existed for him solely as a digital image. The panties were an attempt to solve this problem, maybe a sniff or two would hurry things along so he could get back downstairs to his real life, where his wife was waiting for him; her impatience increasing by the minute…(Little Children)

To that end, the scene changes to his home office as he now tries to put on her soiled panties over his head in order to accentuate the experience, as the frame changes yet again to show Richard’s wife coming upstairs as Lyman explains her growing impatience and finds him masturbating while breathing deeply into the soiled panties. Lyman’s matter of fact and monotonous voice-over breathes, for lack of a better term, immense irony into the scene and provides a very functional backdrop in order to place such an absurd setting as a woman walking into her husband’s office and finding him masturbating to a Polaroid of a naked woman while gasping into a pair of soiled woman’s panties. “The different components of the cinematic narrator as diagramed usually work in consort, but sometimes the implied author creates an ironic tension between two of them.” (Chatman 484)

An additional aspect of voice-over narration is when the director or creative vision behind the film as a whole provides the narration themselves. Take for instance the case from the film, A River Runs Through It (1992), in which director Robert Redford took on the persona of the book’s original author, Norman MacLean, and provided the film’s flashback voice-overs.

…films often create the sense of character-narration so strongly that one accepts the voice-over narrator as if he of she were the mouthpiece of the image-maker either for the whole film or for the duration of his or her embedded story. We put our faith in the voice not created but as creator. (Kozloff 45)

After auditioning several different prominent voice-over actors, Redford was not happy with any of the takes and as a result, he decided to try it out himself. Given Redford’s long standing stature within the film industry and recognizable voice, what followed was that he was able to further personify the essence of what the author and main character experienced while growing up in small-town Montana, the trials he went through with his younger brother Paul and how the quiet and serene beauty of glacier fed streams full of trout could help heal the soul. This was especially evident in the final scene of the film in which the viewer sees what is now an elderly and frail looking Norman MacLean fishing the river alone, with Redford’s voice-over providing the full meaning as Paul reflects on his life.

Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.  Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters. (A River Runs Through It)

The next logical focus to explore is whether or not to use voice-over narration at all and how the format is different from written media for example, “Unlike in literature, in film the distinction between telling a story through verbal narration and showing it on the screen through images and action is not so easily discountable.” (Kozloff 13) A case in point for this argument comes from the multiple versions of the film, Blade Runner (1982), in which it has gone from its original theatrical release to being re-edited seven times to its most recent ‘Final Cut’. The most obvious change that was made from the original film was the removal of Deckard’s voice-over and while this had already been removed from an earlier 1992 ‘Director’s Cut,’ this final version of the film was also the only version that director Ridley Scott had complete artistic control over.

The climactic scene of the film in which the removal of the voice-over warranted greatest scrutiny was the scene near the end of the film, where on the original inception of Deckard’s monotonous voice-over was further evidence, although somewhat ambiguous, of him being a replicant (a humanoid looking robot who cannot show or feel emotion), from a viewer’s perspective, the use of the voice-over caused more controversy than it was worth according to prolific filmmaker, Frank Darabont:

There’s one area where I thought the voice-over was so clunky; it landed with such a hollow thud, was the ‘Tears in Rain.’ I remember when I first saw the movie, I’m in the theatre and I am so drawn in by what Rutger Hauer is doing and I am so drawn in by what the theme of the movie has brought us to, this magnificent moment where he is letting go of life…‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, all these moments will be lost, in time, like Tears in Rain. Time to die.’

And right as I am just…it’s like having sex and someone dumps cold water on you. Right at that moment where I am at my most emotional crescendo as a viewer, here comes this thudding, dunderheaded voice-over, ‘I don’t know why he saved my life, maybe in those last moments, he loved life more than he ever had before.’ Yes, I know that, thank you. Thank you for kicking this beautiful, delicate, emotional note that we were achieving right in the nuts. (Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner)

Conversely, in the subsequent versions of the film in which Deckard’s monologue has been removed, greater emphasis has been placed on Rutger Hauer’s performance of Roy when he releases the dove as he dies and it flies up to the dark and stormy clouds above. Layered over all of this is the minimalist orchestration by the film’s composer, Vangelis and the slightest of crescendo booming sound as Deckard slowly closes his eyes and deeply inhales as he bears witness to his former foe’s final testimony; all of which is realized without the use of the voice-over.

At the end of the shooting cycle and on the bottom of the cutting room floor, directors, editors and screenplay writers have debated the merits of inserting or removing voice-over narration in film for decades now. In some instances, overall theme, plot and character development or simply personal taste can dictate whether or not to use voice-overs to help provide the audience with a greater understanding of what they are seeing on the screen. To that end however, and when it is an active agent in the storytelling process and manufactured to cater to the targeted audience in subtle and imperceptible ways, then voice-over narration can help bridge the gap between what can and cannot be shown on film. But if it is used in a contrived and convoluted manner, then the opposite can occur and further alienate the audience from being able to fully appreciate the level of understanding that the filmmakers are trying to achieve.

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Works Cited

A River Runs Through It. Dir. Robert Redford. Allied Filmmakers, 1992

Ascher, Steven, and Pincus, Edward. The Filmmaker’s Handbook. New York: PLUME, 2007

Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

Bordwell, David, and Thompson, Kirstin. FILM ART: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen, eds. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Chatman, Seymour. “The Cinematic Narrator.” Braudy and Cohen, 473-86.

Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. Dir. Charles de Lauzirika, Frank Darabont, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_nsSxblpoI

Doane, Mary Ann. The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980

Kozloff, Barbara. Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Film. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

Little Children. Dir. Todd Field. New Line Cinema, Bona Fide Productions, Standard Film Company, 2006.

Wichlacz, Sarah. 27 May 2006. Issues of Narration: Voice-Over Film. http://sarahwichlacz.com/?p=74

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Blade Runner – Vangelis Music Video

July 22, 2009

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Now this is what movies and movie soundtracks should be like…The Director’s Cut is one of the greatest films of all time – so glad that Ridley Scott was able to release it because the original got butchered by the studio.
– FlashAddict

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John DeVeaux – Portfolio

May 17, 2009

To download a high-res PDF version of my portfolio, please click the link below (17 MB in size):

http://www.ecuad.ca/~jdeveaux/john_deveaux_portfolio.pdf

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John DeVeaux - Portfolio

About the Artist

John DeVeaux is a third year Film, Video and Integrated Media student at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Classifying himself as a Digital Artist with future aspirations to be an accomplished professional in either the film or video game industry, his work focuses on combining a wide range of media including crowd sourcing, data capture, film/video, installation, storytelling and internet blogging.

Artist Statement

clean   [kleen] -er, -est, adverb,  -er, -est, verb –adjective
1. characterized by a fresh, wholesome quality: the clean smell of pine.
2. free from all writing or marking: a clean sheet of paper.
3. complete; unqualified: a clean break with tradition.
+
sim·ple   [sim-puhl] -pler, -plest, noun –adjective
1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.: a simple matter; simple tools.
2. not elaborate or artificial: a simple style.
3. not ornate or luxurious: a simple gown.
+
ef·fec·tive   [i-fek-tiv] –adjective
1. producing the intended or expected result: effective steps toward peace.
2. creating a deep or vivid impression; striking: an effective photograph.
3. able to accomplish a purpose: an efficient secretary.
=
de·sign   [di-zahyn] –verb (used with object)
1. to plan the form and structure of: to design a new bridge.
2. the combination of details or features of a picture, building, etc.: the design on a bracelet.
3. to intend for a definite purpose: a scholarship designed for foreign students.

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World of Warcraft: The Burning Addiction
Research Project – ECUAD Creative Process 2007

World of Warcraft: The Burning Addiction

For this project, I wanted to focus on what extent people would spend time from their real lives on their virtual ones. I then went to the Alcoholics Anonymous website and took their manifesto of questions that they ask potential addicts (ie: Have you ever missed school or work due to alcohol?) and then remixed the questions to ask my fellow Warcraft players (ie: Have you ever missed school or work due to Warcraft?) and was amazed at how honest their responses were.

Click the link below to download the full project PDF and explore the addictive qualities of video games in greater detail (1 MB in size):

http://www.ecuad.ca/~jdeveaux/addiction/addiction_print.pdf

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World of Warcraft: Haikus
Video Editing and Production – ECUAD Video Art 2009

This Video Art project required us to use found footage and splice it together within the theme of a haiku and I chose to focus again on World of Warcraft. Several different scenes from official game play trailers were used along with my own poem sequences in order to create its own unique storyline set to a haunting yet beautiful soundtrack.

I also received some additional publicity from a major World of Warcraft fan blog and as a result, have now had over 6,000 views on YouTube:

http://www.wowinsider.com/2009/05/12/wow-moviewatch-world-of-warcraft-haikus/

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Medal of Honor: European Assault
Poster Design – ECUAD Design Essentials 2005

Medal of Honor: European Assualt

With creative control to choose our own subject matter, I decided to create this poster for the soon to be released add-on of the popular Medal of Honor video game using World War II imagery and incorporating pertinent graphics and typeface layouts, with the centerpiece being this iconic image of the D-Day landing.

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Emily Carr Foundation Exhibition
Poster Design – ECUAD Digital Basics 2008

Emily Carr University Foundation Exhibition

In my Digital Basics course, our instructor challenged us to create our own poster design that would be submitted for that year’s Foundation Exhibition. The design that I chose focused on a clean and precise grid layout, with the typeface echoing this overall theme as well.

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Read Between the Lies
Poster Design – ECUAD Visual Communication 2008

Read Between the Lies

With an overall political theme required for this project for my Visual Communications course, I decided to focus on the ongoing tragedy occurring in Iraq. I wanted my critique to be bold and biting, yet symbolic at the same time by using George W. Bush’s own words being contradicted by documented facts on the ground within the layout of the American flag.

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The Starlight Express
Poster Design – ECUAD Design Essentials 2005

The Starlight Express

One of the first poster design projects that I worked on in the Design Essentials program at ECUAD and BCIT, I wanted the overall theme to reflect a bygone age in which the Royal Hudson train serviced passengers from Vancouver to Squamish. This was all tied in with the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics along with using Futura as the typeface.

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International Campaign to Ban Landmines
Layout Design – ECUAD Design Essentials 2005

International Campaign to Ban Landmines

This layout design was created to reflect on the tragedy that landmines cause in third world countries by mirroring two family units. Where the Nuclear Family is shown with the requisite two parents and two children, the Landmine Family is shown with obvious limbs missing and the daughter being replaced by a tombstone due to a landmine explosion.

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Tribeca Film Festival
Layout Design – ECUAD Design Essentials 2005

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

Utilizing still images from the films playing in that year’s festival, a double-sided handbook spread was made highlighting film screenings and appearances in a clean and elegant design.

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Phoenix Rising v1.0
3D Design – ECUAD Design One 2007

Phoenix Rising v1.0

These sculptures were created for my Design One class as the project called for us to construct new and unique 3D sculptures by combining a singular object in a repetitive fashion so that the original object would get lost in the sum of the whole of the new piece. Version 1.0 is a freestanding structure and able to balance on the tips of plastic spoons.

Phoenix Rising v2.0
3D Design – ECUAD Design One 2007

Phoenix Rising v2.0

Version 2.0 was created as an alternative and two interpretations that I have with this sculpture are that of a Phoenix Rising out of flames (hence the title of the pieces) or of a frame-by-frame rotation of a high board diver tucking in as he falls to the water below.

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OBSCENE
Flipbook – ECUAD Digital and Interactive Arts 2008

OBSCENE

Wanting to play on my audience’s moral standards, this flipbook showcased a woman performing an otherwise overtly sexualized activity, yet because I enlarged and hyper pixilated the original video footage, the viewer is not able to immediately ascertain what they are viewing. On initial viewing, they may in fact realize what they are seeing, but due to their personal embarrassment, may not give in to such puerile thoughts.

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HDR Porteau Cove
HDR Photography – ECUAD Digital and Interactive Arts 2009

HDR Porteau Cove

On a very windy and cold January afternoon, my girlfriend and I drove up to Whistler from Vancouver and stopped briefly at the Provincial Park in Porteau Cove where I wanted to capture the incredible whitecap waves and this beautiful island in the distance. I took my original shot into Photoshop and digitally manipulated it in order to create this much richer and vibrant image.

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Oppositions
Design Exploration – ECUAD Design One 2007

Oppositions

Playing around in Illustrator for one of my Design One projects in 2007, I became transfixed in creating artificial 3D perspective illustrations on a digital 2D plane that draws the viewer in to mesmerize and make them dizzy.

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Compression
Typography Exploration – ECUAD Visual Communication 2008

Compression

For this typography exploration, I decided on taking words at their literal meaning and creating abstract illustrations out of the words themselves. Compression being a thematically delicious word to utilize in such a fashion, the word is repeated and imploded without end into itself.

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Poster Girl
Illustrator Project – ECUAD Design Essentials 2005

Poster Girl

One of my first major digital illustrations, this image has always been a favorite of mine and its title harkens back to the process of origination by using the Posterize tool in Photoshop to create the initial blueprint and then cleaning it all up within Illustrator.

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ROLEX Submariner
Illustrator Project – ECUAD Design Essentials 2005

ROLEX Submariner

Another of my digital illustrations, I spent over 20 hours on this perfecting every detail in order to match the precision of the original watch itself. Created entirely in Illustrator, this illustration could substitute for the original any day.

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Idris Salih Photography
Website Design, Identity, Logo 2005

IDRIS SALIH Photography

IDRIS SALIH Photography

One of my freelance web design clients back in 2005, I was originally hired to just design and produce his portfolio site, but after seeing the logo and identity that he had been using, I challenged myself to provide him with a new one which would reflect the high contrast and starkness that is representational of his b/w portraiture photography and he loved it.

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John Fortunato Photography
Website Design 2005

John Fortunato Photography

Another of my freelance web design clients from a few years back, his work reflected a lot of what my design philosophy entails as well: clean + simple + elegant = design. With that in mind, I decided to use a clean palette with a lot of white space and simple, yet intuitive navigation, in order to allow the photographs to stand out and have greater impact on the viewer.

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My Personal Journey

April 9, 2009
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For my Video Art class at Emily Carr, I decided to move forward with the “Personal Journeys” project and so I went ahead and recorded the story of the day my mom died from ovarian cancer in 1994 and the Journey that I and my family went through that day and made a video about it. I published it on YouTube last night and wanted to share it with all of you:
– FlashAddict

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John DeVeaux is a second year Film, Video and Integrated Media student at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Classifying himself as a Digital Artist with future aspirations to work in either the film or video game industry, his work focuses on combining a wide range of media including crowd sourcing, data capture, film/video, installation, storytelling and web based material.

My Personal Journey tells the story of the day John’s mother died from ovarian cancer in 1994 and features the artist providing a solitary monologue over a black screen with white text providing an ongoing narrative, as he describes the mental images that haunt him to this day.

Inspiration for this video comes from Derek Jarman’s film, Blue, which showcases the director looking back on his life as he was losing his sight and dying from AIDS. The film is 79 minutes in length and features a single shot of saturated blue covering the entire frame of the screen.

My Personal Journey is also part of an ongoing digital art project dealing with personal storylines about significant or memorable Journeys in peoples respective lives and can be viewed at:

http://personaljourneys.wordpress.com


A Lonely Sky

February 21, 2009

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This is a great short film that I found earlier today – a true diamond in the rough – great special effects, great story and great performances all around, including Keir Dullea, who played David Bowman in 2001!
– FlashAddict
– edit – The embedding has been disabled, so just click in the middle of the video box and it will open up a new tab in your browser and take you directly to YouTube to watch the videos…

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In 1947, a test pilot who will risk his life to break the sound barrier, is forced to question his reasons and abilities by a strange, yet familiar man…

http://www.talantisfilms.com


Air India 182 – Trailer

February 7, 2009

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This is one of the films we were asked to review and possibly write an essay on for my Reading Media Culture course at Emily Carr. I viewed it on Wednesday afternoon and almost wept in the library while watching some of the most profound scenes. Please take the time to learn more about this tragedy as it provides a commentary for ALL Canadians to reflect on…
– FlashAddict

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On June 22, 1985, Air India 182 left Montreal, bound for New Delhi. Four hours after takeoff, a bomb ripped through the baggage compartment, killing all 329 people on board. It was the most deadly act of air terrorism in history before 9/11. The film counts down the final weeks and hours before Air India 182 disappeared off Irish radar screens and we sleepwalked into the era of international terrorism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_182


Reading Media Culture – Friday’s class notes

January 19, 2009

FIRST WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT DUE NEXT WEEK – NEEDS TO BE PRINTED – NOT EMAILED!!!
Summarize in 500 words (2 pages) one of the readings for next week
– Digital Encounters – deal with animation and interface
– Introduction to Gramophone – linking technologies / theorizing military and ideological reasoning behind the technologies

MEDIATION
– film, video and media were used to expand our minds to make us speculate and understand what Egoyan was up to when he made the film, Calendar
– we are all media consumers, producers
– medium = plural of media = collective of mass types of media
– ceramics, painting, writing = media as well (think outside the box to what is considered media and artists who create them are still media makers)
– systems or vehicles for the transmission of ideas or entertainment = transportation method
– media are the materials that communicate – early examples, hieroglyphs, alphabet, radio, moving image…
– the human body produces a form of mediation such as shown in the public performance (dance, spoken word, music…)
– Calendar had multiple types of media and media technologies listed
– translation, transcription and interpretation or size have an effect on the distribution method and overall interpretation that the media has on the audience (ie: watching a movie on your iPod vs. watching it on an iMax screen)
– all media give shape to experience – human experiences are affected
– selectivity of media and method of distribution helps set the tone of the piece (amplify, extends, restricts or prohibits)
– may open or close doors (reveal, conceal)

Issue of memory / morality
– rise of video distribution has enhanced the dissemination of culture, thought, ideas and art can be compared to the Guttenberg press – more people who can read and access information
– the loss that results is that people do not have to remember anything when they can simply look it up
– medium is another term for language (create dialog and communicate with an audience and articulate an idea or way of thinking)
– The medium is the Message
– mode of transmission that forms part of our total environment
– in the film Calendar, the telephone becomes a medium that mediates communication between two people on either end of the phone
– character relationships are mediated through the various technologies shown in the film (phone, video camera, answering machine, many different languages, written notes and letter, human body of Egoyan’s wife in the way she interacts with the guide)

Marshall McLuhan
– canadian scholar who embraced various media technologies during the 1960’s
– the professor in the film Videodrome, by David Cronenberg was a satire of him


– book called Understanding Media – Extensions of Man and Guttenberg Galaxy
– metaphor of a paradox – medium is the message – global village
– most important = tools to provide understanding technology
– all technological advances produce a new type of sensorial experience and alters human embodiment and reaction to the technology
– seduction and power of media technology – humans become mesmerized by technology
– called his ideas prose so they are designed as thought pieces to change perspectives in the reader
– writings were prophetic – anticipated the persuasiveness of the extent of media technologies available to the general public today
– cross-disciplinary media has further contributed to his idea of the global village and is being documented by a new generation of media savvy artists
– size of the day changed for many with the introduction of the electric light = communication media with no overt content
– message of electric light = purest form of information because it makes thing instant – acceleration of time
– invention of electrical light irrevocably changed human culture (revolutionary media)

“The message of electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, persuasive and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone and TV, creating involvement and depth.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gutenberg_Galaxy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understanding_Media

Mothlight – Stan Brakhage

– this is used as an example of McLuhan’s ideation about technology being required to disseminate information
– the purest form of watching this film would be to watch it on film and have the actual light to shine through the moth wings onto a screen

MEDIA SPECIFICITY ESSENTIALISM
– what are the properties common to all media and what and what are the specific to individual types of media – what are the properties associated with that media? (ie: film vs video vs photography vs print vs painting vs sculpture…) – what is essential for the medium to consist of in order to convey the associated ideation to the audience?
– McLuhan talks about when we use the medium for a particular purpose, it becomes a part of that purpose (form of content)
– subscribe to the idea that the medium that is chosen to convey the art that that technology becomes prominent and has a voice
– technologies become interpretative frameworks – representation is a major theme of this course
– what messages are encoded in the choices made in how they publish their work
– ie: Fast Film
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td6UObEEaQQ
– brain shifting = ability to question to what you as the audience are viewing – what is the artist trying to convey to me and not in any other way?
– process by media and process of mediation interact with one another
– personal, social consequence of particular types of media – introduction of TV changed the family dynamic (eat dinner at the table or in front of the tv)

FUJI – by Robert Breer (1974)
– an experimental animation – very original for its time – good use of rotoscoping – animating over existing film stock and combining film footage with animated overlays
– framing an artwork is a method of mediation (process of inclusion and exclusion)
– composing the frame and deciding more importantly what is in the frame is also an act of mediation
– framing devices used in both Calendar and Fuji
– page 375 (bordwell & thompson) – use of rotoscoping – use of motion picture footage and print over it with frame by frame animation or otherwise manipulate
– original derivation comes from motion picture (series of images)
– motion capture is a form of rotoscoping (different but related)
– Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly are contemporary examples of this process
– window frame of the picture frame is on display in Fuji = frame within a frame
– 24 views of Mount Fuji is mediated by this footage of the place on the train and looking out of the window and then further extrapolated by the rotoscoping
– technological applications that appear in the film (line art, colour splotches) become mediations in their own right as well as existing as the sum of the piece
– perspective is dictated by the person who took the footage (north american tourist visiting Japan and the inaccessibility to outsiders = culture is alien to him)
– commentary on representation – as a cultural outsider truthfully represent that culture or that cultural icon in a media presentation
– the subject matter is further mediated by his body language and interaction with Japanese people on the train
– he’s not trying to be politically correct and act with reverence to such an iconic Japanese symbol – he was simply trying to illustrate his personal connection to Mt. Fuji as a tourist and as an artist — he’s acknowledging his own subjective, highly mediated experience of Mt. Fuji

Calendar – by Atom Egoyan
– deals with issues of tourism and also uses framing devices
– various storylines run through the film and they each have their own transmission mode
– the film itself exists as a signature medium to begin with – base layer for the other transmission methods to be projected
– video footage within the film acts as above as a frame within a frame so as the audience to experience and feel different emotions then the base film itself
– video camera is mobile and handheld lacking the resolution of the high-end production film camera
– a trauma has been inflicted on the Armenian people by the Ottoman/Turkish empire – not overtly referenced yet that is the reason why the Churches were abandoned and now revered as holy shrines
– they were the headquarters of religious identity and for the christian armenian population but also their own headquarters of population control (christian dogma being forced on the masses)
– cultural tourist in Armenia but also in his own marriage – without knowledge of what the significance of the churches signify, but more importantly without knowledge of the significance of the growing relationship between his wife and the guide
– ideation of separation and language barriers are developed and referenced
– obsession – he becomes paranoid at the aspect of feeling estranged of losing understanding of the situation
– interesting duality in the fact that Egoyan himself appears in it and plays the part of the fool and not understanding the importance of what the churches represent to the history of the massacre of the Armenian people – he would eventually make a future film called Ararat which specifically addresses this massacre, which is still denied by the Turkish government to this day
– further framing is shown in Egoyan’s kitchen as he has multiple dinner encounters with several different escorts, yet whom each are a different cultural background and speak different languages
– the phone scenes are further compared as each escort asks to use the phone and make outgoing calls vs. his ex wife making incoming calls
– there is a sick fascination for Egoyan to reconstruct the visceral and deeply hurtful experience of losing his wife in order to create the urge to write the letter
– forced alienation is the message being portrayed in each location (Armenia, kitchen)
– idea that memory is as collective as it is individual – community of two and individual conscience of the cameraman
– engages in a pathetic way in how he responds to his lack of interest in the history behind the churches and also in his pathetic attempt to write the letter but only with the reconstruction of traumatic memories with the escorts

http://www.ecuad.ca/~rburnett/calendar.html

A new type of media permeates the scene, a new problem of memory can be observed. (positive and negative charge – change for both good and bad)