Violence and AV Language (Oct 15 and 17)

This week we explored the audio visual language that surrounds violence in both film and theater. We watched Tesis (Amenábar), we read Lope de Vega’s Punishment Without Revenge and Mulvey’s theoretical piece “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.

3 Replies to “Violence and AV Language (Oct 15 and 17)”

  1. Close reading of the first scene of Tesis (Amenábar 1996):

    The Film starts with a black screen. A voice on an intercom sounds through the on-screen darkness with a message: “something unexpected has happened and we cannot continue.” We cannot continue. We cannot see. But we have to see! I am awakened inside a train, before I can ask: How did I get here? A train man repeats: “I suggest you do not look at the tracks, the man has been split in two” The camera (taking my gaze with it) follows a girl (Ángela/Ana Torrent), not from behind, but leading her. Instead of our gazes matching, they cross. I do not see what she sees.

    “Continue, continue!” a voice continues, “without looking at the tracks, there is nothing to see here”

    Some passengers put newspapers to cover their sight from meeting the tracks, as if they did not trust themselves not to look. Some passengers look but cannot be bothered, they continue about their journey to whatever destination. Other passengers salivate over the body, the show is ragging! Ángela is caught. She breaks off the line as if to see the body. The Camera (my gaze) and the gaze of Ángela become one as we, together, approach the tracks. Will I too, see a body split in two? Is this my cue to turn away and avert my gaze? Should I avert my gaze or face the reality in front of me? Time slows down as if my questioning saturates the scene. The second we are about to see the body, we are swept away, back to unknowing and innocence.

    These questions of gaze do not go away. Again, and again, and again we will have to be confronted with looking and turning away. If I look, do I enjoy by simply looking? If I turn away, am I condoning what is there by accepting it into the abyss? Can I even turn away? Can I ever really see?

  2. Close reading of Tesis (Amenábar 1996)

    One most significant and awestruck scene I observed in Tesis was Ángela turning down the brightness of the screen after she acquired the video which the professor died watching. As it gradually turned dark, only the hollowing sound of scream was present in the film with a pitch black tv set.

    The only question would be why would she do that? The content of the video is later partially shown in the film. Is she ‘afraid’ of looking cause the video might have been the cause of death for the late professor? Is she perhaps ‘afraid’ that there might be a dwelling spirit inside the video like the horror movies that we usually watch?

    But I believe that this feeling of being ‘afraid’ doesn’t match up her persona in the end cause she watches the whole video with her friend Chema. Then why would she act in such a strange way of turning down the brightness?

    To this, I believe the action of Ángela was stepping over the threshold and confronting her inner daemon. Even if she finds it repulsive to see and watch the violence, her inner daemon urges her into watching the film, which led to a compromise of turning down the brightness but listening to the sound. As she is repulsive to violence and death, she is drawn by the nature of it and continues on treading the thin line of being discovered and getting captured during the film. She finds thrill through her actions.

    Another reason for putting this particular scene in the film might be to intensify the mood. By making the scene pitch black and just letting the audience being able to listen to the sound, the director can easily give a question to the audience of whats happening inside the film? Any dreadful fantasies might rose up through this simple scene.

  3. The physical actions used in a scene of execution have profound messages in explaining why the person is being killed. This is commonly seen in contemporary crime shows, where, for example, a serial killer who feels impotent or emasculated might mutilate his female victims’ genitals. The method of killing manifests the reasons for it.

    In both Lope De Vega’s El Castigo Sin Venganza and Alejandro Amenabar’s Tesis, the plots climax with the death, or attempted death, of a central female protagonist. The woman who is the attention has to be stopped. In Vega’s play Casandra is the source of conflict between the Duke and his son’s desires. In Amenabar’s Angela asserts herself as an agent by investigating the concept of horror. Both of these murders are performed by a man in the story who the woman trusts up until she’s about to be killed by him. And both of these murders involve binding before execution.

    The act of binding seems to be a symbolic action taken against the female protagonist who in some way transgressed on social norms or asserted herself and needed to be corrected. In Lope’s play, Casandra is the vessel and keeper of purity of the house, she has disgraced it by falling in love with the Duke’s son. So she must be bound and gagged, that is, put back in her place and stripped of her voice, before the Duke tricks his son into killing her. And in the case of Angela, she has asserted her agency by investigating the movies of an obsessed, deranged serial killer. Through the act of investigating she is transgressing on his territory, so in her execution she must be tied up in order to be put back in her place and beaten in order to be punished before she is killed, although she escapes alive in the end.

    The response to the female protagonist’s transgression is understood through the physical method of her execution.

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