BLUNT

Looked at this again. Still like it 🙂

A piece of Pafuri

When Life Throws Us A Curveball, It’s Sometimes Much More Tumulous From Our Own Perspective, Than From An Exterior One. We May Feel Flung Around, And Hurt By Something An Outsider Wouldnt Understand.

This Is What I Set Out To Explore In This Experimental Piece. A Simple Worded Message Can Cut Much Deeper, Even If It Seems Blunt. I Call It A Papercut, A Blunt Papercut.

Camera: 5D MkII
Lens: 50mm USM
Filter: Tiffen Polariser

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Signs, Symbols and Metaphors in 2001: a Space Odyssey

Introduction
Stanley Kubrik prided himself on inserting subliminal messages, symbols, metaphors and any manner of sub-visual meanings into his films. And his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey is a very good example to illustrate the point, if not the best. In this piece I will attempt to identify and explain a few of these phenomena, focussing on symbols, signs and metaphors present in the film.

Symbol
2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that is filled to the brim with symbols. These symbols usually follow a theme that is reinforced over and over, and one of these recurring elements are glowing eyes, first seen on the leopard, which is a symbol of elitism in 2001.

Another example is the spherical space craft that carries Heywood Floyd from the orbiting space station to the Clavius moon station. As it is docking, it resembles a head with glowing eyes, as a symbol of Heywood Floyd’s elite status. The glowing eyes are more pronounced in the monitor on the left side of the scene. In addition, during the opening shot of the next scene, the photographer in the meeting room has reflective cuff links that resemble the glowing eyes of the leopard. His plaid suit, both jacket and pants, are suggestive of the repetitive design of the leopard’s fur.

The glowing eye of HAL is pervasive on-board Discovery One as an obvious symbol of domination and control. And finally, the 3 solo space pods on board Discovery One are metaphors for eye balls, given the white colouring, the centre view port corresponding to the pupil, and surrounding radiating design resembling the iris. During the two outside missions in which Dave removes the AE-35 unit and Frank attempts to put back, their space pods reflect a small source of light in their view ports as they rotate. With the second pod, it is HAL controlling the pod in order to kill Frank. These reflections of light in the eye-like pods are the same glowing eye symbols as with the predatory leopard.

Sign
In a film so filled with symbols and metaphors it is rather hard to find a sign that points to something specific in the way that a sign would. But in doing research and realising the strong possibility for the monoliths to represent the film screen I came across a bit of information that closely resembles the function of a sign, albeit in hidden way. One of the main characters Heywood Floyd also related to the Elitist symbolism above, and the strong possibility of false-flag symbols around the cinema screen = monolith parallels, is an anagram for defy holy wood. This probably means a couple things.

Kubrick is calling on us to defy the Hollywood-type false-flag deceptions that are orchestrated by certain government groups and are played upon the movie screen of the national psyche. What Heywood and his inner circle did using the staged alien artefact “discovery” is an example of this. This is a common tactic used by groups within governments, see Wikipedia’s entry on “false flag”. To defy Hollywood seems to have been a recurring theme with Kubrick. There has also been political commentaries interwoven symbolically into 2001 at many places.

Metaphor
Finally the design of the Discovery ship seems to hint of many things, the bone thrown by the ape, an eyeball on a stem or a ball and chain. Its spherical front end appears smaller from outside than it does inside.

The Discovery’s design seems to fulfil several metaphors at once, but there’s a very blatant one, where its spherical front section has grey stripes or bands that are faintly similar to those of Jupiter, and if the Discovery sphere is intended to visually mirror Jupiter then the open pod bay doors could be a parallel of Jupiter’s great red spot.

Bowman’s survival of the vacuum of space, could also be explained by this metaphor of the discovery as a planet. He survives because there symbolically is an atmosphere to be breathed. That helps to link the Discovery also playing the role of the earth, and most likely the moon as well, thanks to it’s grey colour.

In conclusion
This film has far to many interpretations for the world to ever come to an absolute conclusion as to what it meant, and thus the best way to approach it is most likely to decide what it means for ones self. Many people will be frustrated by the sheer amount of symbols and other subtext included in a film like this, but without prime examples of what film is capable of, examples like 2001, we risk being stuck in a loop of mediocre normality. Perhaps this film still has a few secrets locked up in its secret symbols, and if after almost 60 since its release we still find new meanings, what will the next 60 hold for its interpretation?

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Viewer engagement analysis of Matthew Bennell: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

In Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978), a small group of close-knit friends are thrust into the centre of an alien invasion, albeit a peculiar one. This group of people slowly discover that the residents of San Francisco are being replaced with emotionless alien clones. Even though the film has a ensemble cast, most of the action is centred around Matthew Bennell, and his developing love affair with Elizabeth Driscoll (Invasion of the Body Snatchers 2014).

How are viewers coaxed into engaging with Matthew Bennell, a seemingly plain man, and what leads them to sympathise with his character in the light of the absurd events that ensue during the course of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978)?

By applying Coplan’s (2009) methods in understanding empathy and character engagement, and by using examples from the film alongside my own reasoning, I will attempt to explain how viewers cognitively engage with the characters in this suspenseful film. This will show how recognition, alignment, allegiance and mimicry might influence viewers’ emotional and cognitive engagement with Matthew Bennell, and inform the films so-called structure of sympathy (Coplan 2009).

RECOGNITION
According to Coplan (2009) there are three levels of engagement present during the cognitive process of viewer engagement, of which recognition is the first. Recognition builds the characters as individual, constant human agents in the viewers’ minds (Coplan 2009:102), and in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978) this is prevalent from the beginning.

After the opening scenes with Elizabeth Driscoll, the viewers are immediately put in the day-to-day world of Matthew Bennell, an inspector for the Department of Health as he investigates a French restaurant for health violations. Matthew has a certain unwavering nature about him, as well as a tenacity for his work, which after finding the restaurant unsanitary, leaves him at odds with the management and workers.

This introduction to the character, in his day-to-day dealings, eases the viewers into recognising Matthew as an individual functioning in the society presented. Besides that, it also offers a glimpse into his personality, but I will expand on that in alignment.

If the filmmaker chose to introduce Matthew like Elizabeth, simply happening upon her in the park, or like the other characters introduced later, in the middle of action, the viewer wouldn’t be given the chance to place Matthew as an individual, and as the anchor in the film. It is very important for the viewers to firmly place him in the world that is presented, through what Coplan (2009:102) calls recognition.

ALIGNMENT
Alignment fits into the structure of sympathy as an important bridge between recognition and allegiance. Coplan (2009:102) states alignment as the way a film’s narrative leads viewers to access a character’s thoughts and emotions, alongside and as a result of, the character’s actions.

In the part where Matthew breaks into Elizabeth’s house to find her, we are introduced to Matthew’s protective and proactive traits. Whereas in previous parts of the film other characters had started reacting in adverse ways to the invasion of human bodies, it takes Matthew longer because of his rational way of thinking. The filmmaker decides to do two things in this part, confirm Matthew’s caring affection for Elizabeth, and firmly put him at odds with the menace of the body snatchers. From this point onward, these two attributes guide Matthew’s actions for the rest of the film.

Due to the nature of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978), it is important for viewers to understand a character’s thoughts and feelings. If not, all the actions performed would seem completely unmotivated, especially if the relationships were shallow. Kaufman however manages to portray the interactions Matthew has with the rest of the group very well, and to good emotional effect. As other characters interact with Matthew, though they may be saying more about their own feelings, through his presence in the situation a viewer learns a lot about Matthew’s thoughts and feelings.

Kaufman uses other characters to inform the viewer of where Matthew is at any point in his film. Almost like a sounding board for his own developing thoughts. And through scenes like the rescue of Elizabeth from her house, the viewer can firmly place Matthew and his goals in the world presented.

ALLEGIANCE
Regarding allegiance Coplan (2009:102) describes it as a process through which the film leads viewers to sympathise with or against characters. Throughout the film the viewer is drawn closer and closer to Matthew as a character. First recognising him as a individual, then in understanding his feelings and thoughts. Through all the trials he faces the viewer is lead to sympathise with his struggle, and his admirable, yet futile attempts to help his friends.

An example of where these factors culminate for the viewer is in Matthew’s revengeful strike against the aliens near the end of the film. After Matthew and Elizabeth escape the aliens, Elizabeth is cloned in a corn field, and Matthew is the witness. By this point most of their friends have been taken, and the only thing remaining for Matthew was keeping Elizabeth safe. But after the traumatic experience he leaves for the pod factory with reckless resolve to destroy it.

By this point the viewer strongly sympathises with Matthew, and most likely vies for him to beat the alien menace that has taken everything from him. This allegiance was very important for Kaufman to establish, as without it no one would care for Matthew’s actions. But after understanding why, and sympathising with him, the viewer can be completely engrossed in Matthew’s final attempts at retaliation. A necessary factor if the traumatic end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978) is to carry any real weight.

MIMICRY
Coplan (2009:104;105) explains mirroring, or mimicry as a set of automatic, or involuntary experiences that are similar to what the character is going through on screen. This happens under certain conditions, but can be used to great effect if a filmmaker understands its use.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978) has many tense and terrifying scenes, but without the fearful expression on a characters face, the viewer would not experience the terror as intensely as required in a film like this. Throughout the film there are many cases where the close-up, and track to close-up filming style is used, a very effective mechanism to help mirroring take place. The viewer is put in a position to project what the character is experiencing upon themselves, and as such is drawn completely into the illusion the film presents.

There are many scenes where the close-up is prevalent, but another case where mirroring may apply is around the middle of the film. Matthew franticly tries to call authorities about the alien menace, but is continuously put down by them as being paranoid, or rushing to conclusions. During this scene of confusion for the character, the camera also spins around in a dazed manner, which puts the viewer in the world of Matthew, a man who’s life is falling apart. Thus the confusion a viewer can experience at that point is a reflection of what Matthew is going through, and what Coplan (2009:104;105) refers to as mirroring.

CONCLUSION
By using various stylistic and narrative elements, Kaufman helped establish the viewer’s concern for Matthew and his friends. Yet Matthew is used as a centre point from which all the other character’s thoughts and actions are reflected. Because of his unique role as that centre point, the viewer associates with Matthew as the film progresses, using him as an entry point to the world he lives in. This makes the famous final image of the film a terrifying sight that sends shivers down the spine of any mortal not yet turned into an emotionless husk.

For a thriller like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978) to be successful, everything depends on getting the audience to care about the lives of the characters. And while analysing the films characters through Coplan’s (2009) methods, it’s easy to see why Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman 1978) is considered the greatest Sci-Fi thriller remake this side of the galaxy.

Rean Combrinck – Copyright 2014

Sources:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 2014. IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077745/ (Accessed 27 October 2014).

Coplan, A. 2009. Empathy and character engagement, in The Routledge companion to philosophy and film, edited by P Livingston & C Plantinga. London: Routledge: 97-110.