Film Feature: Analysis of There Will Be Blood by Lorenzo Ferro–”The Voice of Gods”

There Will Be Blood: The Voice of Gods” a film analysis by Lorenzo Ferro.

The emotional feeling of being in control is one that is defined by the power, influence, and direction over people’s behavior or a series of events (“Control”). The struggle for control, or even better described as the struggle for power, is an immediate ignition for tension. The idea of a fight for control is one that can be expertly used to form tension in cinema. Pulling from real life, as is so common in art, directors use tension and power to create in-depth characterization; but, depicting dominance in a film can be a difficult task to perform subtly. In the movie, There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson uses parallelism between the two characters, Daniel and Eli, to form an intricate battle between two similar minds. Anderson does not use any single tool to form a fight for power, but he does use one tool in particular which is key to There Will Be Blood: aural composition. Being the catalyst for the entire movie’s plot, overlying vocal control—which is the strive for “power, influence, and direction over people or a series of events” by means of using the voice—between the two characters is a constantly changing scale that alters the way each scene plays out. In There Will Be Blood, the aural compositions, specifically the use of a god-like voice-over mixed with diegetic vocal performances, especially of characters Daniel and Eli, allows the audience to audibly—as well as visually—understand the mental power dynamic between characters on and off screen.

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Adaptation Analysis: The Passion of the Christ

For Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, a plethora of texts and even paintings were consulted by Gibson and the screenwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald. In the documentary, By His Wounds We Are Healed: The Making of ‘The Passion of the Christ, Gibson claims “faithfulness” to his source material. The “faithfulness” that Gibson claims comes from his and the screenwriter’s use of the “canonical” gospels to make sure they had not contradicted the authority of those texts. For John Desmond, co-writer of Adaptation: Studying Film & Literature with Peter Hawkes, “faithfulness” comes with various questions attached to it. The Passion of the Christ is an adaptation of multiple sources, so the question comes of “faithfulness” by what standard. In the text, Desmond states, “If we leave aside the problem of identifying what is essential in the text, we are still left with the difficulty of judging the degree to which the essential has been transposed.” (40). In the film, it is clear that Gibson took artistic liberties to The Passion. Some of his inspirations are Renaissance painters, some of whom were referenced in the documentary. Paintings by Bosch, Rembrandt, Carravagio, and Grunewald, could all be taken as visually influencing Gibson and his Cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel. Desmond states another problem, which pertains to the language of fidelity: “The reviewer claims the adaptation is ‘faithful’ or ‘unfaithful’ and that this degree of faithfulness is either good or bad. The problem with this language is that it tends to imply that the book is better than the movie.” (41). For the depiction of the Passion, it seems that using multiple texts while simultaneously having Mel Gibson’s assert “faithfulness’ would cause difficulty in determining what was essential to the adaptation. Suppose a filmmaker uses artistic renderings from a variety of time periods. In that case, it does not seem reasonable to assert faithfulness in the sense that it is an exact replica of the document. Besides, the four Gospels have differences in focus for each event leading up to the crucifixion. If Matthew, Mark, and Luke all focus on different aspects of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, what would Gibson consider more authoritative and important to depict in his adaptation? The three Gospels similarly portray the events, while John is distinctly different, so what authority does Gibson go by? By looking at Gibson’s use of The Stations of the Cross, and the abundance of texts outside of the Gospels, in his portrayal of the crucifixion, The Passion of the Christ becomes a loose adaptation of the Gospels.

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Ashna’s Celluloid Scenes: Women in Pop Culture- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Editor’s Note: Below is an essay written by Film Blogger Ashna Sran on Charlie Kaufman’s 2004 film, where she explores the portrayal of women and relationships in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and common tropes in the Romance genre. Sran originally wrote this piece for her Intro to Film Studies class with Dr. Simone Muench.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film written by Charlie Kaufman at a time which many considered the peak of his career due to Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Kaufman is a writer who is not afraid to step out of the conventional and explore ideas of a more weird and hypothetical nature. The movie is a romantic movie that is unlike any other. It portrays realistic characters and shows a side of them that not many other movies in this genre demonstrate. Often romantic films fail to follow common logic and display unrealistic actions done by the main characters. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the characters don’t throw caution to the wind. The characters share a passionate, yet often painfully incompatible romance. This film navigates love, loneliness, self-esteem, memories, the fight to make something work, and the loss of the battle to do that. Something that the movie accomplishes is the destruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope, which deals with an eccentric female (or male) character whose purpose is to guide the protagonist to happiness and self-realization without ever having independent goals of their own. This trope has been seen in many projects, whether they refute it or try to redeem it, such as 500 Days of Summer (2009), The Fault in Our Stars (2012), and Garden State (2004). 

It is incredibly important to portray women accurately in movies as not doing so can lead to many self-image problems in women and young women in the audience. Often the MPDG trope lumps together all individuals who are quirky and creates one-dimensional female characters who don’t have problems of their own and devote their lives to making the protagonist happy. The trope is highly unoriginal and belittling to women that may resemble a similarity to the common MPDG. In recent times, representation in media is increasingly important, and having a character that reduces an individual to their most basic form is offensive and challenges how young girls may see themselves growing up. However, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an amazing film in which the complexity of the central female character is explored, and her humanity is highlighted.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths in Film: Krampus (2015)

Hello there, dear reader!

It’s that time of the year. The time for community and closeness, love and gratitude, to shower those whom you care for most with affection and merriment when jolly ol’ St. Nicholas sweeps down the chimney to reward all the wonderfully behaved boys and girls. Or, if you’re in this movie, you watch in dismay as a caravan of nightmares parades themselves on your nuclear family as a horned, hooved monster of the ancient dark looms on high, ready to carry all your souls to the bowels of the underworld. Because this ain’t Santa Claus, folks—it’s Krampus.

Krampus, released in 2015, comes from the twisted mind of Michael Dougherty, the man behind my beloved Trick r Treat. This time around, he plays the story straight while still keeping his finger on the pulse of holiday essence. While the film isn’t quite the instant classic that Trick r Treat is, Krampus still manages to be a damn entertaining Christmas horror movie in the vein of Gremlins. Dougherty has a penchant for folklore and legends, dialing in here on an ancient figure with roots in Norse mythology and pagan rites (I swear to God, these damn pagans! If you’ve been with me all semester, you know.).  It can be quite fascinating to see how these bygone characters through a contemporary prism. Although this flick isn’t a through-and-through hit, I appreciate the filmmakers digging deep into our world’s horror culture and shining a spotlight on this darker Christmas spirit.

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Adaptation Analysis: Lord of the Rings- The Fellowship of the Ring

For the adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson and his team claim to have remained exceptionally faithful to J.R.R Tolkien’s original novel. However, when comparing sequences, there seems to have been major truncation and combination of scenes, and removal of characters. For example, the length of travel in the chapter “Flight to the Ford” is truncated compared to the corresponding film sequence. The scene in the film does not last many days compared to the novel’s version, and the character development and journey itself seem to be less expansive. Frodo is also incapacitated in the film, while Tolkien has him regain strength at various moments of travel. The particular chapter, “Flight to the Ford,” is not an exact transference of what Tolkien included in his novel. In John M. Desmond’s Adaptation Studying Film and Literature, he explains the problem with “fidelity” and how when one claims “faithfulness,” they are putting literature above the film medium  anytime they employ “the language of fidelity.” In addition to this claim, Desmonds states, “Moreover, there is no standard measure as to how much of the “essential” text must be transferred in order for the film to be judged as faithful.” (40). In an attempt to create a system of evaluation of faithfulness, Desmond defines different metrics of evaluation: close, loose, and intermediate. Since Jackson repeatedly emphasizes the closeness of his adaptation, the definition Desmond gives of close adaptation is, “when most of the narrative elements in the literary text are kept in the film, few elements are dropped, and not many elements are added.” (44). 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a 2013 urban fantasy film directed by Harald Zwart, starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, and Jemima West. The film is based on the first book of The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare. The story takes place in contemporary New York City and is centered around a 16 year old girl, Clary Fray (Lily Collins), who has believed for her whole life she and her mother were completely normal. Then one night when she goes to a club for her birthday with her best friend, Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan), Clary believes she witnesses a boy get murdered by three people covered in tattoos. The next day two men come to her house looking for a special cup which her mother (Lena Headey) is hiding. To protect this secret Ms. Fray drinks a potion that puts her to sleep. Just before poisoning herself Clary’s mom calls her daughter and tells her to stay away, but she doesn’t listen and runs home. Once there, she finds what appears to be a dog which ends up attacking Clary. She is saved by one of the tattoos people from the night before, Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower). He kills the dog and explains to Clary that what just attacked her and the boy he stabbed in the club were actually demons. Jace explains to Clary that he is a Shadowhunter, and the two start the search for Clary’s mother and the secrets she has been hiding. This leads Clary down a path where she learns about the hidden world full of supernatural beings and a past she can not remember. In this blog post, I will be looking at how the adaption keeps, changes, and enhances certain aspects of the original story. 

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Adaptation Analysis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

For Adamson’s adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he chose to expand on scenes that would particularly fit the cinematic medium. For many moments in the film, he shows scenes that were merely mentioned in the novel and dramatizes them. I find the dramatization of the opening scene adds stakes to the film compared to the opening line in the book, “This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the war because of the air-raids.” (3). As the children are in the professor’s home, it is evident that the reason for the characters going into the closet and reaching Narnia is quite different from the novel. Both versions focus on Lucy’s dilemma of not being believed by her siblings and Edmund lying that he did not visit Narnia. However, in the novel, the children go into the wardrobe while attempting to escape the housekeeper Mrs. Macready and her house tours. In the film, they shatter a window while playing ball, which causes them to seek refuge in the wardrobe. Much of Adamson’s transformation of the story goes after expanding upon what would be more visually appealing for the film. In Lucy’s encounter with Tumnus, as a crucial scene for Narnia, it had the feeling of the chapter through its visualization. The look of Tumnus is spot-on:

 “He had a strange pleasant face, with a short pointed beard and curly hair, and out of the hair there stuck two horns, one on each side of his forehead. One of his hands, as I have said, held the umbrella.” (10).

The character is spot-on; however, there are differences in his speech and the dialogue. Through this scene, and the rest of the film, Adamson’s adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, seems to be fairly close but on the whole intermediate. Adamson employs some techniques John M. Desmond highlights in his Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature. In the chapter on the novel, some of the techniques in the scene when Tumnus meets Lucy are adding dialogue, cutting, and finding correlatives. 

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Adaptation Analysis: Minority Report

Philip K Dick’s short story,Minority Report,” focuses on the paranoia of the protagonist, John A. Anderton. As Dick describes, Anderton is “Bald and fat and old (119)” and is the retiring commissioner of the precrime unit who arrests people before they commit murder. The precogs are what they use: mutants who receive visions from the future. The precrime unit treats these mutants (Mike, Donna, and Jerry) as a means to an end with no autonomy. The story intensifies as Witwer comes into the picture as a future replacement for our current commissioner. Everything is set in motion when Anderton finds his name on a card that tells the commissioner who is going to commit murder. The card says he is to murder a retired army general, Leopold Kaplan. As this is all developed, Anderton wonders if Witwer is looking for power and if his wife is conspiring against him. As a filmmaker known for his spectacle, Steven Spielberg takes Dick’s short story and expands it with many new elements and possibilities. Evidently, Spielberg uses the interweaving strategy. Desmond’s definition of point-of-departure indicates extreme distance, and I think Spielberg does not go far enough for this strategy. Spielberg takes some of what Dick grapples with and reimagines and reconfigures the plot. He keeps character names, narrative details, and disperses them in a different order. He is not afraid to scramble many essential elements of the story to fit a vision that he wants to accomplish for Hollywood and himself. A sequence that is indicative of Spielberg’s application of the interweaving strategy is the murder of Leopold Kaplan in the short story. Spielberg scrambles this scene and retains details in other parts of the film. When Anderton (Tom Cruise) confronts Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow) in the film, the sequence is a reimagining of this crucial climactic scene in the short story.

With his mise-en-scene, Spielberg uses Dick’s story in a way that complements the visual storytelling of cinema. He has a radiant ability to create mood or tone through various choices in partnership with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. For example, the filter that the filmmakers employ is “bleach bypass,” which highlights blues and causes paler skin. This filter pairs well with the subject matter; the bluish tint compliments the futuristic world, the theme of an all-seeing surveillance state, and overwhelmingly present technologies (which often overtake the frame). Both iterations interestingly tackle “extrapolation”— a common occurrence in science fiction when a writer takes known scientific concepts and imagines how events and circumstances may evolve. Spielberg extrapolates on the surveillance state and uses context from post-9/11 United States policies to predict how these policies will develop with technology. Spielberg opens the film with a close-up of an eye and subsequently has eye-scanners as a means of surveillance. He does not extrapolate everything that Dick does. He still has some similarities. Philip K Dick extrapolates on authoritarianism, the criminal justice system, penal servitude through exile to other planets, and individual freedom. For authoritarianism, Dick uses Leopold Kaplan, “General of the Army of the Federated West-bloc Alliance.” as the conspirator to authoritarian rule. Kaplan tells Anderton that he is, “Retired, since the end of the Anglo-Chinese War, and the abolishment of AFWA.” (127). The indication that the military has lost power and Kaplan’s attempt to seize power by discrediting the pre-crime system extrapolates that authoritarian rule will always be possible. At the end of the short story, Anderton waits to fulfill his exile to “Centaurus X by inter-system transport” (149). Lisa, his wife, declares, “I suppose we won’t be able to use these new atronic appliances. They’re still using electricity on Centten.”(150). Dick extrapolates on the future of punishment and even something as universal as electricity.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths in Film: The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Hello, dear reader! Apologies for being away for so long! As I forewarned off the bat, a college student’s prayer. And given time and scheduling, I’ve elected to skip over my post-Halloween blog idea, so my hint at the end of “Trick ‘r Treat” is null and void. Apologies if you’ve been laboriously slaving over the answer for the last month. Perhaps this unimpeachable masterstroke of blog prose will offset any ill will. And also, hopefully, entertain and delight you, dear reader. 

The Mothman Prophecies is a drama/horror/mystery film from director Mark Pellington with a screenplay written by Richard Hatem. The script is based on the book of the same name by John A. Keel. The story follows Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere), who investigates a series of strange happenings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, after his wife Mary’s (Debra Messing) unexplained death. The people of Point Pleasant are experiencing bizarre visions and premonitions, claiming sightings of an 8-foot winged entity around town. Initially drawn into the drama under his own set of freaky circumstances, Klein begins to believe that whatever is happening in this small Mountain State town is connected somehow to his wife’s death.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this film’s story is its claim of being based on real events. The book that the script adapts, The Mothman Prophecies: A True Story, is categorized as nonfiction. The novel’s author, John Keel, who passed in 2009, was a journalist and Fortean author. 

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Musings of a Future Librarian: Peluda

“Peluda” is a collection of poetry by Melissa Lozada-Oliva that discusses the author’s journey regarding her identity through an overarching theme of hair. Oliva presents her difficult position as a hairy Latina Americana via details stemming from conversations with friends and her culture. In the poet’s introductory poem, “Origin Regimen” we see the common position of Latino’s in America very clearly. Olivia writes:

 “before there were legs, bikini lines, eyebrows, upper lips,underarms, forearms, labias, assholes, chins,or the waxing table there were houses & two immigrants who cleaned them (ll 1-4).” 

The latter portion, “two immigrants who cleaned them”  highlights the reality that many Latinos within the United States hold service or labor jobs.  In the same breath Olivia is introducing the stigma around female hair. By naming all these places in which women get waxed, the poet is directing us to analyze why we feel it is so necessary to tame our hair. In her poem, “My Hair Stays on Your Pillow Like a Question Mark” Olivia again presents the issues through intersectionality via the speaker’s conversation with her white friends. She tells us:

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