Semiotic Analysis

No Ordinary Love Story: The Subverted Romantic-comedy in (500) Days of Summer and Friends With Benefits

The mainstream romantic-comedy has steadily become saturated with genre conventions and narrative devices that seem to have shaped audience expectation. A formulaic love story that relies on certain narrative hooks and character details that become almost interchangeable. This is made more noticeable by the sub-genre trends that seem to overlap as they reflect current attitudes – think the few rom-coms released in 2010 that centred on artificial insemination. The films do not not disappoint rather they play out just as suggested in the trailer. While every genre has its conventions, two recent romantic-comedies Friends With Benefits (Gluck, 2011) and (500) Days of Summer (Webb, 2009) seem to bring attention to, and in some cases overtly criticise, the tendencies of the genre. Most importantly though both films offer the promise of no ordinary love story…  and both films break that promise.

In Hollywood

Recently more films have been challenging the conventions of the romantic-comedy genre, moving away from the uniform portrayal of heterosexual, Caucasian, materialist archetypes. The anomalous box-office success Bridesmaids (Feig, 2011) was viewed as a breakthrough for depicting stronger more rounded female characters – perhaps an affectation of actually being written by women. Although this film challenged certain Hollywood clichés and stereotypes it also appeared to reinstate and reaffirm others – such as the heterosexual, Caucasian materialist. (more…)

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Mortimer, Jung and Frankenstein: The Surviving Traits of the Mad Scientist in A Dangerous Method & Hysteria

Science and scientific values have long been denounced in cinema, shown to be a product of an egocentric personality that is somehow less human than others. In the last decade there has been an ongoing trend that is fighting against this representation – beginning to subvert stereotyped characters and narratives that promote the alienation of science. Although this light-spirited backlash has experienced an increasing popularity, there still remains in Hollywood the stereotyping and vilification of the scientific mind. A Dangerous Method and Hysteria, both released this year, appear to demonstrate a subtle undermining of scientific values that harks back to the classical opposition in Hollywood.

Adam

‘Adam’ Click for Higher Resolution

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The Scorpion and the Frog: The Fable of an Anti-hero in Drive (2011)

Edit: Condensed the analysis into a video here

Faced with a river, a scorpion enlists the help of a frog to ferry it across the water on its back. Fearful for being stung, the scorpion explains that if it were to sting the frog they would both drown. Alas, halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog. As they begin to sink to their death the frog asks the scorpion why it had doomed them both, receiving the reply that it is in its nature.

The broken halo of a violent hero

Ryan Gosling plays the part of a nameless Hollywood stuntman/ mechanic/ getaway driver turned breadwinning moral avenger in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive – subverting the strong-silent type of classic cinema and, like Refn’s Valhalla Rising and Bronson, calling into question the nature of violent heroes on screen. The following analysis will examine how the hero of Drive is made to appear reserved and unpredictable in an effort to make him unknowable – but really how his actions are undermined by his childlike sensibilities and confused sense of self.

The Ugly Duckling: Female Stereotypes and Psychological Disorders in Black Swan

The conventions of mainstream horror films have transformed ostensibly in parallel with socio-cultural development. The narrative structure and even the nature of the ‘monster’ have undergone broad, noticeable changes with the advancement of movements such as postmodernism and feminism. This particular genre holds a great deal of significance with regard to the representation of women in film: usually confined to a caricatured stereotype, the portrayal of women has evolved broadly from monster to victim to hero. black swan

Whilst there is a general trend of transformation in Hollywood productions, conventions persist in American cinema, promoting negative stereotypes based on clichéd gender roles. Black Swan achieved box office success as well as critical acclaim but also appeared to implement these regressive gender roles. The following analysis is concerned with the resurfacing of archaic female stereotypes in the film Black Swan and how they are ultimately used to subvert mainstream Hollywood conventions through pastiche.

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Semiotics in A Serbian Film

Considered the most offensive, controversial film of all-time – I have attempted to review A Serbian Film by looking past the controversy – opening with a full synopsis..

serbian film

Retired porn legend Milos has settled down with his wife and son, though financial troubles loom over them. This is until he is offered a large sum of money for one last job by a self professed art-filmmaker – Vukmir. The job is not specified but profitability leads Milos blind. His first performance involves being directed to a derelict orphanage where he becomes part of a sadistic reality show. The exacerbating trials of this ‘art-film’ forebodingly blur the fictionality of other participants including an observant young girl. Milos, growing more concerned with the disturbing nature of the film, is shown another of Vukmir’s projects in which a masked man delivers a baby only to rape the child infront of the laughing mother… (aaand we’ll break it here)

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The Ugly Duckling: Psychological Disorders in Black Swan

This here analysis evolved into something a lot bigger and a tad more comprehensive available here

black swan

Aronofsky’s Black Swan utilises fantasy and the unreal to build suspense and consequently unnerve the audience in moments of classic horror. The extravagant device of physical metamorphosis reflects the transitional state of the Swan Queen and is the result of a flexible equilibrium suggested by Nina’s mental state. However, her psychological condition coupled with the subsequent moments of surrealism support a subtext that is prominent in the film.

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