Monday, June 14, 2010

Prepare to be Immersed...

In my early set of posts before I reformulated my direction in a new hub post, a few classmates made comments about how landscape in a scene from Lawrence of Arabia either immersed them further in the scene, or allowed them to separate themselves from the story...Allison in fact said both:

1. "I would have to agree that you have to step a foot or two away from plot or narrative to appreciate the aesthetic. "


2. "I rewatched Out of Africa lately, and it is also another example of a film which stops action entirely at points to transport viewers to another landscape."

This presents me with a dilemma: landscape, if it "transports" you somewhere, is actively engaging you, rather than allowing you space to step back and think. My argument, then, that landscape allows one to step away from narrative, would merely replace one attention-stealing thing with another. In the moment that one steps back from the plot, says Allison, one is also sucked into an observation of the aesthetic.

Indeed, Chris also made a similar comment in my follow-up post:

"For me, landscape is a huge deal in film. I think most of my favorite movies draw me in with good use of landscape and physical setting."

Again, the way that Chris is "drawn in" suggests being more captivated or mesmerized by the scene, with less space for reflection.

In the same comment section as Chris, Heather says, "Well, do characters allow us to immerse ourselves more fully in the plot, or step back from it. I would say immerse us, because they become an integral part of what the plot really is."

The kind of "immersiveness" that Allison, Chris, and Heather allude to is exactly the thing that I intend to argue against in my next and final post, when thinking about certain kinds of landscapes making a film text more "writerly" than "readerly."

But it will be an uphill battle. Chris comments about the film Avatar, relating landscapes to the "world," saying that the film "owes a LOT of its success to creating a world rather than just a story." He pointed to the way people were so drawn into "Pandora" that "
Avatar Withdrawal Syndrome" became a seriously disturbing news story. Avatar is a film that takes ideas about "immersion" and pushes them to the extreme, both by virtue of its 3-D environment, which converts a flat screen to a "surround-visual" experience, and by using digital technology that allows virtually constructed spaces to seem authentic. So, does the meticulously-crafted natural world of Pandora perform the same agressive attention-grabbing function that 3-D shows do?

Perhaps it does, at least in some cases. But the conversation needs to go beyond just "landscape does this" or "landscape does that." In a conversation that I had with my "Writing about Literature" professor, Dr. Burton, we discussed the ways in which film "grammar" effect the way we perceive something, and landscape is no exception. Whether a certain scene in film is filled with quick edits and short shots, or is filmed from an unnerving dutch angle, or backed by mood-enducing music, or whether it employs slow-motion or filtering effects, our perception of the scene is affected, as is the space we may have for reflection.

Take, for instance, the following trailer for the film Avatar, especially the second half of it. Despite a serious load of natural elements, the "film grammar" (ie. quick edits, soundtrack, placement of characters in relation to camera and natural elements, etc) of the trailer does exactly what a trailer is meant to do: it grabs your attention in as many ways as it can, to the exclusion of providing space to analyze or consider it reflectively.

Any consideration of what landscape does or does not do in film must take into consideration the film grammar of the scene that it is in, and I will try to delineate some of those differences in my final post.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an interesting movie. I remember when I saw Avatar for the first time I watched the landscape in between action becaue it was so complete and beautiful. If you had more time I would do an experiment with Avatar without the sound and see if the perception of the landscape changes.

    You said that the film grammar changes the perception of the landscape, but since landscape is so massive, I would argue that this is not a good example, because there is no time to see the landscape, so how can you test how it effects the viewer?