Voyeurism Here: Film Analysis Essay

“Besides making judgments about space, a viewer projects a stream of hypotheses about such factors as time, causality, character personality and motive, the efficacy of action, exposition, enigmas, plausibility, ethics, metaphors, rhythm, point of view, and much more. In general, a viewer comes to understand scenes by making detailed models of events. What might be termed the “classical” camera stands in for those procedures that have been successful in the past.

When a viewer’s confidence in his or her predictions is high (i. e. he viewer’s constructed, mental models are well developed and reasonably supported by evidence), the film achieves a high degree of “reality… ” (Branigan, 2013) People watch; it’s what they do naturally and they enjoy doing it, and according to theorists Linda Williams and Laura Mulvey, it is that visual appetite and the pleasure found in its fulfilment that leads to a natural viewer engagement with the camera, and its ability to observe, in film. This viewer engagement and its companion voyeurism, which Edward Branigan infers to be a feature of general perception, engages widely with both assumed and conscious ideology.

Jean-Louis Baudry explains this ideological connection as a, “text … designed to interact with a person’s memory and to elicit meanings and responses. ” With respect to these theorists, the narrative text of the film, True Lies (1994), offers a specific social geography whose landscape is directed toward the ideological concepts of duty, American-styled political democratic justice, support of the traditional middleclass American family, and the government for which they stand.

Jean-Louis Baudry developed the idea of film as an apparatus, where film is understood not only by content of the film but also with respect to the camera, the film stock, the editing, the projection, etc. Namely, all the elements of film technique and technology that go into producing a film. True Lies is an elaborate and expensively-mounted remake of the French farce, La Totale! (1991). James Cameron’s blockbuster True Lies reveals once more Cameron’s absolute panache in staging and directing spectacular action sequences.

In “Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus” Baudry argues that “the specific function fulfilled by the cinema [is] as support and instrument of ideology. ” 12 Crucial to his understanding of film as an ideological instrument is the spectator. “The ideological mechanism at work in the cinema seems thus to be concentrated in the relationship between the camera and the subject. ” [13] Cinema, then, is a “sort of psychic apparatus of substitution, corresponding to the model defined by the dominant ideology” that constitutes its subject to serve the dominant ideology. 14]

A key component to Baudry’s argument about the ideological effects of the cinematographic apparatus is that film projection enables the illusion of continuous action even though film is composed of discrete images. He realizes and recognizes that while people do look to cinema for spectacle and entertainment, they don’t expect to notice the work of it, even as they are watching the progression of the projected images. True Lies delivers admirably on this tenet by using those filmed images, creatively enlarged, edited, and reimagined, with their specific context at the fore, to support and define the ideological base of the narrative.

An example of this reimagining is the motorcycle versus horse chase at the beginning of the film. The audience initially knows nothing of these two men, beyond the fact that Schwarzeneggar traditionally take the role of “the good guy” and there is an expectation that he once again takes on the challenges embodied by that role. That the man on the motorcycle is in league with international terrorists and the man on the horse in a spy does not enter the conversation.

Rather, it is the concepts of good versus evil, the cowboy image of the good guy on the mighty steed, and the strength of the steely-eyed square-jawed ero who offers expectations of action, intrigue, and justice, that leaves the audience primed to imagine that those expectations will be fulfilled. Exciting images, stunningly photographed, edited with such classic Hollywood continuity techniques as matches on action, eyeline matches, use of shot-reverse-shot, and clear and continuous application of the 1800 rule, combine to make the audience choose a “side” and breathtakingly invest in the narrative hope of ultimate triumph of the hero on horseback.

And they do, just as Baudry theorizes that they will. Branigan theorizes that, in film, the viewer understands a textspecific narrative, because of its ability to explain and offer options for audience comprehension, the allowance for the emotional collecting of the requirements and artifacts of conditioned viewer response, and the aesthetic preference for a specific type or genre of film. True Lies draws heavily from these cognitive film theories in the development of its narrative through the use of mise-en-scene, pyrotechnics, and editing.

The inclusion of Arnold Schwarzenegger, stalwart stereotypic action hero, in the guise of a loving husband and father, who lies by omission, and his beautifully mature and definitely sexy wife, Jamie Lee Curtis, a wife and mother who could lie in her heart even as she loves her husband, sets the scene for narrative development. The audience uses this collected information to develop what Branigan describes as, “the overall regulation and distribution of knowledge … ” (Branigan 1992: 76).

In True Lies, the film narrative is the fulcrum of the process of the knowledge required to call forth the ideological sociopolitical messages embedded in the film. Branigan distinguishes five separate vehicles that drive the process of narration: historical authors, implied authors, narrators, characters and focalizers. Of these five, it is principally the characters and focalizers which are the ideological driving forces of True Lies. Because characters are integral to the narrative world, they directly experience narrative events and act or are acted upon.

Branigan explains focalization as the work of the focalizers – John and Helen, for this discussion. Focalization can be seen as the involvement of a character actually experiencing something through seeing or hearing it. Focalization also extends to the more subjective experiencing of the world of True Lies through the acts of thinking, remembering, interpreting, wondering, fearing, believing, desiring, understanding, and the possibilities of feeling guilt or grief.

Branigan distinguishes between two types of focalization: external focalization, representing a character’s visual and aural awareness of what is happening around and to them, within the narrative, though the viewer may see the same things that the character sees from a different place or point in the narrative. The second type, internal focalization represents a character’s private and subjective experiences. Here you can think of simple perception (optical vantage point), but also deeper thoughts as expressed to other characters or through direct character action.

While True Lies does not delve deeply into the psychology of its main characters, or their actions in very meaningful or deep fashion. When it comes to the actual analysis of film, Branigan’s theory of agents can be applied to the most detailed level of every film, its building block: the shot Here, four types of shots can be distinguished (whose levels of narration range from objective to deeply subjective): first, the objective shot which is motivated by an agent outside the world of the film. Second, the externally focalized shot which focalizes a character’s awareness of diegetic events: for example, an over the shoulder shot.

Third, the internally focalized shot (surface). This type of shot comes closes to a regular optical point of view shot, since it represents a character’s visual experience of diegetic events. In Branigan’s typology, this is a surface shot, in contrast to the fourth type. Finally, the internally focalized shot (depth). This shot represents a character’s internal events, such as dreams etc. Therefore the level of narration it stands for is considered deep/depth. If you follow this typology, every shot of a film can be labeled and identified in terms of the agent who controls it and the level it operates on.

Baudry’s apparatus theory, derived in part from Marxist film theory and semiotics, which speaks to the use of signs, symbols, and their significance in determining the filmic language, and the psychoanalytic underpinning of that language to fulfill the narrative, which maintains that cinema is naturally ideological because its mechanics of representation are ideological and because the films are created to represent reality, is applicable to True Lies because of the film’s representations of duty, obligation, gender role assignment, and dimensions of love – chauvinistic, marital, and familial.

True Lies reflects a number of 1994’s cultural concerns, chief among them is the echo of the conservative tide that swept Newt Gingrich into power as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Specifically political, however, is the very contemporary glimpse into terrorism offered by True Lies. Predicting an eerily accurate near-twenty-first century forecast of the ascent of Middle-Eastern terrorism against the United States, the film also predicts a reflexive powerful, unaccountable bureaucracy in the U. S. Government as the response to such terrorist attacks.

Here, the film draws a line in the sand, creating as a last line of defense for freedom and justice an agency known as “Omega Sector,” with right-wing, former president of the NRA, gun advocate, Charlton Heston, also formerly known as “Moses,” as the symbolic and iconic agency director. Who better illustrates male-dominant superiority of a formidable world force than a legend in evidence of apparatus theory.

The use of apparatus theory is further demonstrated in the scene where Schwarzenegger as the powerful spy and outraged father rescues his teen-aged daughter from the hands of the terrorist enemy who dared to try to perpetrate his dastardly deed on American soil. The fact that Schwarzenegger accomplishes the rescue and sends a powerful message to terrorists, and coincidentally to those who would mistreat his family, while flying a nearly soundless Harrier jet is highly political marking of turf – a “pissing” contest, and the United States wins it.

Its mechanics of representation include the camera and editing. The central position of the spectator within the perspective of the composition is also ideological. In the simplest instance the cinematic apparatus purports to set before the eye and ear realistic images and sounds. However, the technology disguises how that reality is put together frame by frame. [1] The meaning of a film, plus the way the viewing subject is constructed and the mechanics of the actual process and production of making the film affect the representation of the subject.

Apparatus theory also states that within the text’s perspective, the central position of the viewer is ideological. This effect is ideological because it is a reproduced reality and the cinematic experience affects the viewer on a deep level. In conclusion, Branigan’s method is a useful tool for analyzing narration, specifically those moments where narration becomes ambiguous. Analyzing on the level of the filmic shot yields to a more detailed and subtle analysis, recognizing the complexity of an individual shot or scene.