Question 1: The Conformist
The Conformist is a film directed by Bertolucci. It revolves around Italy’s fascist inclinations. The film attempts to recreate modern story to show the inextricable relationship between political and psychosexual dysfunction. The film was developed from a book written by Alberto Moravia with a similar name. Bertolucci does not make great effort to create a semblance of Mussolini’s Italy in this wonderful film. However, the film attempts to recreate Rome as can be depicted in the film (Bertolucci). Several sets in the book version are similar to the movie scenes. Indeed, Bertolucci tries to bring close relationship by attempting to explain the city’s culture as well as cinema (Bertolucci). This theme cuts across the whole film.
In The Conformist, Bertolucci uses the “allegory of the cave” to show the rise of fascism in Italy. To understand the relationship, it would be good to understand the tenets of fascism. Fascism is taught to obey without raising any objections (Caprotti 6). Therefore, fascists are expected to have high disdain for logic or reason. In addition, fascism advocates the rule by the elite since fascists presume that the average person is incapable of leadership (Caprotti 6). Fascists love war as a means of achieving their objectives. They advocate for cruelty to the poor and weak (Trotsky 7). Fascism sits and controls the will of people, who are required to follow what they are taught without raising questions. Moreover, fascism embraces any method as long as it helps a state to achieve its objectives (Caprotti 6).
In the film Bertolucci uses intruding shadows and props to refer continuously to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (Soccio 140). The Allegory of the Cave is metaphor employed by Plato. It refers to the differences between reality and perception (Soccio 141). The underlying thesis behind the Allegory of the Cave is that what people perceive is just a mirror or reflection of the reality. The aim of the narrative is to enlighten people to wake up and stop accepting, that which is not good for their lives. Bertolucci borrows this theme as he attacks the rise of fascism in Italy. In both cases, prisoners observe illusions on the wall (Bertolucci). They prefer something that represents reality rather than the reality itself.
Bertolucci in a swift manner relates this comparison to the people living under the yoke of fascism. He refers to the people as conformists and prisoners, who did not make any effort to question the reality in their country. Conformists will naturally follow others without raising any questions. For instance, Bertolucci works on the story of Marcelo Clerici, who had harsh childhood encounter with homosexuality. The pathological cycle of shame, which followed him, can only be cured by “an overzealous conformity to society’s political mandate” (Soccio 141). He accepts the assignment given to him by secret police to kill his former mentor. By his actions he supports fascists’ methods of achieving their aims by use of any means available to them. He also shows conformity to the ideals of fascism. Indeed, to Bertolucci, the Italians were like so since they simply accepted lies from the leaders and lived in the darkness of illusions. They are no better than the prisoners who live their lives under the mercy of their masters, as found in the Allegory of the Cave.
Question 4: Kagemusha
Kagemusha, which means ‘the shadow worrier,’ is a masterpiece drama of 1980 produced by Kurosawa. The movie revolves around reality and illusion and has many striking themes that resonate with other works of the producer. The movie has several identifiable features that make it unique.
At the base of this movie there is the theme of identity. The movie reveals how people use identity to accept the reality or hide from it and suffer the consequences. We find people who work in the shadows of others. In this epic we encounter the protagonist who is a thief saved from the wrath of crucifixion. However, he is given the role of being a double body for Shigen (Kurosawa). Shigen is a warlord, who was fatally wounded in an assassination plot. The thief is used to hide the fact that the warlord is wounded. He takes up an identity that is not his, thus creating an illusion in the hearts of the enemies that Shigen is still alive (Kurosawa).
This aspect is the most intriguing in the epic because there is no background identity of the thief. His name is not provided nor his background. The director explores the notion of lost identity through protagonist. As the story progresses, viewers can see transformation of the thief’s identity. This creates an emotional identity between protagonist and family members of the fallen warlord. Moreover, viewers also develop an emotional attachment as they see the role the thief plays in the movie.
There is a cultural identity inherent in the film. The movie has long scenes, which are talky and there are several moments of silence. Exaggeration is a common feature in the movie. This is unlike the movies that one can find in Western countries. Its features and shots reflect Japanese culture. Therefore, the cultural identity of the film is evident from the start.
Social identity is also evident in the movie. It is easy for the viewer to see how natural events in the movies occur, as well as their significance. For instance, rain is evident in the film. When it rains, we see not just a drizzle, but heavy downpours or storms (Kurosawa). The last battle is a struggle between spiritual and physical that is waged in an environment of heavy downpour. In this episode Kurosawa can visualize the final integration of social groups. The confrontation is a vortex of swirling rain and storm. Indeed, the final fusion of social identity comes out as an expression of hellish pandemonium.
Kagemusha brings out the director’s vision of reality in the light of our actions. Kurosawa creates a mark of identity that viewers can accept or reject at their own peril (Kurosawa). Most people are easily swayed by illusion, or they can temporarily choose to ignore the realities of life. However, violence and self-destruction seem to be imminent, and only those who agree with Kurosawa will take early intervention measures. Kurosawa finds something in hell and wants his viewers to identify with it because it is inevitable. Indeed, a keen viewer of the movie will agree that human destiny will require one to identify with the inevitable. For Kurosawa, he found hell to be a fitting place for his bitterness.
Question 6: Farewell my Concubine
Farewell my Concubine is rich love story that provides great insights into the 20th century’s political turmoil in China. Concubines have long history in China as Emperors and warlords had the right to keep as many concubines as they wished. Even wives found it in order of things to bring their husbands fresh concubines. The film uses a combination of elements of commercial cinema and art house to provide a colorful view among the people (Chen). The film revolves around three characters that are in a love triangle (Chen). Dieyi and Xiaolou became friends while at an opera school. On the other hand, Juxian is a prostitute who later becomes the wife of Xiaolou. Dieyi and Xiaolou are stars of the Beijing opera. Dieyi plays the role of a concubine to king Xiaolou. The three characters go through difficult times enduring the warlord era, the invasion by Japanese, civil war as well as consolidation of the communist rule (Chen). The personal lives of these three people are often in turmoil, which are also replayed in the public life culminating in a devastating loss of their status in the Cultural Revolution. They eventually submit to the demands of the Communist State.
Farewell my Concubine provides a fair metaphor that reflects China’s modern history (Scultz 61). In addition, the film in its characteristic manner presents history of Chinese opera industry. In a key scene of the opera, Xiang Yu has failed to unite kingdoms of China. As a result, he is surrounded by enemies. His concubine, Lady Yu, performs the last dance for the king before committing suicide (Scultz 61). The king also takes away his own life and joins his concubine in death. China’s political turmoil relates well to this action in many ways. For instance, one of the most famous mistresses was Concubine Yang. She was one of four beauties and mistresses to Emperor Xuanzong. The emperor became so obsessed with her that he lost his common sense. The Emperor decided to kill her to prove that he had the authority to rule his subjects. However, this action brought the Tang dynasty (618-907) to the knees.
The film is also used as a political critique that plays important part in China’s socialization (Chen). The film attacks communism and shows that it is not good for majority of the people in China. It helps the viewers understand the other side of communism. It reveals that communism is not good, and it was responsible for downfall of Chinese art. Indeed, anyone who is much into communism will change his or her mind after watching this movie (Chen). On the other hand, a person who loves art or opera will appreciate why communism has had a bad thought on opera. This could be the reason why opera has not changed in hundreds of years. The art of opera has its own traditions and bourgeois, which do not go well with new regime. The film shows that the public and the private are intertwined. Therefore, if one is so much in the private he or she should understand that their actions have direct impact on others. Indeed, Farewell my Concubine is cynical tale and reflection of love, fate and political turmoil of modern China (Scultz 61).
Question 7: Black Swan
Black Swan, a film by Dareen Aronofsky, might seem as a nuisance to many feminist film theorists. The reason is the way the film makes women to be the objects for gratification of sex by the male (Aronofsky). Female characters in the movie are reduced to sexual images for men to lust after or view to enjoy themselves. Indeed, Aronofsky challenges conventional ideals of male dominance and subordination of women in society through process of building and breaking in scenes. This escalation and de-escalation in scenes creates an ambiguity that can challenge the viewer concerning what is sexually acceptable or socially good. To achieve the objective of making women sexual objects, the director must control the minds of women. As a result, the director uses several symbols to achieve this goal (Aronofsky).
The use of mirrors and reflections by the director in many scenes is a way of controlling and instilling fear to the women in the film to conform to certain ideals. In the bedroom we notice several other objects that are effective in mind control (Howell 200). They include butterflies on the wall, which is a reference to monarch programming. There is also a big white rabbit, which is also a symbol of mind control. By following the rabbit, the person is subconsciously led to another world. In the mind control terms this is referred to as a “slave’s dissociative state” (Howell 201). For Nina, visual objects constantly reminded her of her changed opinion of reality (Aronofsky). The mirrors in the movie provide a misleading picture and reflections of protagonist seem to be in their world. Nina is haunted by the Black Swan and the altered personality acts in a way that is different from the protagonist’s normal pattern of life and thought. This induces trauma-based mind control on Nina.
This is highly sexualized film, and the director seems to agree, “Gender roles and human sexuality are not so black-and-white” (Schultz 132). Although, female characters are objectified in the film. They can be interpreted in a manner that challenges the male desire. At the same time, the film takes cognizance of flexibility of the female sexuality, which can be achieved by manipulation. Visual objects in this film are used to achieve this goal.
The overall picture provided by the film is that of the ever-changing sexuality which even goes against traditional views concerning gender and sex (Aronofsky). As it was highlighted, Aronofsky uses mirrors and reflections, as well as rabbits and butterflies to create hallucinations in the minds of women, such as Nina. The idea is to subject women into intense trauma and dehumanization so that their minds can be distorted. The goal is to create a fragmented human personality that the handler can use to his own benefit. The recreated personality can be programmed to be used at the discretion of the handler.