Thursday, July 25, 2013

THAS: LIFEFORCE WEEK: DAY 4 - Transcendental #1

Transcendental #1: A master shot is a soaring musical line.

Remove all the (important, rhythm-delineating) shot-reverse shot interruptions edited within it, and this scene becomes conceivably made up of a continuous camera that soars ever more forward as the drama unfolds, moving and reacting to the contours of the actions taken before it.

First it begins behind two armchairs, a wry juxtaposition of the "in-the-bedroom" with the "omnipresent audience" (the "audience of the world": the idea behind the notion that "nothing is private").  Practically a proscenium shot: it is a bedroom variation on the all-is-integrated look at stage, production (that is, the fantasy), and reality that Laurence Olivier offered in his play-within-a-film (film-within-a-theater) cinematic take on Henry V.  Here, a pair of voyeur's chairs becomes the layer of ambiguous separation between private life, public life, and an invisible world of watchers (hiding within themselves - ourselves, I should say - their/our own bedroom practices) - the same way Olivier's Globe Theatre proscenium blurs the line between theater, the play, and now-witnessed, invoked history (opening up, as it does, onto the "real-world" stage of the expansive French countryside to depict the climactic Battle of Agincourt, history a thing, like others' bedrooms, we must imagine but not see).  "On your imaginary forces work," writes Shakespeare - to create history from backstage theatrics, create the wide world from the bedroom, this said to their respective audience: the rowdy Elizabethan crowd or the repressed modern moviegoer.

First the scene looks out on a tender canvas: one of a wall of Ellen Donaldson's personality, of her truest interests in music, arts, and crafts.  The sight is overwhelming in the film: a splash of pastel humanity in a film otherwise bereft of such insight into individual humanity.

It is the poignant starting point to the suggested master shot that closes in further and further on the communion between Nurse Donaldson and Colonel Carlsen, proving a shot of a constantly accumulating poignancy.

Removed are all interspersed shot-reverse shot interruptions so that, below, we can see just the ascendency of the figurative master shot.  It is figurative because not all the shots are actually of a single camera take or shot set-up, but the suggestive design of a conceivably continuous shot - of a forward-moving and ever-enclosing camera  - is clear:

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The shot-reverse shot interruptions, existing where the asterisk lines are placed, are actually very important to the melodiousness realized in the scene.  One such interruption is a precise frame placed above the seated Colonel Caine (Peter Firth), such that Caine rises into the frame, standing up in alarm (and to make concerned objection) after Carlsen violently slaps Donaldson in the face.  This shot serves integrally in the melodious construction and is also a vibrant embodiment of moral objection.

Going off that, it must be argued that the scene regardless has no misogynistic underlying attitude... a viewpoint arguable due to many aspects of the scene, not the least of which is the soulful underlying nature of the depicted shots above: the camera sublimely rends itself as tossed and abused in its motions as Donaldson is when being violently handled by Carlsen.  The camera rends itself left when he grabs her, tears itself downward when he slaps her, and agonizes forward with a final, enclosing dolly movement when he pushes her down onto the table.  This is a communing behind closed doors with a private act of sexual behavior, consented to by two participants who share an understanding between them.  Both Carlsen and the camera exhibit a respect for the reality of Donaldson's not-uncommon sexual proclivity, not displaying attitude of any self-serving or self-pleasuring nature: Carlsen accepts the parameters with which to engage in an exchange with her and soberly narrates his actions, while Hooper's camera practically becomes sick (also making concerted emphasis of Caine's stark and uncharacteristically emotional outcry) in its rhapsodizing of Donaldson's intense method for sexual (/spiritual?) exchange.

This is a staggeringly human section in the film, from Donaldson's poignant wall to her baring her masochistic inner self before it.  This staggering humanity continues on throughout the scene with utter consistency, never losing track of the prickly moral conundrums involving the treatment and the consideration to be given to what would be called "deviant" sexuality, and always triumphing with moral clarity that is matter-of-fact, not sentimental, yet still reaching of a compassionate height (the sight of her scars, which we will see as our "Transcendental #3") without losing sight of the importance of a neutral, analytical view of the full, encompassing, not-always-pleasing moral complexity.

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