Friday, July 13, 2018

VIDEO ESSAY! "How the Pool Scene of 'Poltergeist' Could Have Turned Out"

I am no virtuoso, but here is my humble attempt at a video essay on Poltergeist's pool scene and how the script could point to a very different scene if realized by someone else other than Hooper.

Video-making is a tedious and difficult process, and so I'll admit to gaps in the larger argument result of a lack of patience to go back and fill them in.  I forget to put a point on the nature of the film's skeletons or corpses, in contrast to the "characteristic corpses" of the script that emphasize the morbid individuality of the dead instead of the "anonymity" of the corpses (I mention "anonymity" in the video, but probably fail to give it context).  Here is the commentary I had excised from the video:
As opposed to the characteristic corpses of the script, whether described as clad in burial clothes or flashing its embalmment paraphernalia, what we have instead is complete interchangeability marking the concept of death.  One corpse is described in the script with a “leathery face,” like the mummies of Raiders.  The "upsurge" of corpses is describes as a "black tie crowd," as if a scene from The Shining.  No, these are not ghouls for Hooper, they are merely the metonym for death and require no greater elaboration.
I also took out further commentary on Spielberg and Hooper's divergent approach to characters and dramatic scenarios.  While Spielberg is a dramatist and will traditionally develop characters by giving each their "moment" (such as Mrs. Tuthill telling her husband emphatically, "No.  Don't go in there"), Hooper only serves to realize a document of reality, not the measured dramatic display of a screenplay.  Thus, the Tuthills' personal deliberations over what to do with Diane are a cacophonous overlapping of their indecision and objections.  Mr. Tuthill's line, pointing out the bodies, is completely elided, looking down at the bodies, relegating him to an Other with no stake in the events.  Mrs. Tuthill's objection isn't the caricature-approaching, underlined moment of entitled bourgeois disengagement, but a proper wrestling with a character allowed humanity, the ability to be as afraid as Diane - she pleads with her husband, Hooper knowing the most understandable and universal instinct is not to judge (whether Mrs. Tuthill herself, or the audience in reaction to her) but to empathize, and we are allowed to do so with Mrs. Tuthill.
Tuthill feints a step toward the house before his wife, in rather typical Spielbergian fashion of overriding emotional caricatures, grabs him and sternly - whether in fear or an anti-noblesse oblige - and says, in its big bolded moment, “Don’t go in there.  Don’t ever go in there.”  It’s a statement towards Spielberg’s interest in measured drama and character work, as opposed to the instinctive, subliminal dramatic and character work of Hooper’s realistic zone.
Also, my most regretted omission, not pointing out the restaging of the scene that has Diane finally climbing out of the pool not at the shallow end but by climbing a large hose.  Absurdity through necessity.

Hopefully not too incoherent to extract something sensical every so often, please enjoy.

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