Emotional response and pleasure • Filmmakers have always attempted to gain some sort of emotional response from spectators, and for their part spectators have always responded emotionally to film. More than that, spectators have always attended the cinema in order to have their emotions aroused and with the expectation that this will take place. This is, after all, a basic function of storytelling. Stories gain emotional responses from listeners, readers or viewers. Effective storytelling encourages us to feel human emotions by allowing us to sympathise, empathise or even identify with characters and their narrative experiences. As spectators (and as readers) we presumably find this process to be pleasurable or we would not return time after time to films (and stories), but in what ways is it pleasurable? • Entering the window of the hotel room at the opening to Psycho would seem to encourage the notion of film as voyeuristically pleasurable • but what is the connection between voyeurism and emotional response? • What sorts of emotional response does voyeurism bring about? • Are we being permitted to give rein to a type of human interest in others that might more normally be considered socially unacceptable? • If so, what sorts of emotion do we experience at this point? • What emotions are engendered by the vigilante bloodbath scene in Taxi Driver or the ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs? • Do these emotions involve pleasure of some sort? • If so, what is the nature of this pleasure? • If it is not pleasurable, why do spectators watch these sorts of scenes, deliberately exposing themselves to a certain type of emotional response? ‘Shock’ as sudden and unexpected, or long-drawn out • ‘Shock’ in film usually occurs as something sudden and unexpected so that the viewer is as it were caught unawares. But it is worth bearing in mind that this is not always the case; sometimes the shock effect is achieved in a rather more long-drawn-out fashion. For example Gaspar Noé makes the inescapability of rape scene in Irreversible (2002) unbearably painful as he gives us an experience of shock not as something sudden but as something of prolonged intensity. Irreversible (2002) • Watch the rape scene mentioned above and attempt to record your emotional response in as much detail as possible by noting how you are feeling throughout the viewing. • Compare your responses with those of others who have watched the same scene. • Watch the same scene again and by making further notes attempt to see if your emotional response alters on a second viewing. • 'Shock' suggests a state of being stunned by what you have felt to be repulsive in its brutality, so that you (and probably all watching with you) are startled, surprised by what you have witnessed, knocked off balance, and probably very silent. • But consider another form of possible emotional response, the tearful response. Is this part of 'shock' or is it something different? • For instance, did you have a tearful response to the rape scene in Irreversible, and if so, was this because of the shock you experienced or due to something else? • Discuss this with others who have seen the same scenes. Projecting Illusion: Film spectatorship and the impression of reality (Richard Allen) • “Contemporary film theorists argue that, for a number of reasons, the cinematic image appears to spectators as if it were reality, but this appearance is an illusion. In fact, the cinematic image provides an impression of reality…” • “Cinema is a form of signification that creates the appearance of a knowable reality and hence confirms the self definition of the human subject as someone capable of knowing that reality… the reality are the “effects” of a process of signification” Projecting Illusion: Film spectatorship and the impression of reality (Richard Allen) • “Contemporary film theorists construe the film spectator as a passive observer of the image who is duped into believing that it is real. In fact, as I shall argue, the film spectator knows it is only a film and actively participates in the experience of illusion that the cinema affords.” Racism and Extreme Politics • If we move on from issues of sex and violence, it could be argued that the most shocking elements in films are not the actual incidents that are portrayed but the ideas that are expressed and that underpin the events. In Romper Stomper (Wright, 1992) or American History X (Kaye, 1998), for example, it is the extreme right-wing politics and accompanying racial hatred that audiences may find most disturbing. Both films could be accused of giving a platform to fascist ideas: in Romper Stomper Russell Crowe as Hando reads directly from Hitler's Mein Kampf and in American History X Edward Norton as Derek gives a powerful 'race hate' speech almost directly to the camera. Do we as viewers have an emotional response to these sorts of scenes? Racism and Extreme Politics • Using the pictures provided create a mood board that will chart your emotional response while you were watching American History X. Also comment on your emotional responses towards different characters, take note if it changed throughout the film and why. • Also provide answers to the following questions American History X • How should this film be read and how would different audiences respond? • What types of audience would visit the cinema to see this film? What would be their emotional responses? • Is it likely that different audiences will respond in different ways? • Could Nazi skinhead gang members gain their own gratification from watching these films? If they could, is that shocking in itself or simply inevitable and not something that should concern the filmmakers? • Is it possible to find evidence from within the construction of these films to suggest the way in which the filmmakers ultimately wished their film to be understood? • With which characters is the audience invited to identify? • Why might censors, or government, consider cutting or banning this film? Would their concerns be to do with potential emotional responses to the film? • Are there any sections you believe could, or should, have been cut?