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kenmorefield

Ideological Tensions/Binaries n Spiritually Significant Films

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I have been outlining my paper for the proposed anthology to accompany the Top 100. I want to write something broad about auteur theory and/or genre. 

At the moment, I've been noodling Robin Wood's claim in "Ideology, Genre, Auteur" that "the development of the genres is rooted in...ideological contractions...."

It sounds highfalutin, but I think conceptually my approach is built on standard poststructural/deconstruction idea of meaning promoted through binary oppositions and the privileging of one term over the other. Formalism (New Criticism) shows how the work "resolves" the apparent contradiction while deconstruction shows the failure to resolve or the arbitrariness of the privileging. 

I was trying to making a working list of "contradictions" or "tensions" within the Top 100 -- seeing if I could treat "spiritually significant" as a genre. 

So far I've come up with four tensions/oppositions that I find thematically common to many films on the list. I was hoping people could offer a few others. 

--pacifism vs. activism (by this I don't mean military pacifism specially) so much as an attempt to accept circumstances rather than change them. Coming to terms with situation -- Ikiru, maybe First Reformed, Make Way for Tomorrow)

--dogmatism vs. doubt (the clinging to certainty or conviction in the face of opposition or circumstances vs. the tendency to reevaluate or revise previous teaching or belief)

--individualism vs. corporatism (the ultimate expressions of spirituality are personal vs. spirituality is the sublimation of the personal into a corporate enterprise or unit...authenticity vs. belonging).

--Triumphalism vs. Martyrdom (related to pacificism/activism) Is the hero or heroine successful (either within the narrative itself or by the narrative via tone, or is the antagonist heroic for sacrificing. 

Obviously all such tensions raise limits, questions and amibiguities, and it is through exploring or interrogating them that genre pieces differ. For example, I think that It's a Wonderful Life depicts sacrifice as the means to triumph (he wins by sacrificing) whereas A Man for All Seasons depicts martyrdom as spiritual triumph over fear but as a genuine failure to alter the circumstances around them. A film like Silence seems to try to neither resolve the tension (The Trial of Joan of Arc might show Joan as both triumphant and martyred) nor privilege one over the other -- it questions the binary itself, and I think a portion of the narrative anxiety is the the priest's inability to situate or understand his own narrative within that binary framework. 

 

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Maybe this feels too obvious, but one such binary/dichotomy might be the "transcendent" and the "immanent," where the former suggests or recognizes (maybe even overtly depicts) a larger outside/exterior force much bigger and beyond us which is bringing about the events (2001, The Seventh Seal, The Tree of Life, Spirited AwayEmbrace of the Serpent, perhaps even Chariots of Fire) and the latter is more about the this-ness of the spiritual experiences in a material world (Do the Right Thing, Babette's Feast, IkiruThis Is Martin Bonner). Many of the films challenge this binary or walk a fine line; e.g., how would we classify Ordet?

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9 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

how would we classify Ordet?

My first thought when I saw the subject of this thread was body/spirit, which is in the same ballpark as immanence/transcendence.

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Thank you for responses. 
I have to think on this, because my initial response is to wonder whether body/spirit (or immanent/transcendent) reflects an ideological tension or merely an aesthetic/formal one.

I think it does, but I once again lament the absence of The Exorcist as the obvious complement to Ordet in terms of denying the body/spirit dichotomy and answering "both....and"

I'm just not sure how to articulate this division as an ideological one. My knee-jerk reaction is to associate spirit with neo-platonic influence on Christianity that tends to downplay the importance of the body. Suffering is spiritual suffering...the spirit is seeking release from confinement or expression of self. (Maybe First Reformed, Diary of a Country Priest, Ikiru...haven't seen Tree of Life in ages...) And "body" with texts that focus on the social and political implications of structural religion, usually in negative ways (Silence, Do the Right Thing, Of Gods and Men), where effects on the *bodies* are the external symbol of spiritual poverty of systems. 

I don't think I could have ever voted for it, but perhaps that line of thinking could have opened up a comparison of Gibson's The Passion of the Christ with one of the other passion narratives. 

I've always thought it significant that Dreyer changes the root of Johannes's madeness in Ordet from studying Kierkegaard in college to a personal grief over the death of a loved one.

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