Posted: November 11th, 2008, 11:28 am
Aside from the documentaries and faux-documentaries, most of the films discussed, at least on the superficial level, seem to use the voyeurism of a character for driving the narrative and making a point about the psychology of that character, which may then be extrapolated into a point about the viewer. There are other films -- NETWORK and THE KING OF COMEDY leap to mind -- that overtly seem to be a direct critique of Society's penchant for voyeurism.
Toss-up questions for the contestants: Do you interpret these films (for example, NETWORK and THE KING OF COMEDY) to be a criticism of Society or merely, ahem, observational? Prescient or an old story involving a newer medium? Sociological or psychological?
Bonus round questions: In THE KING OF COMEDY, when Jerry enters his home after his encounter with Rupert, there is a movie being shown on his TV. What is the movie and, other than an homage to a Scorsese favorite, what point might Scorsese be making?
Posted: November 13th, 2008, 12:50 am
As I alluded to earlier, I see a common thread running through Network (1976), Face in the Crowd (1957), and Triumph of the Will (1934). All deal with voyeurism on a grand scale, but it is the viewer--not the subject—that becomes the ultimate victim.
The focus of each film is self-identification. The subject viewed, becomes a mirror in which the viewer sees himself. Individual hopes and dreams are transferred and projected in the viewers gaze. In short, the viewer loses his identity, which is the actual objective of the subject. Identifying with the audience (in pretense) is the secret of the manipulators initial appeal. Lonesome Rhodes uses his down to earth charm to relate to the common man, while Howard Beal articulates the public’s rage in a cynical post-Nixon era. Hitler by contrast, is seen in Triumph of the Will as a man of the people who has become deity. Nothing less than a Christ figure.
Note that each film works from the same principal: to stifle individualism and independence. Hitler, like Lenin, actually created a situation of dependence. The viewer is encouraged not to think, but to instead project all upon the subject. The subject embodies one’s feelings and needs. The subject tells one how to think. The bottom line is removal of choice and control. The hunter becomes the hunted and like most prey, is unaware of danger because attention is cleverly focused elsewhere. Howard Beal’s title “The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves” is a perfect example (along with Sybil the Soothsayer), in that it offers the idea of predestination. Why make choices if the future can be foretold? This also feeds the illusion that the viewer can be in charge of his own destiny when in fact, he is more tightly bound to his subject. Face in the Crowd offers a similar temptation with Vitajix, a product hawked by Lonesome Rhodes that is sold as a means of sexual prowess (the pills are actually just caffeine) for domination of the fairer sex. Here we see enslavement of the mind extending to the body as well.
The use of live audience is also an essential component. Live crowds affirm statements and prime the mind for suggestion. In the fictitious works, signs are actually used to tell the public when to applaud or laugh. Face in the Crowd has Rhodes developing a machine with canned crowd noise to eliminate a live audience altogether. This technique has been used for years, namely in situation comedies where if we hear someone else laughing, the joke must be funny. If thousands say Sieg Heil—it must be truth.
Youth is connected in each film as well. Hitler is seen inspecting German youth as Lonesome Rhodes judges baton twirlers. Network has younger executive Diana corrupting old guard Max, who should know better. Of the three, Network is different in the fact that Beal is still essentially a puppet. Lonesome Rhodes and Hitler began in this manner and it was assumed they could be easily managed and controlled, but tables were turned when the creations outgrew their masters. All three became demagogues that ultimately had to be destroyed.
Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity. Whoever would like to appear deep for the crowd, strives for obscurity. For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.--Nietzche