Archiv der Kategorie ‘Gender‘

 
 

Game of Thrones 8 – Finale – Stoppage.

After 8 years of complex and well-told stories, with characters that have impressed and captivated the audience, the series ends with sequences of illogical events that lead to an uninspired and no longer complex and interestingly told stoppage.

The first 30 minutes of the final episode were a consistent and likely continuation of the previous episode. The figure of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) sets off in search of his siblings and is shocked by their death. Jon-Aegon (Kit Harrington) tries to prevent last mad acts in the destroyed city, but he did not succeed because he does not reveal his true identity. The figure of Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), on the other hand, has blindly adopted his queen’s madness and one of those who has given up his identity carries out her orders mercilessly as a No-One.

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Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) continues to show her true character traits as a fascist commander who calls for a ‚total war‘. Where do the many Unsullied and Dothraki fighters suddenly come from in such flocks, after being considerably decimated in both previous battles?

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The figure of the Tyrion gets a little honor back when he dares to quit as the hand of the queen. Arrested and incarcerated, he can convince Jon-Aegon that the only rescue – for himself and Westeros – can come from him by keeping Daenerys from further mad deeds that would also hit him, Jon, and his sisters. No sooner said than done. Jon-Aegon stabs the mass murderer, amazingly still beloved by him. The fact that the dragon child notices this immediately and approaches it, also lies just in the logic of the previous narrative. Also, that he does not murder Jon-Aegon, but lets the throne melt away, can be believed just yet, within the logic of the previous narrative. So far so good. But then we experience a radical change in the quality of the dramaturgy, like the narrative.

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From this moment on, illogical sequences of events meet a persiflage of the previous series.

The dramaturge first wonders how Grey Worm and everyone else knew that Jon-Aegon had stabbed Daenerys. There was nobody there and the dragon flew with her into the far distance before anyone could see her being murdered with their own eyes. Did Jon tell everyone what he did? Why should he? So, how does Jon get into the dungeon, and that without objection of any of the others from those characters still alive? Got Grey Worm so powerful that no one could stand up to him and stop him from threatening Jon with the death penalty? Unlikely, in the sense of the story as it got told so far. Has Arya suddenly lost all her abilities or for whatever reason has given up her trust and hopes in the brother who is now a cousin? The Arya from the episodes before would have been able to free him, for example.

Then, when it comes to appointing the new king, everyone, including Sam (John Bradley) and Bran (Isaak Hempstead Wright), have forgotten that Jon would be the rightful heir to the throne, although until a few minutes earlier everyone still assumed that he should be the one and only king of Westeros, and both did everything they could to make him and others aware of it. What happened to them? Do they resent his love for Daenerys? But he separated from her in the most drastic way imaginable. This ending presented in the last hour of the series is therefore also illogical, in the sense of the previous action. Even Tyrion has forgotten this fact, which just saved his life because he would have been cremated by the dragon by now, and now suggests Bran be the new king and Jon to stay prisoner, why? Because of the knowledge that he gathered through his spiritual abilities? If so, Sam could have been king there too. And why is Sam suddenly wearing a monk’s robe?

Who quickly rebuilt the hall that had just been destroyed and who repaired the chairs in no time in which the king’s advisers now sit together?

It is completely absurd, dramaturgically seen, that Jon returns to Castle Black, and welcomed there by Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and then Jon rides further north with his old buddy, fishing and hunting? To enjoy the life as buddies?

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The decision for the figure of Arya can be interpreted a little bit more positive and consistent because she got developed into a person who does not fit into the moral concept of this Westeros, behaves against the rules and carries the only blink of a reflection of feminism within the series. To move on corresponds to the activities of this character as they were shown in the course of the action. In this sense, her journey beyond the borders known so far represents a consequent end when Westeros is placed in the hands of an asexual spiritual leader who is balanced with men who are devoted to alcohol and enjoying to spend time with prostitutes, with one who is allowed to wear a monk’s robe despite having a family, and a deceived woman who nevertheless worships her lover.

Bran, the new king, prefers to go for spiritual hunting the dragon instead of discussing the matters of reconstructing and consolidating the kingdom after these disastrous events?

So much narrative effort, with gods, Satan, choice, secrets, family ties, but at the end we must listen to a discussion about the reconstruction of brothels; and that Jon is changed and not presented accepting to be not Aegon after all and although he did a few episodes back in the family crypt, but in the heartache suddenly mutated into a character who doesn’t care about anybody else? So many lives/characters sacrificed to get him, the chosen one, at the throne, and then he gets shown to have decided for fishing.

Dramaturgically speaking, this end makes little sense – in my view – except that it could in principle allow HBO the option of a sequel. From a dramaturgical point of view, this end has little to do with the plot told for over 85 hours or more. And an ingenious and surprising postmodern twist on declaring everything to be the author’s dream or imagination this end does not offer either, although the series has operated to some extent with the aesthetics of postmodern cinema. But also in postmodern movies, there is a logic in presenting such a twist, which gets prepared long before it happens, due to the fundamental rules of film dramaturgy.

A good ending is crucial. In film dramaturgy, everything is composed to drive towards the ending; and to achieve this requires a well-woven story, that is within the framework of the conventions one set for the plot as logical as possible and presenting a probably evolving progressive chain of events. In a film, unlike to a novel, the ending must be a consequence resulting from the course of the plot. The rules of the literary narrative are a little different from those of film drama, which has its roots in theatre and performing narrative. A cinematic narrative is bound to a time-space continuum, it is perceived by the audience at the moment. The film is ‚time-based‘, therefore the dramaturgy for an observing audience must be organised in such a way that the events result in an interplay of family structures and surprising twists and turns or a surprising arrangement, as well as a logical and probable development within the framework of the cosmos, presented and its rules. The crux here is that the last hour of this series does not correspond to the conventions of the imagined cosmos in which the action takes place; and thus is not in the least logical and probably a result of the action. This disappoints the really large fan-audience as well as the few academics who have followed this series with interest. This also reduces the chance for a successful sequel, as the disappointed fans will now hardly hope for a continuation.

While the „Game-of-Thrones-Dramaturgy“ has so far been spoken of with admiration, this final episode has also destroyed this enthusiasm. There are three possible theories for understanding or interpreting this end: Maybe it was the concession of the serial makers to an end, which was perhaps decided by RR Martin? That he is the less talented narrator, who weaves in many ideas, religious and occult sparkles as references like hints, but who is not always able to organise the narrative strands in an interesting way, which can easily be understood when comparing the novels to the first seasons of the series. Or was it just trying to get rid of the fans? Or, however, the authors of the series have gone upside down and wanted to create a more modern end (in sense of diversity, with the man in the wheelchair and the small adult plus all outcasts, that make it to the top jobs by scarifying the one who is most outcast of them all and designed in the tradition of the Western genre?) than their previous narrative allows. or, this is a much more speculative and – my apologies – ironic one, is it a try to reflect on contemporary politics, to see misogynists and a spiritual character who might be a reference to a TV character as the new heads of politics.

 

Kerstin Stutterheim

 

Selected bibliography for further reading:

ECO, U. 1977. The Open Work of Art, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp.

KLOTZ, V. 1980. Closed and open form in drama (1969), Munich, C. Hanser.

KLOTZ, V. 1998: The dramaturgy of the audience: How stage and audience interact, especially with Raimund, Büchner, Wedekind, Horváth, Gatti and in political agitation theatre, Würzburg, Königshausen and Neumann.

RANCIÈRE, J. 2006 The aesthetic unconscious, Zurich [et al.], Diaphanes.

RANCIÈRE, J. 2011. The emancipated spectator, London, Verso.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2015. Handbook of applied dramaturgy. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Frankfurt am Main et al., Peter Lang Verlag.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2019. Modern Film Dramaturgy, London and New York, Routledge.

STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. 2013. Come and play with us Dramaturgie und Ästhetik im postmodernen Kino, Marburg, Schüren.

 

Game of Thrones 8 Episode 4 – The deconstruction of female characters, or Was GoTh ever a feminist series?

Now that the series is coming to an end, there are some comments of disappointment from fans and critics alike. The question of whether the series expresses feminist aspects or not, is a much-discussed one, as it has been in recent years already. In my opinion, it did not do so, both dramaturgically and aesthetically, even though one or other of the episodes may have played with it over and over again, and may have served such hope.

In terms of agency and empowerment of female characters in this series, in dramaturgical analysis, the figure of Arya is the only one actually allowed by the authors/directors to have a relevant influence on the plot. In order not to be misunderstood, other female figures have moments of power and strength within the events depicted and on vertical episodic plot sections in the explicit narrative, out of revenge or delusion, but not on the overall plot. In this respect, the figure of Arya is the only one, because she is established as the dramaturgical counterpart to Jon, since the second episode in old theatre tradition welded to him. (cf. Stutterheim 2019, 2017)

In the dramaturgy, in order to answer a corresponding question, one looks not only at what the respective figure is allowed to do at the moment, how powerful they might appear; but also at the influence that the authors and the director concede on the overall structure and development of the implicit theme.

Let’s take a quick look at the female characters who are still ‚in the game‘:

First of all, there is the figure of DANAERYS (Emilia Clarke). She got introduced into the overall plot via her brother, who instrumentalised her as a commodity. Her appearance is reminiscent of a Barbie doll and thus implicitly appeals to a broad group of the audience who may have played with her in childhood or have always wished to do so. On the other hand, it also reminds a little of Marilyn Monroe. Of course, the figure is blond and blue-eyed.

As at the beginning of the story, the figure of Danaerys get guided through the entire story by male companions and advisors. The only exception is Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), who also had to be brought out of the action in episode 8.4 in the sense of the dramaturgical balance of the overall plot. The fact that this happens brutally may not only serve the moment in which the increasing madness of the figure of Cersei (Lena Headey) has to be shown. This execution also reflects the brutality of the scenes in the context of which the character of Missandei got introduced. Also, Missandei is also classified as a sinful woman, in the sense of the moral concept that defines the series. Daenerys had an intimate advisor in her, who is now no longer needed from a dramaturgical point of view, but whose horrifying departure becomes dramatically relevant in the form of the background of Cersei’s cruelty.

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The Daenerys figure was built up over the first half as a possible positive figure and future queen, but this turns in episode 4.4. From this episode on she is increasingly portrayed as unpredictable, domineering and cruel. This got prepared with the event in the tower of Undead and the encounter with the sorcerer (2.10), in which she gives up the dream of her own family for the dragons and the sorcerer, who welcomes her – albeit in a somewhat macabre way – by her dragons, kills her before he can explain himself more precisely. Since this encounter with dark magic, the character has become more and more a cruel and possessed egomaniac who would do anything to become queen without restriction. Underlining their power and position, they are carried away to use cruel violence and to declare it justice. This figure only makes good and positive decisions if one of her advisors strongly recommends this to her. The figure presents a supposed power that may be due to her qua birth, but she got guided by an intelligently staggered group of figures, which apparently only accompany her. Dramaturgically seen, these advisors let the figure act as a representative of male world view. If she does not follow the male counsellors, sooner or later it won’t end well for her.

Thus, concerning the figure of Daenerys, no independence in the sense of any current or theory of feminism is established.

 

SANSA. One of the favourite figures for a large part of the female audience. This figure presents all feminine qualities of the ‚good good woman‘ (cf. Gelfert 2006). This Sansa learns with ease everything a woman should know, sew and be submissive, behave, walk upright, smile. (cf. Fiedler 2017 ) Her dream was to find her place in the castle by the king’s side. She got harmed, and the figure represents all the more femininity in the sense of American conservative Christian moral. The ultimate goal is the continued existence and independence of the family. That’s what she lives for now. Winterfell must continue to exist and preserve its independence. Sansa represents the North with its moral rules and traditions (cf. Stutterheim 2017). That is what the Sansa character stands for. This figure serves a social context that is determined by fundamental Christian values and in which there is the role of the woman as the wife, princess/queen, co-director, who thinks independently but withdraws in the case of cases, but who must be protected and rescued in an emergency. Also, she gets shown as someone who takes this situation for granted.

 

CERSEI LANNISTER. This figure was designed from the beginning as immoral and selfish. Their only acceptable side, as Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) expresses in 8.4, is their maternal love for their children. This good nature, however, was also shown as overshadowed by her character and so she had to lose them, the children of sin. First to evil, then to an act of revenge, then to religious fanaticism.

BRIENNE of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). This character is one of the variable characters with which the authors play with us. She is a classic secondary character who serves to better understand the character(s) of the main character(s), their motivation and actions. In particular, the figure serves to accompany Jaime and Sansa. Moreover, implicitly, it offers an identification for those in the female audience who cannot compare themselves with the beautiful girls and women figures, who are also too tall or find rather sporty or not pretty.

The fact that it get ultimately shown in detail as a relationship with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has a dual function here. On the one hand, it is used to show the figure of Jaime after the court as a man still capable of love. After winning the battle side by side, in which we got shown that they had saved each other’s lives, this was only consequent. Then one had to sort Brienne into the camp of the female figures according to the overall layout in order to restore order. For this, she had to love, become jealous and even stand in the snow crying, which discriminates against the figure twice over, as I here and now boldly assume. For on the one hand, as mentioned in various critiques, as a crying abandoned woman, this Brienne is the opposite of the intrepid and capable warrior. Then, this is my hypothesis, she misjudges in her jealousy the actual reason, the true character of Jaime. She obviously didn’t listen to him. He’s not leaving for Kingslanding to save his sister blindly. The task of this character is to protect the subjects from insane actions. But on the other hand, this chracter is one of those the authors change and use as varaible, as one of the few who are arranged to install surprising and less logical elements in the narrative.

What remains is ARYA, the figure who is the only one allowed to unfold and live independently. She is the ‚Wonder Woman‘ of this series, like these ‚the Godkiller‘ (cf. Stokowski 2019). This character has worked, learned and fought to lead an independent and as far as possible self-determined life. Accordingly, she had to reject Gendry’s (Joe Demspey’s) long-awaited proposal. As mentioned above, Arya mirrors Jon, and therefore it is a dramatic necessity to keep this in dramaturgical balance to the male main character.

In this respect, it is consistent and little surprising that at the end of the series even more women from the ensemble are left behind, murdered, referred to the back seats.

 

 

bibliography

 

Fiedler, Leslie A. 2017 Love and death in the American novel. 3rd printing Dalkey Archive ed. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.

Gelfert, Hans-Dieter. 2006. Typically American: How Americans became what they are. 3rd, updated and supplemented by an epilogue America 2006. Aufl., original edition ed. Munich: Beck.

Stokowski, Margarete. 2019. „Wonder Woman & Hannah Arendt.“  Hanser Accents Miracles (66.1 May 2019):12-17.

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2017 Game of Thrones – dramaturgy of a TV series. Paderborn Fink Publishers / Brill

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2019. „Game of Thrones 8 Episode 3 – Armageddon. The Long Night.“ Glaz, 1 May 2019.

 

Game of Thrones 8 Episode 3 – Armageddon. The Long Night.

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In this episode, the long-awaited battle between the people in the north and the world of Satan with his hosts was fought. According to one of the references on which the plot of the series based, one can relate it to the Battle of Armageddon in the Old Testament/Torah. This war, which is about the spiritual level, was portrayed as the bare horror for the characters involved. This was the battle of gods and faith and, accordingly, of survival and religion. A battle of daughters and sons.

Attention, even today it is not possible without spoiler. And, also for this short, weekly contribution, I must limit myself to selected aspects that are above all dramaturgically of interest and have not already been broadly discussed in reviews.

Most of the still living central characters of the series have survived this slaughter. Dramaturgically these are still needed for the last worldly struggles, the dissolution of sub-plots and the central conflict over total power, the throne.

The episode begins in the night, before dawn, in anticipation of the attack, final preparations are made. For example, we see Sam (John Bradley) getting two daggers pressed into his hand, about which it is told that he won’t spend time in the crypt with the women and children, as Jon (Kit Harrington) advised him.

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), on the other hand, grabs a bag of wine before retreating into the crypt as ordered by Daenerys (Emilia Calrke). Bran (Isaak Hempstead Wright) and Theon (Alfie Allen) with his men pass Tyrion to wait for the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) at the red tree as lure.

The following shots show men and women waiting in tension and moving into position. The music and an associative montage of images combine these observations into a suspenseful opening sequence that familiarises us with the space in which the action will take place, according to an exposition. Even though Winterfell is generally familiar to the audience, this is about the battle formation that implements the plan from the central scene of the last episode and gives the space new dimensions and functions. Woven in are details such as the repeated reference to the cold, weapons get provided, cries of dragons heard. Excitement also arises from the sound design, which underlines the silence and does not artificially incorporate additional emotional softeners. The music takes up the motifs of the marching up and the heartbeat, whereby tension is achieved, one almost holds one’s breath.

The surprising element to be expected in this episode was the return of Melisandre (Carice van Houten) at the end of the exposition, with which the vertical dramaturgy of this episode is given an additional individual arc. The battle is central. Here again, the narrative of a personal fate is connected with the collective strand, as it is typical for an open dramaturgy. (cf. Klotz 1980) Of course, the figure of Melisandre must play a role in the decisive spiritual battle, since in the sense of the action it is also about the establishment of the new religion, the recognition of the God of Fire in this case. This is underlined by the character at least twice: once in the situation where Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) finally dies, because his task will be fulfilled with the battle and „the Lord“ does not have to bring him back, and at the end of the episode, when she goes to her death, since her task is fulfilled. Through her and her work, her God helped to win this battle and also to destroy the Night King. The fire destroyed the ice.

This is of course linked to the narrative strand Arya/Jon and the confrontation with the Night King. The figure of Melisandre, in the situation she first met Arya (Maisie Williams), predicted that she would bring death to people of different eye colours. There is an echo to this dialogue in this episode when Arya says: „You said, I’d shut many eyes forever, you’re right about that too.“

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Melisandre lists the colours, the last of the colours she mentions is blue eyes. This, and the question about Arya’s attitude to the God of Death, seems to be like a wake-up call to Arya. The end of this scene is composed in such a way that Arya walks past the camera, followed by a cut to the shot of the clearing where Theon stares into the dark and awaits the attack. The image composition and editing create a connection between these two situations.

The constellation Daenerys – Jon/Aegon is much discussed on the explicit level. Will she be queen? Will/will they remain a couple? I can’t answer that. I assume that, according to the introduction of the figure about her (half-)brother, she finally hands over the plot and the power to her next male relative, Aegon (Jon).

Refined but equally dramaturgically consistent is the fact that the episode ends with Arya overcoming the Night King and not Jon/Aegon.

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As already mentioned in the last text, it is evident that references to the legend of the Grail are adapted in the design. Jon/Aegon is a variant of the Parzival, which is hidden by its mother in the forest, far away from the knights, far away from the royal house, has no idea of its origin, but then is responsible for the rescue of the country. He is rather the spiritual young man associated with the spiritual, higher power. This land is sick and sunk in war and misery because the king is wounded and no longer able to lead the country. In order to save the country, Parzival must find the Grail together with a very worldly knight trained in the martial arts, and only if all three together make it to the throne can the land be healed and peace restored.

Now Jon and Arya were already welded together in the second episode with a means proven in the theatre as a pair of figures, in which Jon had a valuable object made, which he presented to Arya, and they embraced on it. Gift and body contact weld figures together traditionally. In this way, these figures could also lead alternative plot strands over the course of the series, which complemented each other and related to each other. According to the object, Arya became a fighter. She has learned to handle this weapon and various others. She’s Gaiwan.

So it had to be Arya who overcame the Night King. She is trained to be the perfect fighter, has resisted the pull of evil, and she is the counterpart to Jon/Aegon. The audience got already prepared for the probability of this situation with the one in which Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) stabbed the undead giant. She hung in a similar stranglehold in front of him, like Arya in the hand of Night King, and stabbed the giant with a dagger.

Now the question arises, who or what is the Grail? Bran, maybe?

Another consideration that seems worth considering to me is that Tyrion is sent to the crypt and has to stay there. Neither about the figures of the Daenerys nor of Sansa (Sophie Turner) is he believed to have an active part or an intelligent decision in this situation. On the contrary, he is asked to face the truth that he is useless. Until now, the character had been guided in such a way that she acted as a kind of film clarifier and therefore always either had an overview and commented on developments or influenced decisions in her progress. This was still the case in the last episode, where the character was used, among other things, to convince Jaime and the audience of the positive aspects of the Daenerys and to confirm them as the future queen. Is this change preparing us for Tyrion’s departure or is it just another smart move in the game with the audience’s guesses? Perhaps this constellation only served to solve the conflict between Sansa and Tyrion through this created constellation and also to close this secondary strand.

Dramaturgy is not a format template but allows a play with models, rules and traditions, which is why a dramaturgical analysis of such an intricate work has its limits in forecasting. Mainly when, as in this series, very sophisticated operations are carried out with constant figures and variable figures. From my point of view, the only characters who seem for sure to be part of the action until the finale are Jon/Aegon and Arya.

I also assume, but of course, I can be wrong that Cersei won’t be taken out of the game in the next episode, as many critics and fans expect. The next episode will probably first bring a retarding moment before the battle for worldly power will be waged to complete the arc of Cersei intrigue, the last parent-generation figure in the game with ambitions for the throne. The characters of Cersei (green eyes) and Daenerys (blue eyes) resemble each other in the unconditional, autocratic and fanatical will to absolute power.

 

Kerstin Stutterheim

 

bibliography

 

Klotz, Volker. 1980: Closed and open form in drama (1969). 13 ed, literature as art. Munich: C. Hanser.

Game of Thrones 8.2 _ The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. A few dramaturgical thoughts.

The second episode of the eighth season continues, on the one hand, the linking of arcs to situations from the beginning of the series as well as to relevant subplots, in which the authors let further characters arrive in Winterfell or let actions take place between those who are already there. In this sequence, several conflicts of previous strands of action are resolved to be able to reposition figures. To be able to continue the principle of ensemble dramaturgy with a central character, central elements of the central conflict are remembered in this series, realigned, and organised as tensions between the figures of this season.

On the other hand, this episode intensifies the tension in the sense of waiting for the central battle between the living, the human world, and the embodied death and its hosts. This is called as a theme in variants again and again – in the dialogue between Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsey) for example.

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In their interaction the real battle, the challenge to face the angels of death, Satan’s hosts, is pointed out, but also the arc to the subplot and story of the character of Arya is created. Death can have a thousand faces and embody absolute evil as nobody (Arendt 2007, 101, Stutterheim 2017, 87/88). The adolescent Arya not only looked death in the face but also in his ‚workshop‘ (Season 5).

The theme of the confrontation with death and the possible total downfall and absolute oblivion appears again and again in this current episode. Here the central conflict of the Christian conception of the world is reflected as the elementary struggle between God and Satan, which determines this series in its moral code and the motivation of the characters. Good versus evil. To represent and stand up for the good ones, one must be morally good, get forgiven for one’s sins and free oneself or renounce them, put egoism and vanity at the back. For this fight, even the ‚For the Family‘, which otherwise determines the canon of behavioural norms, stands back. For the family would no longer exist after the victory of evil. (cf. Stutterheim 2017, 32-43)

As already emphasised in the last blog text, in these weekly comments I can only deal with selected situations, and only analyse them to a certain extent so as not to go beyond the scope. And, attention, unfortunately, from here it does not go without more detailed descriptions, spoiler warning for those who have not yet seen the episode.

 

First, however, embedding the scene between Arya and Gendry, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) had to be repositioned in this episode because he is one of the central and dramaturgically relevant flexible characters (cf. Stutterheim 2017, 94). It was not only introduced as a second figure at the complementary level of Kings Landing, but also as relevant to the conflict at this level of action. Actions of this figure are part of the conflict between the Lannisters and Starks, but especially for the central conflict, the question of the right to the throne. The character of Jaime Lannister keeps alive the basic situation of the problems surrounding the Targaryen family. And so implicitly refers to the Grail legend in which the land is threatened until the king is healed or a healed king reigns over it. Jaime embodies this conflict, is a living memory of it because he prevented a mass murder by killing the last Targaryen king and could deceive the successor, who was a morally ill, sinful king. From this constellation, he can be managed as a variable character and not assigned to a family line. He is the protector of the rightful king, he fights for the living, as expressed explicitly in his dialogue, and in the sense of dramaturgy, he is a character who, in the tradition of tragedy, stands for the survival of the community.

The scenes around Jaime Lannister represent the day of the last court for Jaime. He must answer for his deeds, his sins are balanced against his good deeds. Since, as Jon (Kit Harrington) sums it up in one sentence, every man is needed, and especially Jaime, who for dramaturgical reasons cannot be removed from the narrative right now, this character has to face his sins and survive this judgment. As already mentioned above and explained in more detail in earlier texts (Stutterheim 2017), conservatively Christian world views and traditions are decisive for the leading strand and its development. First, it is the young women who sit in court over him, then he faces Bran (Isaak Hempstead Wright) and finally Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). The character of Bran gives Jaime absolution because he acted for his family at that time, which is understandable in the context of the moral code that the roles of the series follow; and now it is ultimately about higher things than the earthly. A further moment of increasing the tension on the progress of the series is also interwoven here, in that the authors let Bran, the seer, ask: „How do you know there is an afterwards?“

With Brienne, Jaime is also brought into a balanced relationship, which is carried over several situations and results in Jaime knighting her.

It also seems interesting to me how the constellation of Sansa-Daenerys is further developed in this episode. As a reminder, the most urgent wish of both women since the beginning of the series has been to be Queen in Kingslanding. The figure of Sansa (Sophie Turner) as the king’s wife, the character of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) as the one who is convinced that she is entitled on her own right to the throne on inheritance law grounds. This is implicitly conceived as a conflict between the morally good Stark family in the north, living in harmony with nature, and the immoral and therefore insane Targeryen family from the south. The latter provoked their own downfall because they got involved with the ‚heraldic animal of the devil‘, the lindworm, i.e. the dragon. In the course of the plot, sufficient situations were built in which the figure of Daenerys was inscribed with irrational to excessively cruel decisions in her actions, which kept awake and confirmed this stigma of the family of the South and intellect and the associated impression of overestimating one’s own self. To prepare for this situation, Winterfell Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jaime talk about Daenerys and Cersei (Lena Headley) in the inner courtyard, an analogy is also made here and above all the third woman, whose aim in life is also the throne, is remembered.

As so often in the course of the series, Daenerys is advised by one of her male advisors to do something relevant to the achievement of her goal, but which would never have occurred to the character herself. (Almost all positive decisions made by this character in the course of the action have been initiated, advised, or prepared by male companions.) „All my life I have known one goal: The Iron Throne.“ And it is very likely that for dramatic reasons they deliberately leave their brother unmentioned, whose aspirations determined the first years of their lives.

The moment the conversation revolves around their love for Jon, they get closer to each other, to the point that Daenerys lays her hand on Sansa’s, which, however, also expresses an embodiment of hierarchy. But the figure of Sansa does not allow herself to be captured by the gesture and brings the conversation back to the central conflict, the balance of power between the throne in the South/Kingslanding and The North/Winterfell.

Game-Of-Thrones-Season-8-Episode-2-Featurette

 

Before Daenerys can respond, there is a reinforcement for the Sansas cause and its emotional power: Theon (Alfie Allen) arrives. Since the beginning of the series, these two figures have been dramaturgically linked to each other, as have those of Arya and Jon or Arya and Gendry.

 

Central to the further course of the explicit action is the scene of planning the impending confrontation in the middle of the running time of the episode. Since a time frame can now be given by the arrived fighters, one must make preparations for the forthcoming all-decisive fight. This makes it possible to unite all prominent figures in one room and to move Jon back into the centre of the action. He, as the Parzival of the narrative, is the one who can heal the country, end the threat. A fight for that is inevitable. That this must be wisely prepared since victory cannot be achieved by force alone, is evident on the explicit level of narrative, and implicitly a clash of the spiritual divine with the representation of absolute evil, Satan, is equally inevitable. Here we are also working on the figure gang, which has already been led over the whole season. Through Bran’s encounter with the Night King and the resulting physical networking of both characters, Bran can serve as a lure. Of course, the figure of Theon is the most suitable to be placed at his side. Explicitly for the reason that the character himself expresses: He conquered Winterfell when the child was Bran Burgherr, so now he has to defend her next to him. Implicitly, Theon is also the most suitable figure to stand by Bran’s side, as he also suffered a non-healing physical wound from the hand of one of the characters representing evil in the human world. Like Bran, Theon has been transformed into a different character through the encounter with the evil, according to the standards that apply to the cosmos of the series, a better character.

 

Arya and Gendry have been emotionally connected since episode 10 of the first season. The fact that the two become a couple in this episode is explicitly logical concerning the situation in this previous plot. This is already apparent in the events evolving in episode 8.1 and the scene at the beginning of this second episode. Implicitly this is also logical because in their relationship an arc is drawn to the friendship between the characters Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and Ned Stark (Sean Bean). Arya and Gendry take this relationship to a new level. So there is still another, an alternative future royal couple for the build-up of tension: Gendry and Arya.

As an echo to the scene in 8.1, in which Sam (John Bradley) in the crypt tells Jon of his true origin, at the end of the second episode of this season it is again the situation in the crypt, in which Jon now opens Daenerys that he is her nephew. This circumstance not only excludes a love relationship, the reason why the Daenerys figure was able to develop a gentle and peaceful side, as she expressed earlier in the conversation with Sansa. Moreover, if Jon is now Aegon Targeryen, he is the rightful male heir of the family throne and stands before her in the line of aspirants. This calls into question the entire previous striving and doing of the figure, as well as its position. This situation enables a further change in the action, with which a new conflict is built into another internal action in a specific constellation of characters. An excellent cliff hanger.

This replacement does not come as a surprise, as it has already been prepared for a long time. Dramaturgically, this can first be deduced from the sequence and form of the introduction of the figures. The figure of the Daenerys has taken over the claim to the throne from her brother and now – in the sense of how the series is arranged – gives it back to her next male relative in a dramaturgically logical manner shortly before the end of the plot. And, in the course of the plot, it was not for nothing that Jon was familiarised in time with the dragons, which he can now take over from Daenerys, and with them determine the final battle. The figure of the Daenerys seems to me to be a transitional figure who enriches the plot between the two male heirs to the throne and gives it a necessary facet, but possibly according to the dramaturgical balance, has to give up her claim to the throne at the end to the central male figure. We’ll see, but there’s a lot to be said for it. Because with the parents, Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding), the conflict between the south and the north would be solved, and the country could be healed, if the figure Jon/Aegon would become the new king.

 

I’m curious to see what happens next. The Night King was already ready in the last shot to advance the plot in the next episode.

Kerstin Stutterheim

 

 

Bibliography

Arendt, Hannah. 2007. Über das Böse. Eine Vorlesung zu Fragen der Ethik [Some Questions of Moral Philosophy]. Ungekürzte Taschenbuchausg. ed, Serie Piper. München: Piper.

Klotz, Volker. 1980. Geschlossene und offene Form im Drama (1969). 13 ed, Literatur als Kunst. München: C. Hanser.

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Babelsberger Schriften zu Mediendramaturgie und Ästhetik /. Frankfurt am Main u.a.: Peter Lang Verlag.

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2017. Game of Thrones sehen – Dramaturgie einer TV Serie. Paderborn Fink Verlag / Brill

 

 

Women in Film and TV, VI – BLACK PANTHER (USA 2018)

 

Once again, a SciFi movie – or rather writer-director Ryan Coogler and his team – shows that the world could be better than it is today, and at the same time they do their part. In the postmodern film „Black Panther„, which is wonderfully entertaining for me as a dramaturge and film scholar, the author/director Ryan Coogler and his co-author Joe Robert Cole have created an interesting construction for their ensemble arranged around a central figure. The central character is a prince, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), whose becoming a king leads as well onto a kind of world rain. This character is very skilfully led by a group of women, without whom he would not have survived nor never made it to the top of power.

black-panther-review-14

 

In this narrative, the women of clever military men, spies, advisors as figures in the ensemble are of decisive importance for action, most of all the character of his little sister going with the name Shuri (Letitia Wright). This character is the scientific superbrain, a Q[1] of the future. Yes, all this is already laid out in the comics, but nevertheless, it is a transformation into a cinema film, to which my attention is directed here.

KXC1W2-920x584

 

Ryan Coogler and his team will present traditional patterns of filmic narration in the Hollywood-influenced space of experience with a postmodern wink of the eye.

The plot around the king’s question provides the impetus for action, establishes the conflict because the change on the throne is triggered by mishandling in the family (classic American dramaturgy)[1] and must be atoned for before the country and the world can be healed – as already in the Grail myth.

Epic and classical American dramaturgy are interwoven here, the basic patterns of myth-based tragedy and Christian worldviews serve as a basic structure that conveys a sense of familiarity to the audience.[2]

In the centre there is a male hero who is responsible for the welfare of the country and the world. Here, he is following advice by his female company. That is, of course, first his mother (Angela Bassett Broke), then the woman he loves, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). Then it is General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and last but not least his little sister who secures his survival more than once. Of course, like „The Student of Prague“ (Wegener and Rye D 1913), he has to face the embodiment of his negative reflection, his cousin going with the name Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Morgan) in a direct battle. At first the becomes defieted; because as a good man he hesitates to kill his cousin who was unfairly left behind when T’Challa’s father killed his own brother. That cousin, angry and trained by the CIA/ American military to be a fighting machine, does not hesitate to kill to get onto the throne. The character T’Challa still is being saved. First by a fisherman – with reference to the Christian tradition, then by his first contender, whose life the Black Panther character spared during the earlier „Challenge”. But the actual rescue happens through the Trinity of Mother, Beloved, and Little Sister, who guide this character of T’Challa/Black Panther through the plot and ensure his progress/survival. The young king thus represents a postmodern central figure by embodying the typical male hero, who also is a variant of the split hero by being inseparable from the character of the sister to get through the action. The little sister and the king are an inseparable unit, neither could develop their abilities without the other. They form a variant of a split main character.

In this context, the male figure, on whom our emotional interest is directed as well as the narrative tradition, is designed in such a way that he apparently experiences a so-called ‚journey of the hero‘ and emerges from the adventure as supposedly stronger and more knowledgeable. He’s definitely improved his duel technique. On this ‚journey‘, in the course of the arguments, he learned to listen above all to what the character of Nakia tells him, to whom the authors conceded the statesman’s thoughts.

In this film, as already mentioned, the female characters are those who dramaturgically advance the plot and, to put it another way, are equipped with agency.

There is more to discover and describe in the more wide-ranging dramaturgy of this postmodern film, such as references to many well-known feature film scenes, such as from „Metropolis“ (Lang, D 1927), „The Fifth Element“ (Besson F 1997), and „Game of Thrones“ (Benioff and Weiss, USA 2011-2019) analogies, whose analysis may be presented elsewhere or in a later blog entry.

 

[1] Cf. (Stutterheim 2015)

[2] Cf. (Stutterheim 2019)

[1] The technician of the James Bond universe.

 

Films:

Benioff, David, and D.B. Weiss. 2011-. GAME OF THRONES. USA.

Besson, Luc. F 1997. THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

Long, Fritz. D 1927. METROPOLIS.

Wegener, Paul, and Stellan Rye. D 1913. THE STUDENT FROM PRAGUE.

 

for further reading regarding the mentioned context in dramaturgy:

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Babelsberger Schriften zu Mediendramaturgie und Ästhetik /. Frankfurt am Main u.a.: Peter Lang Verlag.

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2019. Modern Film Dramaturgy. 1st ed. Basel – Frankfurt – Oxford – New York Peter Lang Publishing.

 

 

 

 

 

Women in Film and TV productions V – Female Characters and Gender Construction in ‚TOP OF THE LAKE‘

by Kerstin Stutterheim

Gertrud Stein once wrote that it takes hundred years, three generations, to change habits and narratives. Is Generation One still in charge? And, can the American Way of Life (and thinking) and thus film productions using following the “American Dramaturgy” (cf. Frenz 1962, Stutterheim 2015, pp153) give us a model for living today and the future?

Fatherhood, motherhood, and the biological family are core elements of the “American Narrative” (cf. Fiedler 2017 , Gelfert 2006). And that specific form of designing the narrative, and much more importantly the implicit dramaturgy, mirrors the culture and feeds back into the understanding of gender, hierarchies and more into the Anglo-American film industry, thus the global world as well.

An unwritten rule of designing a successful movie or series for US-American or British audiences involves the narrative referring to conservative Jewish-Christian believes, which are mingled with historical experiences thus priming the Cultural Memory (cf. Assmann 2010, Assmann 2002, 2004, Gelfert 2006) of these nations. And, apparently, one can find here traditions, topics, and themes from the American Novel transformed into elements of “American Dramaturgy”. The novel emerged as the new mass medium. (Fiedler 2017 44) It’s core elements are a result out of the shift from Catholicism (or other religions respecting female Goddesses) towards the father-cantered Protestantism, which was the religion of the new mass of that time in the developing United States of America. (Fiedler 2017 44)

Other elements of “American Dramaturgy” reflect the influence of ‘the Code’ and its moral stakes for representational spaces towards Hollywood (Maras 2016, pp1) and film productions elsewhere.

The series Top of the Lake is an American-British co-production for Sundance TV and BBC One. Jane Campion and Gerard Lee wrote the series. Season one is directed by Campion and Garth Davis.

Although the main character – at least for season one – is a young female character, Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), the overall narration again follows the ‘American dramaturgy’ – a version of that old story. The first season is about sexual abuse and paedophilia intertwined with questions of fatherhood, relationships and family. Young Robin, who usually lives in Sydney, is visiting her dying mother Grishina (Skye Wansey) in New Zealand. The mother-daughter-relationship is overshadowed by an event from their past, fitting the model of an analytical drama as well as a crime story. Robin remembers her father as the better parent. Soon after her arrival Robin becomes involved in a case of sexual abuse of a very young girl, Tui (Jaqueline Joe). Tui is the 12-year-old daughter of a bad macho and drug dealer, Matt (Peter Mullan) and an Asian woman who no longer lives with Matt’s patchwork family. Since Robin’s character is introduced as a specialist in cases involving children, this is in the beginning reasonable enough to make us believe she could be asked to join this department; besides which, the story is situated on the South Island, where the capital is located and thus very likely there may exist a specialist too.

Robin is set up as a detective who tries her best to solve the case. In the beginning, her character acts professionally in as much as she has to keep voyeuristic policemen at a distance and to be the only one Tui is communicating with. The promising start, reminding one of such series as The Killing (here I refer to the original Danish production, not the US adaptation), is soon interfered by Robin’s backstory and diminishing the gestus of professionalism, inviting the audience to fall back into or a typical critical-incredulous look at her.

Thus, the narration is split into different levels – central is the case, secondary the private story of Robin. In dramatic tradition usually telling a story this way – divided into a ‘collective’ or more general level and one private thread – would indicate an ‘open form’. But within this model of narration one doesn’t need a backstory and definitely not a Happy Ending. The way the narrative is set up for Top of the Lake mixes traditions of narration but focussing more on drama traditions derived from the hero driven tragedy in combination with ‘the journey of the hero’. The latter brings us clearly back to patriarchal Christian-puritanical worldviews (cf. Campbell 1949). As one can see, these are dominant against the modern approach of using an open form.

In the backstory, in the private thread, it is told that Robin was raped as a 16-year-old girl and got pregnant as result of it. Her Catholic mother did not allow an abortion. Thus Robin became a mother but gave her baby away for adoption the very next day after giving birth.

There is also an additional storyline of a group of women who set up a community close by in a place called ‘paradise’. These women have different stories to tell and to overcome, all related to relationships with men. At some point as well Tui and Robin have to ask for shelter there. Paradise is situated at the end of a dead-end street close to the end of the world surrounded by a most beautiful landscape. Is this a place to be compared with monasteries from Middle Ages, which accommodated women having physical, psychological or monetary stigmas from a male point of view, labelled as ‘unfuckable’?

While Robin is working on the case, she has to encounter not only voyeuristic colleagues but as well an increasingly abusive boss and one of her rapists. With a closer look, it becomes evident that the action of season one is designed in such a way that the enthusiasm Robin is investing in solving the case appears more and more like displacement behaviour to processing her own traumata and not so much the action of a professional detective. This approach by the authors/directors of telling her story supports two other old stereotypes within Anglo-American narratives. The first one is that working women are acting more emotionally than logically and that they are working intensely and passionately (only) to overcome trauma, disappointment or misbehaviour excluding them from their social group – as becoming a single mother no matter the circumstances. One influential novel in this regard is The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Hawthorne and Murfin 2006), which shines through the pattern of the construction of Robin’s story as well. For example, when Robin finds out that everyone in the police department knows she has been raped as a young girl and Elisabeth Moss as Robin is directed as sitting there stunned and tears forming in her eyes or stunned and tearful.

By surviving all this she is not only proving her ability to solving the case, rescuing the girl and the baby, but as a reward, the prospect of sentimental love lies ahead for her. The happy ending as establishing a man-woman-relationship in love is another traditional element of American Narratives, grown out of the American Novel representing the worldviews of the protestant/puritan bourgeoisie (Fiedler 2017 pp 44) transformed for the movies by the founder generation of Hollywood (Gabler 1989).

Season two was broadcasted recently, again written by Gerard Lee and Jane Campion; directed by her and Ariel Kleiman. China Girl tells the story of Robin coming back to Sydney, after years of having a not-much-defined break from the police work. The authors trigger a presumption seeing her having been at home with her beloved Jonno. An intense emotional private disappointment spurred her to return to the police force she left years ago, but no one other than her boss seems to know her from these earlier times.

With the very first episode, the character becomes damaged. Firstly, when Robin is inappropriate reacting to a provocation in a common situation, in front of the whole department and some superior men observing the event. Secondly, she is presented drinking beer regularly after duty. By doing so, she is endangering her brother who managed to overcome his drinking habits. Soon she gets her new case – a murdered China Girl. She is supposed to solve this case together with her colleague Miranda Hilmarson (Gwendoline Christie) and all other staff of the department, one of them attracted to Robin from the very first meeting at the corpse. He is trying every possible way to start any kind of relationship with her.

The murder case leads Robin and her team into a milieu of prostitution and surrogacy. Correspondingly, the theme of season two mirrors and potentiates themes of season one – now it is biological motherhood, prostitution, abuse, and men seeing themselves as superior to women.

From a dramaturgical point of view interestingly, Robin is no longer the main character. As a very dominant antagonist to Robin, a pimp called ‘Puss’ (David Dencik) is established, and besides the actor speaking with an East-European accent, he is also called ‘the German’. Pervasive is the character not only as lousy character dominating and exploiting a group of women, terrifying people around him but more importantly as a character who is designed to be controlling the progress of the action. Actions this character got from the author-directors bolstering him driving the story, not the detective. She is designed as a much more reacting character than in season one.

This pimp has a similar hairstyle to Matt in season one, and he appears as an incarnation of the “Eternal Wanderer of Misogynism”. That Puss is designed and directed as a character, who lives in and from the conviction that it would be man’s destiny to enslave women. He has a stream of dialogues written, and the character can present this thinking in a variety of argumentations. Accordingly, he can declare prostitution as a profession and portray himself as a feminist who is supporting women to earn money to be able to support their families. This character is situated as the antagonist to Robin on both levels – the murder case and the private level of the narration. Sure, a bad persona has to say and do terrible things fitting the designed character; this is not the point I want to question here. There are decisions to be made within the process of how to use dramaturgy to balance the dynamic between characters. Interestingly, dialogues and actions between the pimp and the detective are following the traditional “Western”-model more – the male outlaw being the more exciting persona, having the potential to become the one who is acting out the morally better one. By invoking that model in a combination of giving that persona this ample opportunity to make the point of the misogynist, he gets more influence on the action, thus he is a main character. Consequently, this persona ‘Puss’ is not only challenging the character of Robin, he is a dramatic opponent too but as well – from a dramaturgical point of view – diminishing the importance of the persona Robin within the structure and hence the effect of that character. From a dramaturgical point of view, the character of Puss is designed as the potentially morally good outlaw, in which he is allowed to see himself, hence the one questioning the Sherriff. One could write all this that way and contrast it with the directorial approach and the representation of that character, but that isn’t happening here. On the contrary, Puss is shown as the active and smart persona, while Robin is deliberately designed as a most vulnerable Female.

The main task given to the character of Robin by the creators Campion and Lee is to understand herself as a mother. She has to get to know her daughter Mary – incorporated by Jane Campion’s daughter Alice Englert. Campion and Lee designed Robin’s character as being haunted by her past and working to forget her pain. Her salvation is to understand and accept her motherhood and to get a new perspective on herself. (Bonus Material, Making Robin. Campion and Kleiman 2017) Thus, she has to meet her daughter Mary and her new parents. Through her actions, and since she is designed as another most vulnerable and at the same time exceptionally stupidly-behaving young woman, Robin is brought into challenging situations – in the private as well as the crime level of the narration. Throughout this action, her character is again and increasingly taken into circumstances in which she is challenged to react on her emotions or to act professionally.

In addition to the conflict between the detective and the pimp/murderer, Robin is set into a conflict with her subordinate colleague Miranda. Another stereotype is employed with setting up this conflict – women can’t work together. The persona of Miranda is outlined as a bit naïve, not well-educated, but longing for love and being loved. Since this character was deliberately designed for Gwendoline Christie (Bonus Material, Making Miranda. Campion & Kleiman, 2017), her problem is apparent – she is taller than everyone else, hence misperceived as a female monster. Her character also gets no chance to become a role model. Her character has been set up as being in a new relationship with her married boss, lying to Robin and others. And much worse – after the boss declared his relationship with Miranda as true to Robin, Miranda seems to be flirting with Robin’s brother Liam (Kirin J. Callinam). Consequently, following the rules of the American Dramaturgy, Miranda has to be in real danger when she is wearing Liam’s shirt. Cheating against the new relationship and wearing a visible sign of it, like a ‘scarlet letter’, makes her dramatically vulnerable and punishment – for her sin – is inevitable.

A similar traditional layer of traditional, as well as conservative American Dramaturgy pattern, is recognisable for the development written for Robin within the action. In addition to aspects mentioned earlier, two other issues can be emphasised here as well. Firstly, the promise of a sentimental love-relationship is used as reward for Robin, of a man who appears as a mixture of her father and Jonno (Thomas M. Wright) as we remember both from season one. Interestingly, the dynamics of the relationship between Robin and Mary’s father Pyke (Ewan Leslie) according to her motherhood success. When Robin is shown as understanding herself as the mother of Mary and acting accordingly, the dynamics between her and Pyke are good. In situations, Robin is working as the detective, and given the construct of the crime story acting against the interests of Mary, Pyke has to backtrack from her. And, since this relationship is against standards of morality, the situation when they are having sex has to be interrupted by a call of high importance.

The other weird issue, dramaturgically speaking, is the situation of the encounter of Robin and her former senior Al Parker (David Wenham) for a hearing. The overall story gives the impression that some years lay between the end of season one – Robin shooting Al – and beginning of season two. Robin had three miscarriages, and as we can see, Al has a new family and two children. The boy must be about five or at least four years old, to estimate from the appearance and dialogue. What made them wait so long to set up the hearing about the events happening at end of season one? What took the authorities four to five years to arrange that? That situation – of meeting again for the hearing – enables the authors and the director to display a violent attack against Robin. Although it may have been planned as a situation showing Robin’s strengths and cleverness, it shows first of all that the man in his wheelchair still is stronger than her, and very much determined to abuse her – and all of this is demonstrated much in detail and length supporting a voyeuristic view.

After Robin’s character suffered this much, accepted her motherhood and was able to solve the case, she is rewarded with being trusted by her boss to deputise for him for some time. Mary manages to free herself from her relationship with Puss and goes back to her adoptive mother; who herself has returned to her marriage and gets rewarded for doing so by getting Mary back.

Just the Thai-women are still in the hands of Puss, and all those couples that were about to buy themselves the service of substitutes were penalised as well.

Thus, the dramaturgical analysis disappointingly reveals a white-male supremacy worldview dominating the layout and construct, the motivation and design of the narration and characters; as well the aesthetic representation.

Both seasons of Top of the Lake were perceived as exceptional productions making a difference in presenting female characters within TV productions. Nevertheless, it is pleasant to watch excellent actresses in exciting, challenging and rewarding roles; the implicit message is still questioning women in their rights and their economic, social as well as mental independence.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Assmann, Aleida. 2010. Memory in a global age: discourses, practices and trajectories. 1. publ. ed, Palgrave Macmillan memory studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Assmann, Jan. 2002. Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. 4. Aufl. dieser Ausg. ed, Beck’sche Reihe. München: Beck.

Assmann, Jan. 2004. Religion und kulturelles Gedächtnis: zehn Studien. Orig.-Ausg., 2. Aufl. ed, Beck’sche Reihe. München: Beck.

Campbell, Joseph. 1949. The hero with a thousand faces. New York: Pantheon books.

Campion, Jane, and A. Kleiman. 2017. Top of the Lake – China Girl. In Top of the Lake. UK/USA: BBC.

Fiedler, Leslie A. 2017 Love and death in the American novel. 3rd printing Dalkey Archive ed. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.

Frenz, Horst, ed. 1962. Amerikanische Dramaturgie. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag.

Gabler, Neal. 1989. An empire of their own: How the Jews invented Hollywood. New York: Doubleday.

Gelfert, Hans-Dieter. 2006. Typisch amerikanisch: Wie die Amerikaner wurden, was sie sind. 3., aktualisierte und um ein Nachwort Amerika 2006 erg. Aufl., Originalausg. ed. München: Beck.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, and Ross C. Murfin. 2006. The scarlet letter: complete, authoritative text with biographical, historical, and cultural contexts, critical history, and essays from contemporary critical perspectives. 2. ed, Case studies in contemporary criticism. Boston u.a.: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Maras, Steven (Ed). 2016. „Ethics in Screenwriting – New Perspectives.“ In Palgrave Studies in Screenwriting, ed Steven Maras. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54493-3.

Stutterheim, Kerstin. 2015. Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens, Babelsberger Schriften zu Mediendramaturgie und Ästhetik /. Frankfurt am Main u.a.: Peter Lang Verlag.

 

many thanks to Sue Warren for proof reading

Women in Film and TV productions IV – Some thoughts about female characters in ‚Dunkirk‘ (Nolan 2017) and ‚Blade Runner 2049‘ (Villeneuve 2017)

by Kerstin Stutterheim

These days’ discussions about ‘the culture’ in Hollywood and elsewhere are directing the focus towards interaction between male executives and female actresses or team members. The word goes that more women behind the scene would change the way women are treated and represented. Yes, that is step one, long overdue. But will that be the definite solution – or do we think of some further aspects to change this kind of behaviour?

What about productions written and directed or produced by female professionals? Agnieszka Holland, Vera Chytilova, Deepa Mehta, Chantal Ackerman and Agnes Varda are for sure some and they are important role models in this regard, but other female writer-directors are still telling the same old stories. Gertrud Stein once wrote that it takes a hundred years, three generations, to change habits and narratives.[1] Is generation one still in charge?

Media productions, in particular mainstream TV and cinema productions, are in more or less subtle ways influential in priming gender constructions. And they have their freedom to tell stories in grandfather’s style, since neo-liberal thinking forbids criticising successful productions from the Anglo-American World. This is true in particular for productions made in Hollywood or by HBO, which are seen as working opportunities as nearest to heaven as one could imagine. The ‘Bechtel-Test’ is a nice first tool but it does not really indicate the importance of female characters within a narrative. Nor can dialogues meeting the ‘Bechtel-Test’ give these characters a true appreciation, which will make them embodiments of modern independent women who are allowed to live an autonomous life.

Fatherhood, motherhood, and the biological family are core elements of the ‘American Dramaturgy’.[2] And that specific form of designing the narrative, and much more importantly the implicit dramaturgy, mirrors the culture and feeds back into the understanding of gender, hierarchies and more into the Anglo-American film industry, thus the global world as well.

The last decade or two one had to experience an on-going backlash in presenting female characters – in TV as on the big screen.

The unwritten rule of designing a successful movie or series for US-American or British audiences involves the narrative referring to conservative Jewish-Christian beliefs, which are mingled with historical experiences thus priming the Cultural Memory[3] of these nations. And, apparently, one can find here traditions, topics, and themes from the American Novel in film narratives. The American novel is a result of the change from Catholicism (or other religions) towards the father-cantered Protestantism, which was the religion of the mass of that time in the developing US. The novel as medium emerged as the new mass medium.[4]

Other elements of ‘American Dramaturgy’ reflect the influence of ‘the Code’ and its moral stakes for representational spaces towards film productions in Hollywood[5] and elsewhere.

One can understand how influential the priming of conservative Jewish-Christian gender construction is when it is found in the implicit dramaturgy of modern productions, when one looks at most recent productions. Examples could be endless, I am choosing here randomly some out of the highest ranked and most discussed productions of this year 2017, so far. In Dunkirk (Nolan, USA 2017) for example women exist only as ‘extras’ – representing nurses and handing out bread and tea, which does not represent their roles within the historic event. In this movie, all women have to die amongst the wounded and/or terrified soldiers since they are in ships which have been bombarded and are sinking at the shores of Dunkirk. One can find several layers of association given the style the film is made in – the Nazis were brutal and bombarded Red Cross ships, but also: the weak are first victims, always.

Another example is Blade Runner 2049 (Villeneuve, USA 2017), which is opulent and strikingly disappointing. For this sequel, women are reduced to appearing either as an attractive killing machine, or predesigned after the physical appearance of that figure but as most lovingly acting holograms. One other female character is set up as an asexual being focussed on her duty, thus she has to die early. But in total, the movie is dedicated to men and their desires for power and total independence, which allows just as much love as it can to enable them to become part of a real biological family, although this may happen just for a short time, not for life. (Spoiler!: hence in the end father and daughter were united. Implicit, that makes the biological/family relation the most important aspect of the implicit dramaturgy. The ‘moment of catharsis’ is the solution and fulfilment of the whole action – father will meet his daughter after many years not knowing if she made it and survived. The option indicated in an earlier scene, that this young woman is a result of true love and hence not designed, could just by her existence change the life of female characters shown as living underground, is not strong enough to be part of the solution – or a set up to develop another sequel. Those women hoping for change are shown as prostitutes and spies in one, which is an old figure one can always find, for example in Deuteronomy (the Old Testament), as the story about Rahab and the Canaanites.[6]


will be continued – one day, here or elsewhere

 

[1] (Stein, 1990)

[2] (cf. Frenz, 1962; Stutterheim, 2015)

[3] (cf. A. Assmann, 2010, 2012; J. Assmann, 1992; Gelfert, 2006, 2011)

[4] (Fiedler, 2017 )

[5] (Maras, 2016)

[6] (Raṿeh, 2014)

 

Assmann, A. (2010). Memory in a global age: discourses, practices and trajectories (1. publ. ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Assmann, A. (2012). Memory and political change (1. publ. ed.). Basingstoke, Hampshire u.a.: Palgrave Macmillan.

Assmann, J. (1992). Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. München: Beck.

Fiedler, L. A. (2017 ). Love and death in the American novel (3rd printing Dalkey Archive ed.). Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.

Frenz, H. (Ed.). (1962). Amerikanische Dramaturgie. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag.

Gelfert, H.-D. (2006). Typisch amerikanisch: Wie die Amerikaner wurden, was sie sind (3., aktualisierte und um ein Nachwort Amerika 2006 erg. Aufl., Originalausg. ed.). München: Beck.

Maras, S. E. (2016). Ethics in Screenwriting – New Perspectives. In S. Maras (Ed.), Palgrave Studies in Screenwriting (pp. XXV, 263 p. 219 illus). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Raṿeh, I. (2014). Feminist rereadings of rabbinic literature (K. Fish, Trans.). Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press.

Stein, G. (1990). Erzählen (Narration. Four lectures by Gertrude Stein). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.

Stutterheim, K. (2015). Handbuch angewandter Dramaturgie. Vom Geheimnis des filmischen Erzählens. Frankfurt am Main u.a.: Peter Lang Verlag.

 

many thanks to Sue Warren

 

Interview zu Staffel 7: «Game of Thrones»: «Family first, America first» in der NZZ

Claudia Schwartz :

Seit sieben Jahren verfolgen Zuschauer weltweit gebannt «Game of Thrones». Die Filmwissenschafterin Kerstin Stutterheim über das Phänomen dieser TV-Serie und die Gründe eines solchen Erfolgs.

 

Women in Film and TV – Game of Thrones VII/1-2

Caution – this post contains spoilers for those who haven’t yet watched the new episodes.

 

Game of Thrones is back and thus, the women get a great comeback too.

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is in the very first sequence (of VII-1) crystallizing herself out of Walder Frey (David Bradley)–a wonderful theatrical trick to bring us back into the style and tempo of the series. At the same time, this gives a short summary of one of the main events of the Stark-narration which were happening before. Arya is still shown as an independent and brave character. She joins soldiers after being invited, she eats and drinks like men, and she is not panicking when surrounded by a horde of wolves. Dressed like the little but strong sister of Jon Snow she works on her revenge. In contrast to Cersei (Lena Headey), Arya is acting neither blindly nor driven by bitterness. As in the seasons before, she is shown as a character who is careful but not afraid, able to plan her steps and being precise and prepared for what she is about to confront herself with. Arya seems to be the less traumatized, less play-acting figure within the ensemble of main characters. And—in contrast to Sansa—she refuses to be protected. The character is still designed as independent and trusting to be able to protecting herself best. And trusts that she is able to protect herself.

 

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)–back in Winterfell and safely protected. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) is always close by having a watchful eye on her. She, Brienne, still a strong, confident character, true to her oath and principles but caring as well. Thus, she still has feminine features. Dramaturgically seen she can be understood as an older variation of Arya, a dramaturgical pendent to her.

Sansa is shown as still torn between her desires for power thus including revenge and being the good-good girl[1]. Since her brother, Jon Snow, was made King of the North she has to learn to act in the shadow or at the side of her little bastard-brother, closely observed and thus provoked by Lord Baelish/Little Finger (Aidan Gillen). She is always on Jon’s side but does not always conform with his decisions. Arguments between them again give us information, backstories and potential developments, on the threats they are facing—every one of them emphasising a different threat. Sansa is shown through these two new episodes as a young woman with a strong will, stronger than her wounds. Interesting is her admiring Cersei, telling us she has learned a great deal from her. What does this mean for Sansa and her future steps? Will she develop towards a Stark-version of Cersei? No matter her desire to rule her character is designed in a way that she was taken by surprise when Jon announced her to be his substitute whilst he will be away, meeting Daenerys (Emilia Clark).

The cliff hangers for episode three are pointing us to the question of how the meetings will act out between Arya coming back and being confronted with her sister who betrayed her in the beginning, and Jon meeting his half-sister Daenerys, which both are not aware of.

Cersei Lannister-Baratheon is still shown as mainly hungry for power. Thus, she appears a thus crazy as she was developed to during last season. She wants to start a dynasty lasting 1000 years, anyhow there are no Lannister children who could take over who are still alive—as far as we know at present. Her decline of Euron Greyjoy’s (Pilou Asbæk) proposal initiates a catastrophe to the Martell-Women from Dorne magically relocated to Dragonstone; and Asha Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan). Following the implicit principles of the series, it is no wonder the attack happens exactly when Asha and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varna) are about to start kissing and touching each other. Homosexuality always get’s punished and ends with torture and death given the implicit codex of this series[2]. Thus, the daughters of Ellaria are killed during the battle—by Euron himself, the man who just proposed a heterosexual marriage. The fate Asha Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand ate facing will be reviled in one of the next episodes. They seem to be the precious gift he promised Cersei he would come back with.

Daenerys Targaryen arrives at Dragonstone, the place she was born, on a stormy night. Accompanied, surrounded and counselled by her entourage. All the time, as during the last seasons, this character is already oscillating between using and misusing her power, becoming more and more the daughter of the ‘Mad Kind’; and following men’s advice to get back on track of humanity. When Lady Olenna Tyrell, who was also arranged to be at Dragonstone to become an ally against Cersei, advises her to ignore men this would open the door to Daenerys the Mad Queen one could estimate after the dramaturgical development of the character during the last seasons.[3] It is told that the character Daenerys understood and internalised that announcing her use of violence and death threats gives her power. She is the populist using the feelings of the people—represented here by Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) to ensure her personal power. Thus, her anti-establishment actions are on the surface giving freedom to the common people, but by replacing the former governing elite by herself.

Lady Olenna Tyrell is portrayed within the Dragonstone-sequence as not being so convinced by this potential new queen. In her eyes the perfect queen and thus a role model would have been her granddaughter Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Margaery truly went to meet the common people, the poorest of the poor to do a good deed to them. This is how Margaery should be remembered. And this is a character clearly opposite to the one Daenerys is representing.

Overall the female part of the main ensemble is arranged in a wide diverse group of characters. One can be curious about how long Lady Olena Tyrell will withstand the intrigue set up by Cersei against her—dramaturgically seen she could be one of the characters who have to leave the game soon; the same is true for Asha Greyjoy and Elliana Sand. It is to be expected that the latter will find an end/their death soon not only because they came in late and consequently have to leave earlier than the earlier introduced main characters; but also because of their homosexual behaviour and extramarital love affairs.

Another dramatic highlight in episode VII-3 will be the meeting between Jon Snow-Stark-Tagaryen—who was not made aware of Daenerys Tagaryen expecting him to bow his knee to her—and Daenerys.

 

Bibliography

 

Gelfert, H.-D. (2006). Typisch amerikanisch: Wie die Amerikaner wurden, was sie sind (3., aktualisierte und um ein Nachwort Amerika 2006 erg. Aufl., Originalausg. ed.). München: Beck.

Stutterheim, K. (2017). Game of Thrones sehen – Dramaturgie einer TV Serie. Paderborn Fink Verlag / Brill

 

[1] Cf. (Gelfert, 2006)

[2] cf. (Stutterheim, 2017)

 

for more, please see at https://www.fink.de/katalog/titel/978-3-7705-6204-6.html

goth cover

‚Game of Thrones‘ sehen — Dramaturgie einer TV Serie

In wenigen Tagen beginnt die neue Staffel von GAME OF THRONES, von vielen Fans lange erwartet. Am selben Tag wird ‚Game of Thrones sehen – Dramaturgie einer TV Serie‘ ausgeliefert. Hier ein urheberrechtlich geschützter Auszug:

https://www.fink.de/katalog/titel/978-3-7705-6204-6.html?tx_mbooks%5Badded%5D=1&cHash=11d6084d2bda7b5e0d15d9eac49766ef

Vorspann

Game of Thrones sehen, bedeutet für viele Menschen Vergnügen und Herausforderung zugleich, für andere eine Zumutung oder Grund zur kritischen Auseinandersetzung. Die Serie zu schauen, mag unterschiedliche Anlässe haben und die Art und Weise, diese zu sehen, sehr verschieden sein.

Die Serie mag für ein breites Publikum attraktiv sein, weil sie sich über die Ästhetik der Inszenierung von anderen Produktionen absetzt. Produziert ist sie als großes Kino fürs Fernsehen. Und dass die Handlung durchaus Bezüge zum Zeitgeist, zu unserer Erfahrung von Gegenwart hat, spricht ebenfalls ein Publikum an. Über die Ästhetik der Serie wird nicht nur eine Illusion eines fantastischen Frühers[1] hergestellt, sondern eine Metapher erzählt. Die große Vielfalt der gut gearbeiteten Charaktere mag ebenfalls dazu beitragen, dass die Serie so viele Menschen anspricht.

In dem vorliegenden Buch wende ich mich einigen Aspekten der Serie zu, zu denen mir in den zurückliegenden Jahren immer wieder Fragen gestellt wurden oder die dramaturgisch interessant sind und vielleicht eine neue Sicht auf die Serie eröffnen. Der vorliegende Text beruht auf meinem dramaturgischen Interesse an der Serie, die aus eben dieser dramaturgischen Sicht handwerklich und künstlerisch außergewöhnlich gut gemacht ist.

Dramaturgie – die in einem der ersten Kapitel kurz erläutert wird – ist eine Tradition des Wissens um Praktiken und künstlerische Prozesse, die sich dem gesamten Werk zuwendet[2]; nicht nur dem Text, dem Drehbuch, den Dialogen. Ästhetik und Dramaturgie sind philosophische Disziplinen. Dramaturgie ist eine praxisbezogene Wissenschaft und eine wissensbasierte Praxis, die sich über mehrere Jahrhunderte herausgebildet hat und so einen eigenen Berufsstand bezeichnet – den am wenigsten bekannten im Bereich des Films und der darstellenden Künste.

Die Frage, die sich mir wie Studierenden und Filminteressierten stellt, ist die danach, warum ausgerechnet diese Serie weltweit so erfolgreich ist. Und damit verbunden ist die Frage danach, wie sie gemacht wurde. Warum trotz aller – vermeintlicher – Überraschungen oder – scheinbaren – Irreführungen die Serie ihr Publikum fesselt. Dazu gehören Aspekte wie diese: Wie ist es möglich, eine Figur einzuführen und das Publikum einzuladen, zu diesem Charakter Sympathie zu entwickeln, und diese kurz darauf zu Tode kommen lassen – und dennoch schaut das Publikum fasziniert weiter? Es wird ein großes und stetig wachsendes Ensemble an Figuren über verwobene Erzählstränge über mehrere Regionen geführt – und die Zuschauer_innen fühlen sich nicht überfordert, gehen immer weiter mit. Das widerspricht allen – sich allerdings erst in den letzten Jahrzehnten eingeschriebenen – vermeintlichen Grundregeln des Schreibens und Produzierens fürs Fernsehen und ist dennoch erfolgreich. Meiner Meinung nach nutzen die Autor_innen und Regisseure die Möglichkeiten und Traditionen der Dramaturgie der darstellenden Künste hier sehr bewusst. Sie widersprechen diesen nicht, wie oft vermutet wird. In einer genaueren ästhetischen und dialektischen Analyse können die tradierten dramaturgischen Regeln weitestgehend erkannt werden, die von den Autor_innen und Regisseuren der Serie genutzt, eingehalten und gleichzeitig inszenatorisch gut verdeckt werden.

Eine dramaturgische Studie kann die gerade angeführten und darüber hinaus gehenden Fragen nur annäherungsweise beantworten. In dem hier gegebenen Rahmen können nur einige ausgewählte, aber zentrale Aspekte der bislang circa sechzig Stunden Film diskutiert werden. Ich schreibe hier aus dem Wissen um die ersten sechs Staffeln. Trotz dramaturgischer Analyse kann ich weder alle Geheimnisse lüften, noch den Ausgang der letzten beiden Staffeln verlässlich vorhersagen. Doch dramaturgisches Wissen hilft, dem nahe zu kommen.

Um die Analyse nachvollziehbar zu machen und die geneigten Leser_innen einzuladen, unter die hervorragend gemachte Oberfläche zu schauen, werden in dem vorliegenden Text zum Einen die Mittel und Traditionen beschrieben, die in dieser Serie genutzt wurden. Diese werden zu bestimmten, ausgewählten Aspekten der Handlung in Beziehung gesetzt, um so eine Art Blick in die Werkstatt zu ermöglichen und das Prinzip zu erläutern, dass sich für die Gestaltung der Serie erkennen lässt. Da eine ausführliche Diskussion aller Handlungsstränge den Rahmen dieser Analyse sprengen würde, konzentriere ich mich auf einige ausgewählte zentrale Ereignisse, Themen und Figuren. Zum Anderen werden einige der zentralen Figuren in ihrer Zeichnung und Bedeutung für die Handlung diskutiert. Da Figuren stets im Dienst der Handlung stehen, diese repräsentieren und noch dazu affektiv über die Ausgestaltung ihrer Schicksale das Interesse des Publikums fesseln, mag diese Vorgehensweise die zentralen dramaturgischen und ästhetischen Aspekte der Serie erklären und verstehen helfen. Und es können logische Schlüsse auf den Fortgang hin deuten. Diese leite ich ausschließlich aus der Analyse ab und somit sind diese eher Prognosen. Für mich ist es interessant zu verfolgen, ob den erkennbaren Konventionen bis zum Ende der Serie gefolgt werden wird. Oder andersherum formuliert, ob dramaturgisches Wissen auch in diesem Fall trägt. Bisher war dem in den zentralen Handlungsverläufen in dieser Serie so.

Es sei hier zudem betont, dass in diesem Buch nahezu ausschließlich die Serie diskutiert wird, nicht die Romane. Den Romanen wendet sich Jan Söffner in ‚Nachdenken über Game of Thrones‘[3] zu.

Und es sei ausdrücklich darauf hingewiesen, dass selbstverständlich Situationen, Handlungsentwicklungen, Ereignisse etc. beschrieben und benannt werden. Das kann man als ‚spoiler’ für diejenigen Leser_innen bezeichnen, die diese Serie noch nicht kennen, oder aber auch als Einladung, genau hinzuschauen und mit bestimmten Wendungen vorab im Kontext, sozusagen über einen Blick hinter den Vorhang, vertraut zu werden.

Eine filmische Produktion, auch eine Adaption, folgt spezifischen dramaturgischen Regeln und Produktionsbedingungen, die den Besonderheiten der medialen Gegebenheiten entsprechen.[4] Diese dramaturgischen Besonderheiten des filmischen Erzählens erfordern einen gewissen Grad an Neuorganisation des Handlungsverlaufs einer literarischen Vorlage. Dies geschieht in Abhängigkeit der gegebenen Möglichkeiten der jeweiligen Produktion, für die neben den Besonderheiten des Mediums, vor allem die Körperlichkeit von Darsteller_innen und das Set als auch das Budget und die Drehzeit berücksichtigt werden müssen.

Dramaturgisch und medienhistorisch gesehen stellt diese Serie ein Beispiel für qualitativ hochwertiges Fernsehen dar. Es ist sehr wahrscheinlich nicht vorranging das Genre Fantasy, welches zur Attraktivität von Game of Thrones führt, sondern die Gesamtheit der Gestaltung, wie der Umgang mit Konventionen, die Qualität der Ausarbeitung und die ästhetische und produktionstechnische Umsetzung der erzählten Handlung. In Game of Thrones werden tradierte Konventionen in der Charaktergestaltung und Handlungsführung weitergeschrieben und ästhetische Mittel genutzt, die sich insbesondere für US-amerikanische Kino-Film-Produktionen etabliert haben. Die cineastische Qualität ergibt sich aus dem Zusammenspiel aller Beteiligten, die auf nur scheinbar unkonventionelle Weise dazu beitragen, eine Geschichte filmisch möglichst gut zu erzählen. Die Verbindung von handwerklichem Können und künstlerischer Freiheit im Spiel mit tradiertem Wissen führt zu der starken affektiven Wirkung dieser Produktion. Ein zentrales Merkmal stellt die Kombination kulturell tradierter Muster und postmoderner Ästhetik[5] dar, die auch als filmische Variante dessen, was in der Literaturwissenschaft als Intertextualität[6] bezeichnet wird, verstanden werden kann. Es werden Traditionen und Techniken des Theaters aufgegriffen und genutzt, um das Moment des Spiels, der Darstellung und der Künstlichkeit von Handlung und Szenerie implizit zu unterstreichen. Grundsätzlich jedoch folgt die Serie klassischen US-amerikanischen Moralvorstellungen und Erzählkonventionen[7], von denen über das Setting abgelenkt wird, welches ein mittelalterlich gekleidetes Europa erzählt. Hinzu kommt das mit dem Erfolg der Serie steigende Budget, das durchchoreographierte und aufwendige Szenen in dieser hohen ästhetischen Qualität erst ermöglicht, wie zum Beispiel The Battle of the Bastards, an der 900 Crew-Mitglieder und 90 Pferde mitgewirkt haben sowie 25 Drehtage für eine einstündige Folge zur Verfügung standen.[8]

Indem postmoderne Kinokonventionen genutzt werden, kann das Team von Game of Thrones radikal mit einer Wirklichkeitsillusion brechen, die traditionell Fernsehproduktionen eigen ist. Diese besondere Wirkung wird vor allem über die hochartifizielle ästhetische Gestaltung im Zusammenspiel von Regie und Kamera, Schauspiel, Schnitt und Musik erreicht. Dennoch ist die Serie durchaus ambivalent zu diskutieren. Die Darstellung von Sex und Missbrauch ebenso wie die von exzessiver Gewalt geht oft an die Grenze insbesondere westlich tradierter Konventionen für Fernsehproduktionen oder überschreitet diese gar. Dies als Teil der Produktionsbedingungen und im Kontext ästhetisch-dramaturgischer Entscheidungen zu diskutieren, wird Teil der Studie sein. Das Genre Fantasy ermöglicht im Zusammenwirken mit postmoderner Ästhetik eine Abstraktion der Wirklichkeit, auf die referiert wird, und lenkt so gleichermaßen von der hier eingeschriebenen konservativen Weltsicht ab.

Mein Dank gilt Christine Lang, dem Fink-Verlag, Andreas Knop und Jan Söffner für das Vertrauen und die Gelegenheit, diesen Text zu schreiben und zu veröffentlichen. Ich bedanke mich bei meinen Studierenden, Freund_innen und Kolleg_innen, die über die letzten Jahre gute Fragen gestellt und mir mit Kommentaren und Gedanken geholfen haben, diese komplexe Arbeit immer weiter zu diskutieren und zu analysieren. Insbesondere danke ich meinem Sohn Jasper, der nicht nur das schöne Titelbild für den Band geschaffen, sondern mich auch mit guten Fragen und Hinweisen bei der Arbeit an diesem Buch unterstützt hat.

Im Text verwende ich die Namen, wie sie in der Internet Movie Data Base, imdb, aufgeführt sind und für die Orte ebenfalls die originalen Bezeichnungen. Eine Kenntnis der Serie ist hilfreich, aber keine Voraussetzung für die Lektüre. Die Ausführungen sollten auch weitestgehend für Leser_innen interessant sein, die diese Serie nicht ganz oder gar nicht gesehen haben.

Der Auftakt

Tradiertes Mittel einen Film zu beginnen, ist die Gestaltung eines ›Auftakts‹. So wird in der Dramaturgie die Sequenz bezeichnet, die vor dem Titel läuft. In dieser kann von einem Ereignis erzählt werden, welches zu der nach dem Titel folgenden Handlung in Beziehung steht, aber diese nicht zwingend auslösen muss. Ein filmischer ›Auftakt‹ dient der Grundverabredung über die ästhetische Gestaltung, das Genre, den Umgang mit Konventionen, Zeit und Ort des Geschehens. Diese Sequenz stimmt das Publikum ein und vermittelt wichtige Informationen.

Mit der ersten Sequenz in Game of Thrones wird eine Szenerie etabliert, die sich von unserer Alltagserfahrung grundsätzlich unterscheidet. Dies betrifft sowohl das Geschehen als auch deren ästhetische Ausgestaltung. Hier wird nicht nur über die Szenerie, das Set-Design, sondern auch in der Inszenierung auf die Künstlichkeit in der Gestaltung und somit auf eine Welt jenseits unserer Wirklichkeitserfahrung verwiesen. Drei Reiter unterschiedlichen Alters und Aussehens werden hinter einem Gitter wartend im ersten Bild so in Szene gesetzt, dass erst ein schweres Eisentor hochgezogen werden muss, durch das sie hindurch reiten werden. Diese Situation erinnert an das Aufziehen des Eisernen Vorhangs zu Beginn einer Theatervorstellung. Die Form der Inszenierung und ästhetische Umsetzung signalisiert implizit, dass es sich um ein künstlerisch gestaltetes Werk und keine Behauptung einer wirklichkeitsnahen Geschichte handelt, sondern wir eingeladen werden, uns auf eine künstlerisch gestaltete Szenerie und Handlung einzulassen. Dieses scheinbar in die Situation eingeschriebene Moment muss gar nicht bewusst wahrgenommen werden, denn es spricht über die Form der filmischen Inszenierung das assoziative, schnelle, unbewusste Denken[9] an. Während uns gezeigt wird, wie die Männer auf die Öffnung des Tores warten, wird uns, dem Publikum, zudem der Eindruck einer Szenerie extremer Kälte vermittelt. Anschließend wird das Bild einen Moment lang vollständig von der Flamme einer Fackel ausgefüllt – dies ist implizit ein Verweis auf den Titel der Romanserie A Song of Ice and Fire von George R.R. Martin, die hier adaptiert wurde; andererseits stellt diese Form der Gestaltung einen extremen Kontrast im Sinne eines ›filmischen Konflikts‹ dar. Als einen filmischen oder ästhetischen Konflikt beschreibt man eine Gestaltung innerhalb des Bildes, in der extreme Kontraste oder Gegensätzlichkeiten aufeinander stoßen.[10] Hierbei handelt es sich um eine dynamische Gestaltung, die zur Erhöhung der Aufmerksamkeit führt.

Nachdem das Tor hochgezogen und das Feuer der Fackel erneut Distanz zwischen Geschehen und Publikum schafft, sieht man die Männer durch einen Tunnel reiten. Dies ist eine auch für die Zuschauer_in nachvollziehbare körperliche Erfahrung des Durchquerens eines Bergmassivs, die an einen anderen Ort führt. Am Ende des Tunnels wird erneut ein Tor hochgezogen. Nun wird – in der weiten Totalen – die extrem hohe und sich in den Horizont erstreckende Eiswand gezeigt. Dies ist eine Szenerie, die sich von unserer wirklichen Welt und unserem Wissen um diese unterscheidet. Die drei Männer reiten über eine Freifläche, wie sie vor Burgtoren üblich ist, in einen tief verschneiten und leuchtend hellen Winterwald. Dieser Wald ist auf eine Art und Weise gefilmt, die auch diese Szenerie – oder mies-en-scène – künstlich überhöht wirken lässt und so unter anderem an eine Studioszene des phantastischen Kinos oder/und den Wald in ‚Die Nibelungen: Siegfried‚ (Fritz Lang, D 1924) erinnert, wie überhaupt motivisch wiederholt auf diesen Film referiert wird.

Die drei Reiter repräsentieren sehr unterschiedliche Charaktere: Da ist ein älterer und abgeklärt wirkender Mann, Gared (Dermot Keaney), der nicht viele Worte macht. Er scheint es gewohnt, Befehlen zu gehorchen und diese genau auszuführen. Der Mittlere, Ser Waymar Royce (Rob Ostlere) ist erheblich jünger als dieser, trägt besser wirkende Kleidung und spricht auf eine Art, die man in England als ‚posh’ bezeichnet – besonders spitz artikuliert und gleichzeitig von oben herab. Will (Bronson Webb), der Jüngste, wirkt implizit wie eine erwachsen gewordene Version der Figur des Iwan aus Tarkowskis Film Иваново Детство (dt.: Iwans Kindheit. Tarkovskij, UdSSR 1962). Diese denkbare Referentialität der Figuren und die Situation, dass der ranghöhere Mann die Auskunft des erfahrenen Spähers anzweifelt, bereitet dramaturgisch gesehen vor, dass der junge ‚Offizier’ für sein Misstrauen bestraft werden wird. Fantasy sowie Horror referiert auf mythologisches Erzählen, religiöse Konventionen und die Gegenüberstellung von Gut und Böse. Über die Gestaltung der Landschaft und die ästhetische Umsetzung des Geschehens wird eine postmoderne Kombination der Konventionen der Western-, Fantasy und Horrorgenre erkennbar. Dies ist eine dramatische Technik, die in amerikanischen Kinofilmen und Fernsehserien nicht ungewöhnlich ist. Es sei hier an ‚Millennium‘, ‚X Files‘ bis ‚The Walking Dead‘ erinnert. Fantastisch meint nicht den „Komplementärentwurf zum Realen, sondern zum Realistischen“[11]. Fantasy- wie auch Horror-Filme präsentieren „eine bis ins Detail vorgeprägte und vor-imaginierte Welt“[12], die im Verhältnis zu unserer Lebenswelt steht. Oft erzählen Fantasy-Filme von Protagonist_innen, die ihr Zuhause verlassen und sich im Kampf gegen das Böse bewähren müssen. In den überwiegenden Fällen sind dies Jugendliche oder junge Erwachsene, die aus mit einer Initiation zu vergleichenden Geschehen gereift zurückkehren. Gut und Böse werden in Fantasy-Werken klar getrennt und durch repräsentative Charaktere gegenüber gestellt. Dies geht einher mit der Darstellung fester Ordnungen und Hierarchien, die in einer bis ins Detail ausgearbeiteten, aber klar umrissenen und von unserer Wirklichkeitserfahrung verschiedenen Welt angesiedelt ist. Dafür ist die Erzählweise in diesem Genre grundsätzlich extrem logisch, wenn man den Bezugspunkt einmal erkannt hat. Den moralischen Kompass für die Gestaltung der Handlung sowie der handelnden Figuren bilden in der Serie der Katechismus, christlich-konservative Normen und die Schöpfungsgeschichte, die über den Bezugsrahmen von Familie und Gesellschaft, vor allem aber über Fragen von Schuld und Sühne die Logik von Figurenführung und Handlungsentwicklung bestimmen. Implizit ist diese Handlung, wie es im Genre Fantasy Konvention ist,[13] in Bezug zu Mythologie und insbesondere der christlichen Religion motiviert. Die jeweiligen Motive der Figuren und Handlungsschritte sollen so indirekt legitimiert werden und gleichzeitig eine metaphorische Spiegelung der erlebten Gegenwart zulassen. Dies wird im weiteren Text für die Serie an ausgewählten Beispielen genauer dargestellt werden können.

In der Auftakt-Szene wird zudem bereits erkennbar, dass der Dialog wie in guten Kino-Produktionen üblich, selbstverständlich im Moment der Handlung relevant ist, aber durchaus darüber hinaus weist und auf Situationen vorbereitet, die sich später ereignen werden. Wenn der Späher Will seine Befürchtung äußert „Whatever did it to them, could do it to us[14], haben wir bereist gesehen, welches zerstörerische Ausmaß den Figuren droht. Implizit werden wir darauf vorbereitet, dass im Folgenden mit mörderischer Gewalt zu rechnen ist – als konkrete Bedrohung im Sinne eines sich abzeichnenden Konflikts als auch in der Darstellung dessen. Da dies die erste Szene explizit ausgestellter Gewalt ist, wird diese über den Dialog vorbereitet. In dieser Situation werden Konventionen des Horror-Films aufgerufen, der stark über Shock-Momente mit ausgestellter oder vorzustellender Gewalt arbeitet und mit dem Phantastischen einhergeht.[15] Über diese Genre-Konventionen wird ebenfalls Zeit als relativ und zyklisch von unserer gerichteten Wahrnehmung unterschieden etabliert.

Darüber hinaus wird diese erste Szene mit der auf die Titelsequenz folgenden verknüpft, wenn der junge Offizier dem Späher damit droht, dass dieser als Deserteur hingerichtet werden würde, sollte er gen Süden fliehen wollen. Darüber verweist diese Szene auf den Konflikt in der episch angelegten zentralen Handlung – als manifeste Gewalt von außen, von der die Gesellschaft bedroht ist. Dies lässt die Stärken und Schwächen der bedrohten gesellschaftlichen oder sozialen Gruppe ebenso wie die einzelner Charaktere besonders deutlich zu Tage treten. Entsprechend den Konventionen epischen Erzählens, wie sie G.W.F. Hegel bereits definiert hat[16], lässt eine solche Bedrohung von außen, die nicht durch privates Fehlverhalten der Hauptfigur oder einem ihrer nahen Familienmitglieder ausgelöst wurde, einen oder wenige ausgewählte Charaktere stellvertretend für die Gemeinschaft agieren, um diese vor dem Unheil zu bewahren.[17]

Die oben angedeutete implizite moralische Ausrichtung der Handlungsstruktur der Serie berücksichtigend, könnte man sagen, dass der junge ‚Offizier’ den Angriff der White Walker und seinen eigenen Tod provoziert. Zum einen, weil er die Auskunft des Spähers anzweifelt, also eine Warnung nicht ernst nimmt und dabei seine Machtposition ausspielt anstatt den Befehl zu befolgen. Zum anderen, weil er in diese Kuhle hineingeht, in der zuvor der Späher die bedrohliche Szenerie entdeckt hat. Diese ovale Lichtung wirkt wie ein ritueller Ort. Diesen zu betreten, zu stören und zu verhöhnen, kommt einem Sakrileg gleich und führt zu sofortiger Rache durch den wachhabenden Geist – um es salopp zu formulieren. In dieser Szene tritt sofort ein, was der Späher vorausgesagt hat – dem Offizier wird der Kopf abgeschlagen. Was wir hier weniger sehen als hören. Durch die Form der Inszenierung, mehr hören als sehen, wird dieser Moment noch stärker, da wir uns die Situation vorstellen. Dass dies kurz darauf dem anderen Ranger widerfährt, aber nicht dem Späher, hat zwei Gründe: Der eine besteht darin, dass ja einer der Männer als Bote davon berichten muss. Dies ist dramaturgisch gesehen logischer Weise derjenige, dem damit gedroht wurde, dass er als Deserteur enthauptet werden würde. Darüber hinaus kann in der erkennbaren Logik der Serie und der Romanvorlage, wie oben bereits angedeutet, davon ausgegangen werden, dass an den Figuren Rache genommen wird, die das Heiligtum betreten und somit verletzt haben. In ihrer impliziten Bedeutung vermittelt diese Szene darüber hinaus die Gewissheit, dass man gesprochenen Dialog ernst nehmen kann und sollte, da dieser mehr als eine Unterhaltung von Figuren im Moment darstellt.

Die Bedrohung, die von den für ausgestorben geglaubten White Walkern ausgeht, materialisiert sich in dieser Szene zum ersten Mal. Die White Walker werden über diese kurze Szene als existentielle Bedrohung von außen etabliert. Sie entsprechen den Wesen, von denen die Legenden erzählen. Es wird im Dialog betont, dass man davon überzeugt ist, dass diese Wesen seit sehr langer Zeit ausgestorben wären oder nur in der Fantasie existiert hätten. Und nun stehen diese quasi vor den Toren der als zivilisiert zu verstehenden Menschheit. Die Darsteller der White Walker wurden mit Hilfe von Masken und Prothesen in Horrorfilmfiguren vergleichbare Figuren verwandelt. Um das Ausmaß der Bedrohung von außen über den langen Zeitraum glaubhaft halten zu können, müssen diese White Walker in dieser ersten Szene als außerordentlich brutal agierend eingeführt werden. Halbwesen werden im Horror-Genre häufig als Ausdruck vorreligiöser, heidnische oder mystizistischer Weltvorstellung verstanden, welche der Religion gegenüber stehen und als Ausdruck anti-religiöser und anti-zivilisatorischer Aspekte angesehen werden. In dieser Szene wird implizit und assoziativ der Verweis auf das von diesen Figuren repräsentierte ‚leibhaftige Böse’ noch dadurch unterstützt, dass das zunächst an den Baum gebundene Mädchen (Claire Wright) der vom Teufel besessenen Hauptfigur aus dem Kultfilm ‚The Exorzist‘ (Friedkin, USA 1973) ähnelt.

Durch die symbolhafte und referenzielle Gestaltung kann diese existentielle Bedrohung sofort erfasst werden und somit dem weiteren Geschehen auf der horizontalen, epischen Erzählebene den Rahmen geben. Um diese Konfliktebene aufrecht zu erhalten und für eine dramatische Entwicklung auf der horizontalen Ebene zu nutzen, wird im zweiten Akt eine konkrete und direkte Auseinandersetzung zwischen den Menschen und der Armee des Night Kings (Richard Brake, Vladimir Furdik), der als eine Variante Satans gesehen werden kann, mit der vertikalen Dramaturgie verknüpft. In einer nächsten Stufe der Steigerung des Konflikts werden Bran (Isaak Hempstead-Wright) und der Night King zu direkten Antagonisten. Eine letzte Schlacht zwischen den von Jon Snow (Kit Harington) angeführten Menschen und der Armee der Toten wird es sicher im Finale geben, wobei ein zentraler Moment der Auseinandersetzung vermutlich zwischen Bran und dem Night King ausgetragen werden wird – zwischen den Figuren, die im Verlauf der Serie als auserwählter Prophet und Inkarnation Satans ausgestaltet werden.

Über diese anwachsende Bedrohung von außen durch die White Walker und ihre Armee der Toten können die verschiedenen Handlungsstränge zueinander ausgerichtet werden. Auf Grund der geografischen Stufung der Handlungsstränge betrifft diese Bedrohung die handelnden Figuren zunächst unterschiedlich. Das wird in der Ausgestaltung der zentralen Handlung in der horizontalen Dramaturgie aufgegriffen, wenn diese zunächst von Norden nach Süden entwickelt wird. Die Handlung wird dann rhizomatisch über das gesamte Reich in diverse Handlungsstränge und Nebenhandlungen verzweigt. Die hinzukommenden Handlungsorte werden über die Interaktion und Reisen der Figuren verknüpft – wobei nur wenige Charaktere die Ebenen wechseln dürfen, wie Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) und Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) oder Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). Das gilt zumindest für die Gestaltung bis zum Ende der sechsten Staffel und wird vermutlich vor der zentralen Schlacht und der daraus sicher hervorgehenden Neuordnung aufgehoben werden.

Dramaturgie – ein kurzer Exkurs zur Einführung

Erzähltechniken und Konventionen von Filmen und Serien scheinen heute allgemein vertraut und einfach zu verstehen. Weniger vertraut sind der Begriff und die Kunst der Dramaturgie. Dass Filme oder Serien gefallen, uns überraschen und fesseln, ergibt sich aus der kreativen, künstlerischen und handwerklichen Fähigkeit, diese im Zusammenwirken der Gewerke bestmöglich zu gestalten. Als Dramaturgie bezeichnet man die praxisbasierte und auf die Praxis gerichtete künstlerische Technik, der Gestaltung narrativ-performative Werke ihre ästhetisch adäquate Form zu geben und genau diese Zusammenwirken bestmöglich zu unterstützen und zu begleiten.[18] Jean-Claude Carrière hat das Wesen der Dramaturgie einmal als ›Geheimnis des Erzählens‹ bezeichnet[19]. Dramaturgie, das muss hier unbedingt betont werden, bezieht sich stets auf das gesamte Werk, also die Filme oder die Serie, die wir sehen – nicht alleine auf das Drehbuch oder die Dialoggestaltung. Es geht in der Dramaturgie darum zu verstehen und zu berücksichtigen, dass sich der Text, die konkrete Ausgestaltung der Handlung durch die Darsteller_innen, das Set Design, die Musik und der Sound, Montage und Rhythmus des Films aufeinander beziehen und in ihrer Wirkung ergänzen. In der Tätigkeit bedeutet dies, dass die Dramaturg_in das gesamte Team oder zumindest die Regisseur_in darin unterstützt, aus einer bestmöglichen Textvorlage und einer großartigen Idee ein möglichst eindrucksvolles filmisches Werk entstehen zu lassen. Um dies tun zu können, bedarf es Kenntnisse und Erfahrung. Das schließt das Wissen um Traditionen und Konventionen ein, welche je nach Region, gewachsener Tradition, Kultur, ethnischer und religiöser Prägung variieren können. Es gibt Grundtechniken des Erzählens für Werke, die vor einem Publikum auf- oder vorgeführt werden, die sich seit den theatralen Praktiken „früher“ Kulturen[20] im Kern bewährt und kontinuierlich der Zeit und den Rezeptionserfahrungen entsprechend weiterentwickelt haben. Diese Formen des Erzählens bedienen ganz offensichtlich Grundstrukturen des menschlichen Denkens, weshalb deren Kenntnis uns einerseits hilft, interessante Filme zu schaffen. Andererseits kann man mithilfe dramaturgischer Grundkenntnisse in der Analyse auch verstehen, warum bestimmte Filme uns begeistern oder langweilen, faszinieren oder weniger ansprechen. Eine Grundkenntnis oder noch besser Erfahrungen aus der Praxis von Filmproduktionen hilft in der dramaturgischen Analyse ebenso wie in der Beratung.

[1]        Dieser Begriff referiert auf die von Lucie Varga geprägte Beschreibung des ‚Frühers’ für die Darstellung einer Zeit, die vor der Lebenserinnerung der Großeltern liegt und sich historisch nicht konkret einordnen lässt, da in der Darstellung diejenigen Elemente, die eine genaue Bestimmung ermöglichen würden, nicht Teil der metaphorisch angelegten Darstellung oder Erzählung sind. Vgl. hierzu Varga 1991, S. 148/149

[2]        Vgl. hierzu u.a. (Stutterheim 2015, Hasche/Kalisch/Weber 2014, Stutterheim/Kaiser 2011, Stegemann 2009)

[3]        Söffner 2017

[4]        Vgl. hierzu ausführlich Carrière 2003, Stutterheim 2015, Belting 2001

[5]        Vgl. Stutterheim/Lang 2013

[6]        Vgl. Allen 2000

[7]        Vgl. Gelfert 2006, Belton 2009

[8]        Information im Bonus-Material. HBO: The Complete Seasons 1-6. 2016 – Sixth Season, Disc 4

[9]        Kahneman 2012

[10]       Vgl. Eisenstein 2006, S. 58 ff.

[11]       Friedrich 2003, S. 9; Seeßlen/Weil 1979

[12]       Ebd., S. 10

[13]       Vgl. unter anderem Friedrich 2003, S. 11-13; Seeßlen/Weil 1979

[14]       HBO 2016, I-I

[15]       Vgl. hierzu u.a. Seeßlen and Weil 1979 sowie Zinoman 2011

[16]       Hegel 1971, 2003

[17]       Vgl. hierzu Hegel 2003, S. 283 ff.

[18]       Vgl. hierzu ausführlich Hasche, Kalisch/Weber 2014 sowie Stutterheim 2015

[19]       Carrière, J.-C./Bonitzer, S. 143 und 207

[20]       Fiebach 2015, S. 13

 

Secrets of Storytelling in Documentaries, Movies and Games – BU Inaugural Public Lecture at Lighthouse Poole

Stories are all around us – in the books we read, games we play and films we watch. The best stories are those that draw us in, captivate us and make us empathise with the characters and their situations. But can you create a story that will thrill and engage your audience?

Professor Kerstin Stutterheim, Professor of Media & Cultural Studies at Bournemouth University, is an expert in dramaturgy – the study of the different elements that make up a story. As part of her inaugural lecture, Professor Stutterheim will share insights from her research and professional practice as a documentary filmmaker. She will explain how to tell a story that will interest, inform and excite your audience, illustrated with a wide range of examples from documentary film, and the games industry.

Professor Kerstin Stutterheim joined Bournemouth University in 2015, where she teaches a range of subjects, including film studies, directing of documentary and fiction films. She is currently involved in a research project exploring the cultural legacy of the Paralympics, as well as undertaking research into the storytelling of HBO hit TV show – Game of Thrones.

Bournemouth University’s inaugural lecture series aims to celebrate new professorial appointments and the depth and breadth of research produced by the university. For further information on the inaugural lecture series, please visit www.bournemouth.ac.uk/public-lecture-series

https://research.bournemouth.ac.uk/2017/03/inaugural-lecture-secrets-of-storytelling-in-documentaries-movies-and-games/

Game of Thrones sehen – Fink Verlag

Handbuch Angewandter Dramaturgie

 

quotation of the month: kitsch and death

Every frisson is a response to surprise, to an unexpected comparison or the revelation of a hitherto unnoticed reality. Here, it is the meeting of kitsch and death.

Kitsch, that >pinnacle of good taste in the absence of taste, of art in ugliness—a branch of mistletoe under the lamp in a railway waiting room, nickeled plate glass in a public place, artificial flowers gone astray in Whitechapel, a lunch box decorated with Vosges fir—everyday ‚Gemütlichkeit‘, art adapted to life where the function of the adaptation exceeds that of innovation. All this is kitsch, the hidden, tender, and sweet vice—and who can live without vices? And this is where its insinuating power and universality begin…<[1] (…)

It is the juxtaposition of the kitsch aesthetic and of the themes of death that creates the surprise, that special frisson so characteristic not only for the new discourse but also, it appears, of Nazism itself.

Is it necessary to see in this the will to reconstitute an atmosphere or a fascination? Both, no doubt. Beneath today’s reflection, one catches a glimpse of certain fundamental components of yesterday’s Nazi hold on the imagination.

There is a kitsch of death. (…) The death of heroes, too (…). There is even a kitsch of the apocalypse: the livid sky slashed by immense purple reflections, flames surging from cities, flocks and men fleeing toward the glowing horizon, and far, very far away, four horsemen. And yet this kitsch of death, of destruction, of apocalypse is a special kitsch, a representation of reality that does not integrate into the vision of ordinary kitsch. (…)

roughe-one1

As I have just mentioned, whatever the kitsch images are surrounding one, death creates an authentic feeling of loneliness and dread. Basically, at the level of individual experience, kitsch and death remain incompatible. The juxtaposition of these two contradictory elements represents the foundation of a certain religious aesthetic, and, in my opinion, the bedrock of Nazi aesthetics as well as the new evocation of Nazism. (p. 25-26 )

star-wars-rogue-one-28

Now, this fusion is only the expression of a kind of malaise in civilisation, linked to the acceptance of civilization, but also to its fundamental rejection. Modern society and the bourgeois order are perceived both as an accomplishment and as an unbearable yoke. Hence this constant coming and going between the need for submission and the reveries of total destruction, between love of harmony and the phantasms of apocalypse, between the enchantment of Good Friday and the twilight of the gods. Submission nourishes fury, fury clears its conscience in the submission. To these opposing needs, Nazism—in the constant duality of its representations—offers an outlet; in fact, Nazism found itself to be the expression of these opposing needs. Today these aspirations are still there, and their reflections in the imaginary as well. (…)

rogue-one-star-wars

Neither liberalism nor Marxism responds to man’s archaic fear of the transgression of some limits of knowledge and power (you shall not eat the fruit…), thus hiding what remains the fundamental temptation: the aspiration for total power, which, by definition, is the supreme transgression, the ultimate challenge, the superhuman combat that can be settled only by death. (pp. 135-136)

In: Saul Friedländer: Reflections of Nazism. An Essay on Kitsch & Death. New York, 1984.

[1] Abraham Moles. Psychology of Kitsch. The Art of Happiness. Paris: Denoel, 1971, pp.19-20

 

Women in Film & TV II. FROM DARKNESS – by Kerstin Stutterheim

One achievement of so-called Scandinavian Noir, the specific aesthetic and dramaturgy of contemporary TV series made in Sweden and Denmark[1], was the invention of independent and convincing modern characters. Designed like contemporary modern men and women in democratic societies in Europe, these characters are created as active parts of stories dealing with the challenges we have to face today in Europe, not just in the single country that action is situated in. Female and male characters were arranged to act on eye-level, not only in the action but as well within their dramaturgical impact. In these productions men and women have to solve same problems, on duty and at home with their families. The stories were dealing with current levels of crime—from trafficking, terrorism, to international acting mafia-like organizations. The family life of the detectives as part of the action were set as a dialectic contrast to the crime stories to be investigated by them. Thus, these productions still inherited a moment of hope, of normality, the utopian moment of modern, democratic, civilized society.

Consequently, they were filmed in a more modern or postmodern aesthetic[2]. No false illusion of realism or naturalism is given the way these productions are designed.[3] To count here are productions like Forbydelsen (DAN 2007-2012) or Arne Dahl, 1st Season (S 2011), The Bridge (S/DAN 2011-) and Wallander (S 2005-), or to mention another series, Jockare än Vatten (S 2014).

New productions are released, designed in a way it is obvious they want to follow the trend, and to participate in the success productions mentioned above have had achieved internationally. Those two to be discussed within this essay were expected with high hopes or rather announced as high-quality Noir-like productions. First example to be discussed in this post, is the BBC production From Darkness—broadcasted during the last weeks.

From Darkness was classified as a “psychological crime-drama”[4]. It was announced to be a dark thriller with a strong female protagonist. To call this character a ‘Strong Woman’, means to show that female character acting outside social rules, unable to become an acceptable member of the bourgeoisie society. (Stutterheim, 2015b) Claire Church (Anne-Marie Duff) is a blond, athletic Ex-Detective; one can see here borrowings by Sara Lund (Forbydelsen) and Saga (The Bridge), to be worked out but a character completely different from both role models. The design of the whole production is dark, but the crime is the usual TV crime—tortured and murdered prostitutes. All together we are again confronted with helpless and emotional overacting women in high numbers throughout the four episodes of the mini series.

With this text no full analysis can be given, but some central aspects discussed from a dramaturgical point of view for this production, and in opposition to the above already mentioned productions, make this misogynistic. First is the design of the main character Claire Church, her motives for behaving and acting given within the story; second the murder, her character and motives; third the crime and the victims; another aspect to be discussed this way is the last sequence of the season. Before starting the analysis I want to keep in mind that characters are always designed to support the overall idea, they are written to service the action, they are neither real nor independent deciding human beings. (Stutterheim, 2015a)

Claire Church (Anne-Marie Duff) as a former police officer is a runner. Is she training for ‘Iron Men’, or running away or running her trauma through she suffered along that case 15 years ago? Already the first sequence shows the character Claire after woken up by a bad dream and fleeing the husband joint bed, running, intercut with pictures of prostitutes and tortured women. Within the second sequence, a body is to be found, marked by a red high heel, and setting of the detective and his assistant driving to the new home of Claire Church, who 15 years ago was in charge of the case of a missing prostitute, a less important case. The detective went away after the case was closed without solving it. For some reasons her former superior kept the file in his archive. Now he comes to her new place somewhere in Scotland to pick her up. An Island with rough landscape, a loving husband and stepdaughter are her new home.

Clara is slightly shocked by meeting her former superior unexpectedly again. Filmed in front of a mirror it takes her time and a pill to overcome her physical reaction to this encounter. Later she resists all his demands and luring until he forces her to go with him. The character of Claire Church is designed as an external closed and rough person, hiding her emotions to everyone. This is set in contrast to her husband, a loving father and caring husband. She has to take antidepressants.

Back in Manchester she becomes heavily involved in the investigation, as some consultant or external investigator and as target as well. The antagonistic character is a woman who is suffering a trauma after she was raped 15 years ago, but not murdered. She has been first mistaken for being a prostitute, and survived, but hating since then the young female detective Claire Church. In a flashback it is told that this Claire Church and her partner arrived at the scene, Claire promising to the surviving victim to come back to help her, but on her way back young Claire forgot this completely, and went away kissing her partner instead of helping the raped woman. No one else had this victim in his or her mind either. This sequence makes the new series of killings a personal revenge of one woman to another woman, and just as well the young detective a woman more driven by desire than being professional. To increase this designed side of the character of Claire, it is told that she became pregnant out of the relationship with her superior detective. She was not brave enough to tell him this, but quitted her police career, and attempt suicide, survived, but lost her baby. This situation shows that character in a different dramaturgical approach to most of the female detectives in Scandinavian Noir Productions. Those characters are worked out in a way, that they either become mothers, and tries their best to find a balance between job and motherhood. Or, in a more similar situation to the constructed for the Claire character, the young female detective gave her baby, result out of a difficult and violent relationship, in the care of adoptive parents. After the couple had died, she fought him successful back.[5] Not Claire Church. This character is situated in a story constructed following and repeating traditional conservative role models as well as misogynistic clichés.

About the mentally disturbed other woman, who became a murderer after she heard the news about the discovered bodies, we get not many information. Both female characters are designed as acting out of her uncontrollable emotional apparatus and in blind revenge. John, her former partner and lover, is married, has a son, and owns a house, a car, like it should be. He never acts out of an emotional status, although he sometimes is stretching the rules a bit.

The overall construction culminates in the last sequence of the mini-series: when they—John and Claire—separately understood what happened and probably will be the next step the murder will take, the catastrophe takes place. John arrives first at the scene, and due to circumstances given with the last episode, unarmed. The murder shoots him; he is not dead, but seriously wounded, heavily bleeding. Claire arrives, first acting professional—but after she spots her former love that way, she is losing her self-control, takes the gun and shoots her enemy to death. This, she destroys not only the fictional life of Claire Church and that of her family, but also the chance to let her develop into a convincing professional female detective. She is overacting, driven by desire and emotions, absolutely unprofessional. Besides this aspect, that sequence is as well a misogynistic answer towards the end of The Killing. With first glance it seems to be similar in that way, that the female detective is killing the murderer out of a spontaneous situation. The difference is obvious: in The Killing the female detective, Sarah Lund, is a professional investigator, fighting against crime suspects, struggling with political intrigues and circumstances not always easy for women in her position. Her motivation is based in her understanding that law and professional investigations are confronted with a powerful enemy, and she as detective never ever managed to get a hold of him. That makes her kill the man. Not caused in a situation, where she herself is private and emotionally involved; not because her long ago lover is in danger. The system the character Sarah Lund worked for as professionally as possible had failed; thus, she as well is stepping out of the system, acting equally powerful. And she as a women is shown in a situation less powerful then that Old-Boys-Group, what implicitly makes a difference as well, giving the situation a more metaphoric subtext.

Literaturverzeichnis

BBC ONE. 2015. From Darkness [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7yy4.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) „Come and play with us“. Marburg: Schüren.

STUTTERHEIM, K. 2014. Häutungen eines Genres – skandinavische Ermittlerinnen

Generic Metamorphosis – Scandinavian Investigators. In: DREHER, C. (ed.) Autorenserien II / Auteur Series II. Paderborn: Fink, Wilhelm.

WAADE, A. M. & JENSEN, P. M. 2013. Nordic Noir Production Values. The Killing and The Bridge. akademisk Kvarter. The academic journal for research from the humanities [Online], 07. Fall 2013. Available: http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/UK/contact.php.

[1] WAADE, A. M. & JENSEN, P. M. 2013. Nordic Noir Production Values. The Killing and The Bridge. akademisk Kvarter. The academic journal for research from the humanities [Online], 07. Fall 2013. Available: http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/UK/contact.php.

[2] cf. STUTTERHEIM, K. 2013. Überlegungen zur Ästhetik des postmodernen Films. In: STUTTERHEIM, K. & LANG, C. (eds.) „Come and play with us“. Marburg: Schüren.

[3] cf. STUTTERHEIM, K. 2014. Häutungen eines Genres – skandinavische Ermittlerinnen

Generic Metamorphosis – Scandinavian Investigators. In: DREHER, C. (ed.) Autorenserien II / Auteur Series II. Paderborn: Fink, Wilhelm.

[4] BBC ONE. 2015. From Darkness [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7yy4.

[5] Arne Dahl, 1st season

Women in Film and TV Productions I – by Kerstin Stutterheim

A closer look at women in film, as directors or as characters, provides a basic understanding of the situation of a society. Within this topic one is able to develop a much greater comprehension of if and how gender equality is represented and understood, through simple application of common sense. Gender role models are constructions, made common and perpetuated by media productions.

Movies are reflecting cultural and social relationships in a society, and subsequently have an influence on society as well.   Audience, the often-stressed unknown being, also includes women. In cinemas within some particular age groups, women are even the majority. We, the women, are an integral part of society; without us there would be neither society nor civilization. This is truism, but astonishingly enough it nevertheless has to be mention from time to time again.

Contemporary movies and TV productions are mostly dominated by male producers, directors, commissioning editors and heads of program, yet tell not only stories from that of a male perspective. Even character design is coined by a male view of the world; among the women represented, female characters are frequently designed in a way that gives an overall impression that women would be unable to act as independent human beings. They could be neither able to act as a director nor as female characters embedded in a story that do more than acting as a secretary, nurse, housewife, shop keeper or sex worker. Those characters often lack a name or intelligent dialogue lines, and can be exploited or tortured and murdered more easily than male characters. Productions like FORBYDELSEN (Dk 2007-2012) or BORGEN (Dk 2010-2013), ARNE DAHL (1st season, S 2011) still are the exception, not a standard.

Having analyzed many movies and TV productions produced during the last decades, one can say about female characters depicted in (especially but not limited to) German productions, that if they are part of the action, they are designed as either bad mothers or cold ‘career women’. In other words, female characters can be characterized as that of the ‘Weak Woman’ or ‘Strong Woman’.

‘Strong woman’ is a term representing the male glance towards women and inheriting dominant conditions of power and the structure of society. This term is corresponding to ‘a man from the boys’ and is directing towards a peculiarity, which throughout that ironic approach is pointing at a nearly unattainable exception. This is expressing that with either a ‚Man From the Boys‘ or a ‚Strong Woman’ a traditional married life will be impossible. Instead, the term is expressing that those kinds of characters are demanding a specific hierarchy and personal freedom.

‘Strong Women’ in film and TV productions- with the exception of the aforementioned productions- usually have to fail miserably. In terms of dramatic action those women are infringing upon the implicit engraved rules of the society, which in the case of the western German tradition, means women should act firstly as ‘good’ wives and mothers. Here one can see the long shadow of the gender role models developed and set with that propaganda machinery during „Third Reich“ continued with post-war cinema made in West Germany. In terms of psychology one can say that those were ‘priming’ the view and opinions of the audience, setting up anchors (Kahneman 2012) for an understanding of society and their codes. Within the hierarchy of such characters, female characters were almost always narrated out of a male position. Thus, they have little to no influence on the narrated action. If it is a female character indulged to be the protagonist, her action is shown as personal, fleshly or erotically motivated, not because of a societal or political motivation or longing of the character.

One can see an example of this given in BARBARA (D 2012, Petzold), the adaptation of DIE FLUCHT (DDR 1977, Gräf). In the DEFA movie the main character, a male doctor, is frustrated about the political and economic circumstances hindering his research, causing him to flee GDR to the west; in BARBARA the female doctor wants to go to the West to live with her love or lover, whom she is meeting for short events to have sex together in the wood or a hotel while he is crossing GDR for business trips, causing her to give up her exceptionally good position at one of the leading research hospitals, Another example is KRIEGERIN (D 2011, Wnendt), like BARBARA, premiered at the Berlinale Film Festival. Within the action the young, blonde female main character, called Marisa, (given by Alina Levshin) is shown as driven into the group of Neo-Nazis by her life situation and circumstances–her mother unable to support her, a bad job, a region undeveloped and of no hope for the young generation. As a result of her one and only human action (helping the illegal migrant to hide) she became sacrificed at the end. Independent decisions made by a female character ignoring the rules of the group she belongs to were not endured. The body of the death Marisa is shown aesthetically exaggerated, in sense of ‘Edelkitsch’ (Friedländer, 1999)

This dramaturgical approach to analyze the significance of the character for the action going on, is within sociology defined as ‚Agency‘. Although this term as such first of all just means someone is able to decide independently (Holland, 1998) and still not the active influence of events happening because of a person character acting in a specific way, that term already is been used to discuss characters, especially female ones, in media productions. But to establish modern / contemporary female characters to show them as independently deciding and acting is a progress, but is not enough. Many films representing female characters with some kind of ‘Agency’, will pass as well the so called ‘Bechdel Test’ or other of these new measurements, but at the same time nevertheless stick to conservative role models. To change the ways of representing women in media productions it is necessary to have many more female writers and directors, who should in numbers correspond to the percentage of women in society and the audience. It is time to change the representation of both genders in media productions to give both of them a better perspective in a civilized world as well.

That this is possible without losing audience and attraction is obvious through mentioning productions like the TV series I mentioned above already – BORGEN, FORBYDELSEN, ARNE DAHL – as well as HATUFIM (ISR 2009-2012, Raff). Within these productions characters are interacting on eyelevel, especially within the dramaturgical structure. Action, hopes, dreams and decisions of female characters are of the same weight and influence for the action going on as those of the male characters. Their decisions and actions are not body directed or only emotion based- they are as clear and rational as those of their male counterparts.

Of course, cinema productions written and directed by women were and are successful, like f.e. movies by Agnès Varda, Agnieszka Holland, Deepa Mehta, Sally Potter, Małgośka Szumowska, Lucrecia Martel, Claire Denis, Jane Campion, Nora Ephron, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Sussane Bier, Al Mansour Khairiya, El Deghedy, Shafik Viola or Natalya Bondarchuk, Ana Carolina, Věra Chytilová to name just few of the international well known directors. Based in socio-cultural structures in the cinema business movies directed by women were differently discussed, distributed and reviewed than those directed by their male colleagues. A closer look and analysis shows that female directors more often tend to open dramaturgical forms and less often tell classical stories of a hero. Thus, a more open minded reception is needed to give them same respect as traditional male narrated movies.

To support the discussion and critical thinking of representation of gender in Film and TV productions of today we will add here from time to time short reflections on randomly selected examples we came across.

One of those will be the BBC production FROM DARKNESS (BBC 2015) written by Katie Baxendale and directed by Dominic Leclerc or the 2nd season of ARNE DAHL (S 2015).

 

Kerstin D. Stutterheim, November 2015

 

Literaturverzeichnis

FRIEDLÄNDER, S. 1999. Kitsch und Tod: der Widerschein des Nazismus, Frankfurt am Main, Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verl.

HOLLAND, D. C. 1998. Identity and agency in cultural worlds, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.