BSA206: I so sad.

I remember watching Titanic (1997) when I was about 6 or 7 and just bawling from the moment the ship started sinking until the end. I think that little me knew that everyone was going to die and that just made me really sad. I also thought that the ship was really beautiful and it made me sad that it was going to sink and never be seen again.
Of course I also cried more when Jack dies, but that’s kind of a given. Most people find that part pretty sad.

titanic_sinking titanic_large

Another part of Titanic that made me really sad as a child was when Rose runs along the deck to the back of the ship, planning to jump. It wasn’t the part where she is hanging off the ship, just the short scene where she is crying and running along the deck. I didn’t really understand why this was happening when I was young,  but the fact that I could see this lady running and crying as if she was being chased made me really sad and concerned.



Another thing that made me very sad when I was little was a scene from the TV Series The Animals of Farthing Wood where the hedgehogs die. We had this series on video so I watched it hundreds of times and I swear I cried every time without fail, and I would still cry if i watched it now.
I do remember the first time I watched it. Mole was my favourite character because he was small and shy and liked to snuggle on Badger’s back – I think he reminded me of myself to be honest – but Mole, as my favourite, was followed very closely by the hedgehogs. I think I liked them for the same reasons as Mole except, instead of snuggling into Badger, they would always stick close to each other and I found that very endearing. So, as you can imagine, I was very upset when they died. The clip below is the scene where they die (they get run over crossing the road), and when I was little, I had such hope that they would make it out the other side and part of me didn’t quite understand when they didn’t get back up again. I think I didn’t quite understand that the people that made The Animals of Farthing Wood had no idea that the hedgehogs were my favourites and shouldn’t die.

Now, I don’t find it so sad. I find it more frustrating than anything because they literally just curl up and die. The hedgehogs get themselves in a difficult and dangerous situation which terrifies them, decide they can’t make it through, curl up into a ball and let death – or a speeding car – take them. Oh, but at least they have each other.




When I am asked what movies I find tragic nowadays, my mind immediately springs to Clint Eastwood’s Changeling (2008) starring Angelina Jolie. It is based on the true story of Christine Collins who’s son disappeared and was never found. What I find particularly sad or tragic about this film is the part where the police bring a boy to Christine and tell her it’s her son when it isn’t. Even though they know this is not her child, they won’t admit this to her and force her to take this boy and take care of him as if he were her son. This makes me sad because through the action of carelessly handing off a strange child to a grieving mother, it becomes clear to the audience and the character, even at this early stage in the story, that no one is going to help her find her son.

We do receive a kind of resolution at the end of the film, but it is not a happy one. We discover that Christine’s son was kidnapped along with several other young boys. Some of the boys managed to escape, but Christine’s son never did. Although Christine gains some peace from knowing what happened to her son, but it’s a tragic ending because, not only does she find out that her son was murdered, but she has to watch another mother be reunited with her son who did survived.


BSA206: Scary Stuff.

When asked to think of a scene in a movie that really scared me as a child I immediately picture on particular moment from The Wizard of Oz involving The Wicked Witch of the West. It isn’t when she melts like most people think it might be, it’s when her face fills the screen as she laughs. The Wizard of Oz was my favourite movie as a child and I would watch it as often as I was allowed, but I couldn’t watch that one scene alone. As a child, it felt as if she was bursting out of the screen and was directly in front of my face, laughing at me. In fact, that scene and that feeling made me think the triangular shape of the moths that would sit on my window were the tip of the witch’s nose. It took me a while to get to sleep sometimes. If I watch this scene now I no longer find it quite so scary, but the little Johanna within me still cringes. Although, I do notice that the witch’s face doesn’t seem as big as it did when I was small.

From 0:24 to 0:42


Trying to think of a scene in a movie that scares me now like this scene used to doesn’t result in much. I find that I’m more likely to be disturbed by something and have that stick in my mind rather than something scary. I’ve certainly been scared plenty of times during films – The Conjuring (2013) had me on the edge of my seat and hiding under a blanket the whole time (like just about any of James Wan’s films), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) gave me the shivers, and I stupidly watched Case 39 (2009) alone and I think that speaks for itself – but there isn’t anything in particular from these films that really scared me or made me look twice in the dark. The things that really stick with me now are the things that I can relate to my life, the things that could actually be possible.
I remember watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and seeing Leatherface hook a girl in the shoulder and collarbone with the kind of hook we would use in the woodshed to move bales. That gave me the shivers and really stuck with me. I think that is because I have often been around those tools being used and know how easy it would be to get in the way and have one of those hooks land in your arm. I also just really hate the idea of sharp things landing in people and I don’t really trust people with knives or other sharp things, so that may have something to do with it too.

There’s another scene from a movie that disturbs me far more than the hooks in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Again, it’s something that could plausibly happen, although I’ve never actually been around anyone in this particular situation.
In Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol. II (2013) there is a particularly horrific scene where the lead character, Joe, terminates her pregnancy alone on her kitchen floor. It’s brutal. I won’t go into detail. Before watching this film I had known that abortion was an horrific ordeal, but this scene made me realise that on a new level.
Nymphomaniac certainly focuses on a delicate and controversial topic and is quite graphic, but I did enjoy both volumes. I found it quite refreshing that it focuses on such a sensitive topic and doesn’t shy away from being really honest about it.



BSA206: Cinèma Vèritè and Direct Cinema

Cinèma Vèritè and Direct Cinema are styles of documentary filmmaking, each having a different take on the presence of the filmmaker. They were developed in the early 1960s when film cameras were being made a lighter weight making it possible for filmmakers to do away with a large crew, studio set, tripod-mounted equipment and lighting. [1]

Cinèma Vèritè was invented by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin who was inspired by Dziga Vertov’s theory about Kino-Pravda, but the term was coined by Georges Sadoul.


These styles of filmmaking are quite similar as they both strive to give the truth, but each take a slightly different approach. Cinèma Vèritè allows the filmmaker to be involved in the film and even speak or appear in the film – their presence is meant to be felt in this style of documentary filmmaking. Direct Cinema on the other hand is an objective style of documentary filmmaking, opposite to Cinèma Vèritè, where the filmmaker is invisible – almost like a fly on the wall.
Examples of films in these styles are Chronique d’un été (1961) (Cinèma Vèritè), On The Bowery (1956) (Direct Cinema), and Sofia’s Last Ambulance (2012) (Direct Cinema).




BSA206: La Jetèe


Directed by Chris Marker ❖ Released 1962 ❖ “Un photo roman

La Jetèe, directed by Chris Marker, is a science fiction film about a man who is “marked by an image from his childhood.” Marker termed the film an “un photo roman”,  which translates to “a photo story“, because of the way it is comprised almost entirely of still images. [2]
The film has been of significant influence in many works over the years, such as Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995) which acknowledges La Jetèe in the opening credits as an influence. The themes of this film have also inspired Panda Bear’s song Last Night At The Jetty. [3]

I found the blurb and a sample chapter from a book, that has not yet been published, on La Jetèe. In the blurb it was mentioned that Chris Marker was influenced by his own writings and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) when making La Jetèe. [4]
In an article on Chris Marker which talks about the influence of Hitchcock on Marker, J. Hoberman suggests La Jetèe was “probably the first movie to be made under Vertigo’s spell. [5]

I found that I preferred to listen to the story being told in this film rather than watch the images, although I did enjoy glancing up at the screen every now and then. I admit, there were parts of the film where I started to lose interest, but as soon as the pace of the story picked up again, I was listening intently.

If I hadn’t watched until the end of La Jetèe and someone had asked what I’d thought of the film, I would have told them I found it quite boring and added something to the effect of “but I don’t like science fiction anyway.” I did watch until the end though, and I’m glad I did. It changed what opinion I would have had, because I found the ending to be very unexpected and quite moving. I thought the ending brought you back into the mind of the child, but with the understanding of the man, and I thought that made it quite powerful and very emotional.



BSA206: What We Do In The Shadows


Directed by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement ❖ Released 2014

This is possibly one of my favourite films so when we were told we would be watching it in class I was very excited.

What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary/dark comedy (or mockumentary horror comedy) and is funny – really funny – but often in quite a subtle way and I guess that’s quite typical of a dark comedy.
It stars the directors of the film, Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, and they give brilliant performances.

I will be honest, I don’t know how to review this film. I feel I should be critically picking it to pieces and analysing it to the point where I can no longer watch it, but I find this is really just a film that needs to be enjoyed. This isn’t one of those films that makes it more interesting once you’ve analysed all the shots, angles and general psychology of the camera, this is one of those films where you can just sit back and enjoy. Yes, some of the jokes are really quite cringeworthy, but that’s the nature of the story and the characters so it’s easily forgiven (actually I find myself laughing more because of it).
I did try and do quite a bit of research before writing this review and found some interesting facts in the process, but that didn’t inspire me to write a “technical” review because, like I say, I personally don’t think it calls for one. I do think I find this film enjoyable and am able to just watch and not critique because I am familiar with the creator’s works and their humour so I know I’m going to get a good show.

During my bit of research on What We Do In The Shadows, I found a couple of interesting facts:

  • They shot 125 hours of footage
  • They basically lied to Stu (who plays Stu) convincing him he wouldn’t be in the film much, but gave him quite a big role in the final cut

BSA206: Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (1948) is the story of a father and son on the hunt for a stolen bicycle. It is part of the Italian Neorealism movement and is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.

I really enjoyed this film, I found it very easy to connect to and I think part of the reason for that is due to the use of non-professional actors – one of the conventions of Italian Neorealism. To be honest, I didn’t actually notice that the actors weren’t professional, but that is because I really appreciate acting that feels honest and true to how a person would behave in real life and that is what I saw in Bicycle Thieves. 

Alongside the realism of the acting, I thought that the focus on the working class made the story more relatable. Again, this is an Italian Neorealism convention. Sure, it’s always nice to see the upper class in a film and fantasise to a point about how nice it would be to live like that, but what the majority of people, who are the working class, want to see is something about them from their point of view. Even though Bicycle Thieves is set in a different time period, it still resonates with today’s working class audience as it shows what actions an honest man would resort to in order to provide for his family.


BSA206: Breathless

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard ❖ Released 1960 ❖ Part of the French New Wave movement

“A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.” [2]

For me, the most interesting, and perhaps the most engaging, aspect of this film was the way Patricia (played by Jean Seberg) seemed to care so little about every important piece of information that was thrown her way. She thought she might be pregnant to Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), but spoke of it like it hardly mattered, she was told that Michel is married, but isn’t worried, and shrugs off the fact the he is a murderer. Her character struck me as the stereo-typical teenage girl who believes the only thing that matters in life is whether or not you are in love to the point where Patricia betrays Michel only to figure out for herself if she actually loves him.

French New Wave films break free of the classical Hollywood film structure which was based on literature and theatre structures. Instead the directors of these films wanted to make the viewer think about what they were watching and connect it to their own lives, instead of having their hands held by a familiar story line and structure. [3Breathless, being a French New Wave film, doesn’t follow classical Hollywood structure, and I think the makes it even more enjoyable.



BSA206: Italian Neorealism

Italian Neorealism, a film movement beginning at the end of World War II, was an urgent response to the political turmoil and desperate economic conditions afflicting Italy at the time. [4]

Unlike other Italian films of the time, Italian Neorealism focused on the poor and working class people and featured unprofessional actors. “Neorealism was the expression of an entire moral or ethical philosophy, as well, and not simply just another new cinematic style.” [7]

Ideologically, the characteristics of Italian neorealism were:

  • a new democratic spirit, with emphasis on the value of ordinary people
  • a compassionate point of view and a refusal to make facile (easy) moral judgements
  • a preoccupation with Italy’s Fascist past and its aftermath of wartime devastation
  • a blending of Christian and Marxist humanism
  • an emphasis on emotions rather than abstract ideas

Stylistically, Italian Neorealism was:

  • an avoidance of neatly plotted stories in favor of loose, episodic structures that evolve organically
  • a documentary visual style
  • the use of actual locations – usually exteriors – rather than studio sites
  • the use of nonprofessional actors, even for principal roles
  • use of conversational speech, not literary dialogue
  • avoidance of artifice in editing, camerawork, and lighting in favor of a simple ‘styless’ style


Some of the most notable directors of this movement are as listed:

Roberto Rossellini

  • Best known for his trilogy of war films; Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany Year Zero (1948).
  • One of the creators of Neorealism [5]
  • Considered to be one of the most influential directors of all time [5]

Vittorio De Sica

  • Director of The Bicycle Thieves (1948)
  • The Bicycle Thieves has been “hailed around the world as one the greatest movies ever made,” [6]

Luchino Visconti 

  • Directed Ossessione (1943)
  • Ossessione (1943) not solely a Neorealism film, but foreshadowed the postwar Neorealist work [8]


From Rome, Open City (1945) [1]
From Rome, Open City (1945) [2]
From The Bicycle Thieves (1948) [3]
From The Bicycle Thieves (1948) [4]



BSA206: Classical Hollywood

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980)

Psycho (1960) ❖ Dial M For Murder (1954) ❖ Vertigo (1958) ❖ To Catch A Thief (1955)


Born in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential filmmakers to date, with Psycho (1960) probably being his most famous film. He worked mostly in the thriller genre, but his first feature film, The Pleasure Garden (1925), was a drama/romance. [1]
He worked with several different studios over his career including Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Paramount Pictures.
Hitchcock and his friend, Sidney Bernstein, formed an independent production company called Transatlantic Pictures, but it became inactive after the two films it produced were unsuccessful. Although, Hitchcock continued to produce his own films. [2]

Tippi Hedren was discovered by Hitchcock and starred in two of his films: The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964).
James Stewart starred in four of Hitchcock’s films: Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958)
Grace Kelly starred in three of Hitchcock’s films: Dial M For Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch A Thief (1955).




BSA206: German Expressionism

German Expressionism is an artistic genre that originated in Europe in the 1920s, and is broadly defined as the rejection of Western conventions, and the depiction of reality that is widely distorted for emotional effect.” [1]
This style of film was influenced by artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and El Greco and the way they used bright clashing colours, flat shapes and jagged brush strokes to create powerful reactions to their work. These influences can be seen through the use of geometrical painted backdrops,
German Expressionism originated in the 1920s as an artist genre in Europe, and it is “broadly defined as the rejection of Western conventions, and the depiction of reality that is widely distorted for emotional effect. ” [1]


The “German style.” Emphasis on design or mise-en-scène, uncanny atmosphere, and composition (less on story and editing, unlike Hollywood). “The film image must become graphic art” (Hermann Warm).

Expressionism = Stylization that abstracts and transforms reality as we know it (from the conventions of realistic art) through

  • –  photography (unexpected camera angles, little camera movement)
  • –  lighting (stark contrasts of light and shadow for various effects)
  • –  totally artificial, stylized sets (“paintings come to life”), stripped of all realistic details and psychology—sets that becomesymbolic diagrams of emotional states
  • –  overtly theatrical (anti-naturalist) acting style (actors move in jerky, slow, sinuous patterns) and heavy make-up
  • –  integration of all elements of mise-en-scène to create an overall compositionSuch Expressionist techniques aim to
  • –  abstract from realistic details and contingencies
  • –  bring out the “essence” of an object, situation, or state of being
  • –  express a subjective viewpoint
  • –  evoke mystery, alienation, disharmony, hallucination, dreams, extreme emotional states, destabilizationExpressionist film in the 1920s is based on the premise that film becomes art only to the extent that the film image differs from empirical reality: “The world is there: Why repeat it?” The “formative” power of film was seen in its ability to
  • –  resignify and rework reality (not merely record it)
  • –  construct a self-contained aesthetic and symbolic world of the imagination radically detached from the everyday


Defining features of expressionist films include the techniques of artificial, stylized sets that become symbolic diagrams of emotional states, stark lighting contrasts, and heavy, theatrical make up. (2) Examples of these techniques can be seen in the images below.

Shadow play in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
Shadow play in Nosferatu (1922)
Stark lighting contrasts in the geometrical set of Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922) Source: 3
The artificial, stylised set of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
Lighting contrasts and artificial sets: Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
"Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari"D 1919/20 R.: Robert Wiene Conrad Veidt
Cesare with his heavy make up in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) Source: 4