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Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Roman Polanski's 1968 film Rosemary's Baby remains to this day, a horror film that 'you just need to see'. Filled with a storyline capable of enticing even the likes of todays cinematically numb audiences, and symbolism bold enough to interest the deepest of theorists.
|Fig 1: Rosemary's Baby, Movie Poster|
The film follows the story of Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a young American woman who is taking the next step in her relationship with her husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) by moving into a new apartment. Almost as soon as the couple have stepped across the threshold they became aware of the nosey neighbours upstairs presence, namely Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer). The old couple soon become integral parts of the newly moved in lovebirds lives, inviting them to dinner, offering to help out moving furniture and in the eyes of Rosemary, becoming all too involved. Not long after officially becoming residents of The Bradford, the Woodhouse couple decide to try for a baby, a baby that will soon become the basis of an extremely demonic plot. Rosemary's Baby now begins to take a darker turn, showcasing just why the film has gone on to be known as a classic within the horror genre, as the consumption of the Woodhouse baby is by no means regular. Just as the couple announce that they are going to be trying for a baby, the interfering old Castevet couple begin to show further signs of interest in the brooding relationship just down the hall, sending them strangely specific edible treats that send Rosemary into a strange dream like trance, a trance which essentially sees the poor victim being impregnated by an incarnation of the hell dweller himself, the devil. Just like most couples attempting to start a family, Rosemary's pregnancy is warmly welcomed by all, and the Castevets and their entourage of spooky associates begin to play a huge role in the caring of Rosemary, offering the attention of the best doctor in town, supplying health supplements and showering the expecting mother with accessories and items to help progress the pregnancy. However even with all this doctors advice, Rosemary takes ill, potentially endangering the baby and ultimately leading her into a state of doubt, questioning the advice and treatment she has been accepting from all the helping hands around her. The death of old friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) leads Rosemary in the direction of Witchcraft, something the desperate woman soon becomes obsessed with. This unhealthy obsession soon attracts the attention of Mr Woodhouse and the Castevet recommended Doctor Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy) and sends Rosemary into a state of sedation. Once Rosemary wakes with her chemical restraint she soon becomes aware that she is no longer carrying a child, and is under the impression that the baby was lost during its delivery. Now in a most Suspiria like fashion, Rosemary sneaks through her apartment, leading to the discovery of the secret door within the cluttered broom cupboard with leads expectedly into an apartment flush with blasphemous paintings and satanic decorations, which as Ebert puts it "works not because it is a surprise but because it is horrifyingly inevitable" (Ebert, 1968). Finally, in one of the most gripping climax sequences within the horror genre, the new mother is greeted by the satanic cult she has feared for the duration of her gestation period, along with the unexpected addition of the new father and is presented with the satanic creation that has been brewing within her womb since day 1, a creation which Rosemary seems to ultimately accept.
|Fig 2: Rosemary's Baby, Screenshot|
Throughout the duration of Rosemary's Baby, the film is littered with subtle symbolism for the more 'attention to detail' type viewers, frequently suggesting different angles to perceive the story from and different messages to take from Polanski's creation. So much so that it has been described as "a horror movie in which the malevolence of Satan is eclipsed by the maliciousness of a woman's right to choose being violated" (Henderson, 2013). One common theme which seems to stay current throughout the entirety of the film is the presence of the colour yellow. This undecided shade is consistently flooded amongst the scenes of the film, whether it be in passing cabs on the street or the sheets on Rosemary's bed, the colour yellow is something the director wanted an audience to pick up on. Its extremely relevant to note that this particular colour is a look expecting couples often choose to decorate the new baby's room with when the sex is unknown, this idea suggests that Polanski was aiming for the audience to stay undecided on the fate of our female lead and to stay unsure as to whether Rosemary is correct in thinking that the health issues she is facing is down to witches or if the mind set of the expecting mother is due to extreme paranoia. Its worth noting that if the director had chosen to flood scenes with colour red, Rosemary's fascination with witchcraft may have been more acceptable to an audience, respectively if there were more shots which highlighted a more passive colour like a light blue, viewers have been inclined to think that this obsession was purely paranoia and that the root of Rosemary's problems lay comfortably next to a reasonable explanation. Another strong piece of symbolism or possible foreshadowing is the sudden mention of a heat wave amongst the city, which all takes place once Rosemary has delivered her satanic offspring, possibly hinting at the idea of hells flames burning brighter now that the devils successor is present amongst the cast of Rosemary's Baby.
Throughout the film, the worldwide issue of equality is touched upon a number of times, or more the lack of. This idea becomes extremely apparent after Rosemary announces her pregnancy, and the possession of the baby almost becomes up for grabs amongst the residents of Bradford and their Satan worshipping comrades, an issue that could of potentially been apparent in the times the film was made as women were just beginning to achieve equal rights. This idea of inequality and men having the ultimate say in a woman's life are consistently apparent in Rosemary's Baby and Rosemary's husband is a prime manifestation of this issue as it is him that essentially sells his wives baby to the Devil worshipers in return for an ounce of fame. Throughout the film there are a number of different physical representations used to convey issues, including the use of the Castevet couple to suggest the notion of out of date views and ideals still having a firm grasp on modern society and more importantly, modern women.
|Fig 3: Rosemary's Baby, Screenshot|
As the 1960's served as a huge period for the rise in equality for women, it is only normal to assume that these issues would of been addressed by the times creative individuals, Mr Polanski being one of them. The 1960's played host to second wave feminism, a time that " Touched on every area of women’s experience—including family, sexuality, and work" (Burkett, 2015), something that is also arguably noted in Rosemary's Baby. The presence of this movement within the film could be seen in a number of different moments, through the smallest hints such as Rosemary getting a shorter haircut than women of that time would of been expected to have, to much bigger symbolic mentions such as the delivery of a baby that is said to bring a new way of life upon the world. The arrival of the Woodhouse baby could be seen in a number of different ways, possibly as the arrival of a new wave that a society set in extremely old fashioned ways would have feared. Or possibly as the release of these old ways, suggesting that the reason the satanic cult are all 'over 70', as Rosemary puts it, is to show the only members of society still interested in these prehistoric views are the people who were brought up on these ideas and refuse to adapt to new ways of life. Another possible way of perceiving the arrival of this Omen like child, would be to see the plot as Polanski's way of illustrating the fear many members of society would have been dealing with as they saw this new wave of feminism being more apparent in every day life. As this era was known to hold extreme protests and riots, it wouldn't be unthinkable to assume that many members of a modern community would have been living in fear of the influences these radical movements would be having on their lives, which ultimately suggests that Polanski was asking an audience to see the Woodhouse baby as a physical representation of second wave feminism.
No matter which way you choose to view Rosemary's Baby, there is no question that the film holds something of extreme value to many different members of the ever growing 'cinema lovers fan club'. Whether it be the classic thrills of this beautifully depicted horror story that attracts a film lover, or the more serious issues Polanski's creation possibly tackles on an integral level, one thing remains certain, Rosemary's Baby is a classic through and through.
Burkett, Elinor, 2015, Women's Movement, http://www.britannica.com/topic/womens-movement, Accessed on 08/03/16
Ebert, Roger, 1968, Rosemary's Baby, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/rosemarys-baby-1968, Accessed on: 08/03/16
Henderson, Eric, 2013, Rosemary's Baby, http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/rosemarys-baby, Accessed on: 08/03/16
Fig 1: Movie Poster, Rosemary's Baby, https://uk.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-36630/Rosemary_s_Baby.html, Accessed on: 08/03/16
Fig 2: Screenshot, Rosemary's Baby, http://www.nitehawkcinema.com/2013/10/10-things-rosemarys-baby/, Accessed on: 08/03/16
Fig 3: Screenshot, Rosemary's Baby, https://vinnieh.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/rosemarys-baby/, Accessed on: 08/03/16
Friday, 4 March 2016
Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Steven Spielberg's 1982 film E.T. is just as heart wrenching and thought provoking as it was 34 years ago when it was first delivered to eager audiences around the world. Much like Spielberg's earlier work, E.T. has all the components of a film that carries a deeper message. Just like the arrival of the foreign life forms in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T. brings with him a host of theories and speculation and has been thought of as something of "a narrative accomplishment" (Ebert, 2002). Could E.T. be another Spielberg film littered with symbolism and metaphors? Or is it simply a beautiful telling of an unforgettable story? Either way, E.T. is a film that will remain in cinema lover's hearts for a very long time. E.T. follows the story of Elliot (Henry Thomas), a young boy who stumbles upon a lost alien in his garden shed after he has been forgotten by his visiting mother ship. The bumbling alien, E.T., soon finds a temporary home within Elliot's family life, all be it without his mother being aware of his otherworldly presence, and begins to play a huge role in Elliot and his two siblings lives. As the story continues, E.T. begins to show signs of struggle and desperately attempts to attract the attention of his native people through the use of a homemade communication device, which spurs the famous 'Phone Home' line out of hiding and into viewers minds forever. Soon after this attempt at communication, both Elliot and E.T. become plagued with a mysterious illness that is causing the pair to slip into a state of deterioration. After outside authorities become aware of the extra terrestrial's presence in the family's home, they waste no time in extracting the helpless alien and begin to try and decipher just what seems to be causing the alien and his human companion to slowly slip away. After scene upon scene of tear jerking moments, the hopeless alien fades away, which in turn causes Elliot to return to his healthy state. Just when it seems that all hope is lost and audiences begin to drown in their own tears, E.T. shows signs of life and a sudden urge to get home. After a chase scene that has clearly gone on to inspire adventure classics such as 'The Goonies', E.T. departs with a heart breaking goodbye, returning home with his own kind.
|Fig 1: E.T., Movie Poster|
E.T. first arrived on the silver screen in 1982, a time when serious changes were happening across America, a time when consumerism was beginning to become a huge staple of the modern citizens lifestyle, this rising of consumerism was widely known as the 'Yuppy' movement. "Many people derided yuppies for being self-centered and materialistic, and surveys of young urban professionals across the country showed that they were, indeed, more concerned with making money and buying consumer goods than their parents and grandparents had been." (History.com Staff, 2011), all these aspects of consumerism and cultural movements were rising around the time Spielberg was creating E.T., and could all have played a role in the message Spielberg wanted to deliver. It feels as if Spielberg actively uses the character of E.T. as a way of illustrating his own personal opinion and the collective opinions of doubtful Americans in this time of vast change. With this idea of consumerism in mind, ET almost transforms into a physical embodiment of home values, arriving in a time of need for young Elliot as his father is notably absent from the family, here to remind a troubled soul just what is important in life. It is also worth noting that Elliot's father being in Mexico is mentioned numerous times throughout E.T., possibly serving as a literal presentation of the effects consumerism was having on the nuclear family, as vast numbers of the population were beginning to show a real interest in owning and achieving more in their lifetime, in turn leaving loved ones behind. It seems as if this tale of real friendship and family life came at a strange time for America, as the country was just beginning to see the uprising of consumerism, E.T arrived to serve as the polar opposite of this idea, here to refresh audiences and remind them just what real values are and the damage the cultural change was having on families across America.
|Fig 2: E.T., Screenshot|
When trying to decipher this Spielberg creation, one thing certainly stands out as an aspect worth thinking about, the idea that E.T. plays more of a brother role to young Elliot. This idea becomes extremely prominent when you note that Spielberg was the only son of the 4 Spielberg children, almost forcing E.T. into the brother Spielberg never had. It could be thought that other aspects of Spielberg's home life have also played huge roles in shaping his creations, including the fact that his father worked with computers, an area that was beginning to become a huge part of the modern world. The fact that Spielberg's father worked in such a revolutionary field has surely had a huge impact on Spielberg's creative outputs, it's almost impossible to ignore the correlation in films such as Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and most definitely E.T.. This idea that Spielberg was present in an environment of growth and revolution has certainly seemed to have rubbed off on the way he shapes his characters into his films, it almost starts to feel as if Spielberg is young Elliot and E.T. is a physical manifestation of the way technology and the creation of new ideas were present in his home life whilst growing up.
When this 'Yuppy' movement is taken into account whilst thinking about the ideas behind E.T., the extra terrestrial character himself begins to take on different roles, or vessels of opinion within the film. It could well be thought that Spielberg was using E.T. as a way of showing modernised audiences the core values of family and friendship, but it is also worth considering that the wandering alien could be a representation of the 'Yuppy' movement itself. Throughout the film, E.T. is constantly learning, whether it be reading or basic dialect, the creature is evolving, much like audiences across America would also be evolving into consumers, hungry for new materials. This all leads to the idea that Spielberg may have been trying to show the 'Yuppy' movement as a more positive aspect of people's lives, instead of this negative revolution that it could of been seen as at the time. Because E.T. holds core values and the character literally has a positive impact on the people around his life, it seems as if Spielberg was keen to give audiences a new idea that would be received with open arms rather than be rejected much like many people were doing with this new wave of consumerism. If nothing else, it certainley does feel as if Spielberg was aware of this shift in the way modern people lived their lives and was using his creation as a way of illustrating that the world, or America at least, may well of been evolving but it will always hold the same core values and traits that it had learnt in previous decades. In E.T.'s case, the lessons the lost alien had learnt from Elliot and his family whilst on earth.
|Fig 3: E.T., Screenshot|
No matter which way a viewer chooses to read E.T., whether it be as a simple light hearted adventure or a more in depth metaphor driven film, there is no doubt that it will remain in peoples lives and cinematic history forever. Whether Spielberg was aiming to create a film that held so many core values comes down to opinion, but it certainley is not a coincidence that the legendary director went on to craft some of the most iconic films of all time. There is no doubt that E.T. has gone on to inspire other filmmakers and in some cases even teach audiences vital life lessons, with others stating that the film is "an endless and infinite delight" (Lee, 2014), there is no question that this cinematic masterpiece will live on forever. It feels very difficult to pin point just which part of this heart warming tale E.T. will be remembered for, the timeless effects, the iconic character, the unforgettable score or the minimal phrases the charming outsider could push out. After all these years have passed since E.T.'s release, it really feels as if the world is a better place for having seen Spielberg's extra terrestrial masterpiece.
Ebert, Roger, 2002, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/et-the-extra-terrestrial-2002, Accessed on: 01/03/16
History.com Staff, 2011, 1980's: Popular Culture, http://www.history.com/topics/1980s, Accessed on: 01/03/16
Lee, Marc, 2014, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, review: 'redefined popular sci-fi, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/11310774/Must-have-movie-ET-The-Extra-Terrestrial-1982.html, Accessed on: 01/03/16
Fig 1: Movie Poster, E.T., http://www.moviepostershop.com/et--the-extra-terrestrial-movie-poster-1982, Accessed on: 01/03/16
Fig 2: Screenshot, E.T., http://thestorydepartment.com/screenwriting-structure-e-t/, Accessed on: 01/03/16
Fig 3: Screenshot, E.T., http://metro.co.uk/2015/03/26/this-powerful-audition-from-the-little-boy-in-e-t-made-spielberg-cry-5121761/, Accessed on: 01/03/16