lethally intersecting misunderstandings .” W r i t i n g
Instructions: In one to two paragraphs (300-400 words), answer ONLY ONE of the following questions. Your response should include a central thesis/interpretive claim that serves as the central focus of your reflection, supported by formal devices in the scene. TIP: to boost clarity in these short reflections, put a clear and explicit interpretive claim somewhere in the first few sentences of the reflection. Complete this by 11:59PM PST on Sunday, December 6th. There is no time limit and you are allowed one submission before the deadline. Be sure that your submission is entered either using the text box or uploaded as a PDF, DOC, or TXT file.
NOTE: Late reflections are accepted for grading for up to two weeks after the initial due date or by the end of Finals Week, whichever comes first. However, please note that the later the reflection, the greater the grade deduction. The lowest reflection grade (1 out of a total of 6 weekly reflections) will be dropped. Plagiarism—submitting work that is not the student’s own, whether lifted from a printed source or from the internet, or submitting writing by someone else (e.g., a tutor or friend), will warrant a reduced or failing grade, depending on the severity of the plagiarism involved.
Answer ONE of the following questions about Blood Simple and/or Memento in this week’s reflection:
Blood Simple (Coen Brothers, 1984) has been described as “an intricate clockwork of lethally intersecting misunderstandings.” (Orr review, Lecture 8A) Sound is a crucial element of the film’s narration, or “the overall regulation and distribution of knowledge which determines how and when the spectator acquires knowledge” (Branigan). Craft an interpretive claim about the relationship between sound and spectatorial knowledge OR sound and spectatorial confusion in Blood Simple. How does this knowledge or lack thereof affect the spectator’s response to the scene you chose to discuss? Engage at least two specific scenes from the film where the recurrence of a leitmotif or a sound motif facilitates the film’s narrative movement in order to support your claim.
With reference to one or two scenes from Blood Simple (Coen Brothers, 1984) and/or Memento (Nolan, 2000), make a case for your preferred narrative convention as an audience member: Do you prefer to follow a particular character’s narrative point of view (what Bordwell and Thompson refer to as restricted, subjective narration) or have the quality of omniscience (unrestricted, objective narration)? In your view, which makes for a more satisfying experience as an audience member? Do you enjoy following an unreliable narrator? What about a narrator who may act outside the conventional boundaries of morality?
Blood Simple (Coen Brothers, 1984) bookends the film with the character Loren Visser’s viewpoint: it starts with his voice-over narration and ends with his point of view shot of the leaky pipes in Abby’s bathroom. Why do you think the film’s narration emphasizes Visser’s subjectivity in the opening and closing scenes of the plot?
In Lecture 9B, Prof. Lim discusses Memento (Nolan, 2000) as a film that features both kinds of plots described by Bordwell and Thompson: it is both a “goal-oriented” plot and a “change in knowledge” plot. Refer to one or two scenes from Memento that emphasize how “goal-oriented plot” and “change in knowledge plot” function simultaneously. Alternately, if you don’t think they function simultaneously, develop a claim on the specific kind of plot at work in the scene you’re discussing.
Craft an interpretive claim comparing the use of telephone conversations in Blood Simple (Coen Brothers, 1984) and Memento (Nolan, 2000). Using one scene from each film, analyze how these phone conversations play with disparities in both character and spectatorial knowledge. Be sure to address both visual and sonic aspects. Also, as you compare your chosen scenes, remember that a rich comparative analysis should consider both similarities and differences.
Write a letter to Leonard Shelby that attempts to convince him of your interpretation of the story in Memento (Nolan, 2000). Your letter should explain who you think killed his wife, supported by formal details from one to two scenes. Alternately, if you do not think it is possible to conclusively reconstruct story from plot in Memento, then explain to Leonard why we cannot know for sure who the killer is. Finally, why is it important to emphasize what we know or what we are confused about in the film?