Portraying Violence in Mad Max and Rashomon

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Portraying Violence in Mad Max and Rashomon

In this academic blog, Katie Wellbrook looks at how Akira Kurosawa and George Miller portray violence, a prevalent theme in both films, and the impact it has on the success of the films.

What I find interesting is the discussion of Kurosawa’s use of lighting.  By setting the narrative in dense forest and lighting from above, an ominous atmosphere is created in which constantly moving shadows are cast over the characters and action.  More pertinent to my work though is the effect this has on the audience.  The disrupted view of the characters and narrative, constantly shifting between shadows, “distorts the audience’s view of the characters, and therefore forbids an objective view being cast”.  This ambiguity that is created in one respect distances the audience from the characters, but in doing so, creates an intrigue.  The audience cannot fully render the physical and underlying facets of a character and so the film engages not only through narrative, cinematography, dialogue, sound, etc. but also through the act of physically describing a character throughout a scene. In my work, by obscuring the runner using stylistic lighting, shallow depth of field, and cutting between extreme closeups and long shots, I should be able to heighten the sense of intrigue and engagement of the character and film.

Obscuring lighting can also root action in metaphor. By creating visual cues to suggest a fantasy world (in this context, simply meaning ‘not reality’), all action begs to interpreted beyond the actuality of an event.  The viewer is asked to interpret a running woman reaching a road not only as literal, but within a metaphorical denotation.  This use of visual cues extends beyond the use of lighting – I will be shooting a night; often connected to dreaming and allegory, I will be shooting slow-motion; warping time conventions and distancing the action from the viewer’s reality, I will have the woman dressed only in a white flowing dress; a loaded symbol especially given the bare feet.

Looking briefly at Mad Max, the distinction is made between rural and urban settings as denoting violence and peace.  These connections between a rural environment denoting the uncivilised, while an urban environment denotes a civil (yet often restraining) context.  In my film, I will use this idea to place the emotional temperament of the character in an ambiguous place.  Physically placing the girl against a bokeh of city lights on the horizon between a road and bush, I want to create a sense of casting the character to the fringes of society.  Somehow operating between rational thought of civilisation (symbolised by the distanced lights) and barbaric freedom of the road/urban landscape.



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