In the study of films, there is the use of the formal-aesthetic and cultural-ideological approaches. Here, the formal-aesthetic approach means the study of the internal elements of a film rather than the role it plays in the political or cultural context. The formal analysis emphasizes the structure and style of the film.
Style, thus, looks at how the different themes are developed in the film, how the narrative has been structured, and the composition of the shot and the recurrence of the motifs. The study also looks at the organization of these elements in a certain pattern that give the film meaning. On the other hand, aesthetics aspect is a philosophical area that concerns itself with theories of perception and appreciation of art.
The main idea behind aesthetics in the film is beauty. When the two aspects of formalism and aesthetics combine, then the unity of the structural elements is achieved in a way emphasizing artistry. In such a film, one can appreciate the aspects of beauty brought out.
The sociological-ideological analysis is where there is the combination of sociology and ideology in the study of films. Sociology refers to scientific study of the behavior of human beings. On the other hand, ideology studies the ways in which there is the development of cultural structures and beliefs within dominant groups, thus, helping them control the people’s view on culture.
The use of this analysis, therefore, helps in understanding the human behavior that results in the production of whatever film. Additionally, the approach looks at the dynamics of power and control behind film articulation. Given that it is a product of modern technologies and a means of production, the study of films plays a critical role. The area is essentially vital in determining the relationship between art and mechanical development.
Feminism, Humanism and Science in Alien
According to James Kavanagh, film titled Alien of 1979 is an example of an aesthetically effective mass-cultural production. The film is said to fuses different cultural themes into a cinematic narrative having both the emotional and visual impact. However, other themes evident in the film are the internal over determination and contradictory construction.
These allow for criticism on the issue that attempts to resurrect an ideological figure in the film. Humanism is brought out in the film through concealed differences, struggles and contradictions. The theme of Humanism is used in this film to explain the Marxist theory of history, society and culture.
To Marxism, the idea of man is misplaced. Thus, Marxism says there are specific men and women who are classified into classes. He continues to say that it is the classes which are significant in social transformation.
Initially, Alien looked at humanism and science in terms which disrupt and cause a reversal in the usual science fiction. This is in the reproduction of humanist ideologies where people look at reason, calculation and logic as being bad. More so, reason, calculation and logic are seen as being inhuman hence the need for timely and identification of a corrective human figure that signify emotion, passion and concern.
In comparison with other films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien is said to show an ideological theme which depict negativity. A typical example here is where a black male voice is used to signify unit “workers”. However, the voice insists that they do have nothing to do with a rescue mission.
The male voice claims that a rescue mission will only consume their precious time, unless they are paid for it. This act, therefore, depict humanism as being a class luxury. Further more, the voice of a woman of refusing to open the airlock to allow a stricken friend and two other colleagues pass through to safety is vital.
Here, the woman’s voice shows the antihumanist grounds on which a number of things are evident. These include the willingness for one to sacrifice for friends and loved ones, the correct scientific procedure and the assumption of legitimate authority. These are on the basis of possible consequences. Thus, the woman’s stand shows that humanism is irrelevant (Nelmes, 2003).
The reduction in the power of the woman-signifier is preceded by an increase in the power of an alien-signifier. Here, the power of the alien-signifier is clearly seen as that of the woman-signifier is foregrounded. Events leading to the birth of an alien project three images that are confused and are sets of frightening sexual associations.
For instance, the process starts with the stage where the inner body of the spaceship is explored. These frightening events, plus more others, are what makes the film appear horrific in nature. The monster used in the film also introduces the aspect of fear.
The feminist theme is depicted through Ripley. She is portrayed as a strong spirited woman out to mobilize all her emotional and intellectual strength. This is in order to defeat the monster forced upon her by the Mother.
On the other hand, Alien operates in a way that words do not discriminate against men. As a feminist statement, Alien avoids statements which trivialize and empirically condemn men.
The use of a feminist statement also condemns sexuality and sexual attraction. Further more; Alien is depicted as a postfeminist film from the image that shows the relations between men and women. This was an image that showed the relationship that existed between men and women who were the crew Nostromo.
On the ship, there were strong men and women. However, a woman assuming power and authority was none of their concern. Power and authority are ceded to persons irrespective of the sex.
Contrary to societal conventions, the basis of power and authority was on their function they served and the position they held. Alien is thus presented as a strong and autonomous woman who relates well with all the men she interacts with at all levels in her life. In the film, she relates exceptionally well with the black male worker.
The film has contradictory ideologies of humanism. The awareness of this fact enables us to see the suspense as depicted in the film. For instance, in the film, there are cases where Ripley refuses to open the airlock for her friends to get out.
Another example is when Parker refuses to be drafted into the rescue mission. At that stage, these characters did not apply humanism. However, this scenario is contracted by Ripley. At one point, she returns to rescue a cat.
Here, it shows “displaced” humanism where a character shows goodwill towards non-human things. This act shows that Ripley has recovered to know that there is ideological humanism. One is left wondering if indeed that is an act of humanism. A person who leaves her friends to die by refusing to open an airlock suddenly risks her life to save a cat.
Humanism is depicted in the black worker. In this incidence to, there is a reversal from an earlier position held by the black worker. As depicted earlier, he is only ready to sacrifice for the good of other if there is a financial gain.
However, he changes to show humanism by fighting for the life of a woman held by an alien. This act is demonstrated by his willingness to drop his weapon in order to go for a hand-to-hand combat with the alien. This was in order not to put the life of the woman in danger.
The act depicts him as a feminist humanist. The black worker ends up as a sacrificial victim and the woman survives. This act, therefore, depicts the film as a typical case where an ideological system of bourgeois humanism still exists in society (Sikov, 2009).
Feminism and Anxiety in Alien
This is a review of the film Alien written by Judith Newton. Alien was a 1979 film by Ridley Scott. The outstanding utopian element evident in Alien is using a female character in the role of an individualist. Conventionally, the individualist role is always reserved for men in films.
The film’s imagery resolution of anxieties is achieved through one of the characters called Ripley. In her composure, Ripley defeats a monster on her own. She is able to maintain her composure even in the face of monster, and she came out as a victor.
From this example, the film evokes anxieties that even do exist in our society today. Ripley is depicted as having to fight the anxieties existing in a capitalist society. Additionally, the film depicts an issue that people are nowadays struggling to be company men and women. In this situation, there is a belief that there is freedom to do what one believes is beneficial to them.
The company, Alien, engages in the mining business. The idea here is to show the nature of capitalism in our society in comparison to how the situation used to be. Capitalism is said to be a central theme in every society.
This is seen in the way people are more concerned about how much benefit certain action will give unto them. In the film, we see Conrad, a working class hero, dies due to his pursuance of material interests in society. Capitalism in this film is said to be in the form of a system that is computerized to dehumanize it.
As such, the name of the Company computer in the film is referred to as Mother. Throughout the film, we see the continued comparison between machines and human beings, who were the workers of the Company. At one, the ingenuity and practical-mindedness of human beings, who were a crew of a ship, play against the impressive but unreliable technology of the Company.
It results into tension between the human beings and the technological advancements in the Company. At this point, Ash, the android of the Company in the form of a dehumanized worker, issues threats against human collectivity, as well as the alien.
Ripley blasts the organism into space creating two fantasies in the film. One of the fantasies is that an individual action in society resolves economic and social horrors. Here, we see the deflection of the capitalistic labor behind the dehumanizing force into an alien.
Another fantasy is the white class women saving humanity from the dehumanizing nature of work. Such an act replaces ideologies that had been long held concerning the place of women in society. Initially, the place of those white, middle class women was seen at home.
However, the film shows women taking up roles in voluntary aid organizations and other leadership positions in the public. More so, when Ripley defeats the alien, it reflects the new ideologies that the twentieth-century women have subscribed to.
The film breaks away from the conventional themes that do give men a leading role. Here, we see Ripley taking up the role of a hero. Thus, the film discloses the theme of feminism as explained by Marxist theories.
Here, it takes an angle of being too good to women. Ripley, as a character, is portrayed to depict qualities which traditionally belong to male characters. For instance, she is shown as skilled, humane, thrilling and an excellent decision maker.
In the face of a monster, she makes hard and unsentimental decisions. No scenes of love are expressed in the film deviating from the conventional themes of most films in the mid 90s. In many of the films of that time, the theme revolved around love or probably one of the female characters was sexually involved with men.
The themes brought out through Ripley in the film include women liberation, social and economic equity between men and women, collective responsibility between men and women, and friendship.
Another issue brought out in the film is anxieties which are more primitive and extreme than in other films. This can be attributed to a female character taking on an individualistic hero. By so doing, the film demonstrates that there has been a shift in traditional gender roles and the division of labor between the different genders.
Additionally, the issue of the family is brought out through scenes when the crew gathers together during meal time. However, the role of cooking is still undertaken by women. In this case, it is the company computer (Mother) who is responsible for cooking.
The film allays fears concerning family and division of labor by a way in which both men and women are relieved of domestic responsibility. Child care is seen as minor role as the only character that requires such care is the collective cat. Anybody is responsible for pouring milk for the cat as seen in the film.
Men hostility and anxiety towards the erosion of gender roles, as traditionally seen, is highlighted in the film. This is especially shown by white, middle-class men. However, this hostility and anxiety is managed and contained.
For instance, when there is resentment about the leadership of Ripley, the issue is dealt with. On the other hand, comments by some white, middle-class men shows that there still exists a feeling of men being superior in position than women. This was especially on the comments made by Parker in reference to Ripley.
Another male character, Ash, is seen to disobey Ripley when he admits the alien to their spaceship. More so, Ash does not respect the leadership of Ripley. This is evident at times when he consults Dallas despite the fact that it was Ripley who was in command.
By refusing to let Ripley look into the microscope he was using, Ash shows that he does not recognize and respect women leadership.
The Ladykillers by the Coen Brothers
The film was rated one of the best-loved British films. The theme behind the film was the decline of a certain Empire and aimed at expressing corruption in Britain. This was a smart, witty and hilarious film that starred Marlon Wayans, Tom Hanks and Irma P Hall.
In the comedy, we see Tom Hanks adopting a fascinating accent and speech pattern. At times, this is hard to be understood. However, he comes out as being extremely captivating.
Marlon Wayans is another character who adds the spark to the film. On the other hand, J. K. Simmons steals every scene that he appears in. The fact that Tzi Ma has a running sight gag makes him appear menacing even when just standing there.
In the earlier version of the film, we find that goodness follows Mr. Guinness in whatever he does. As such, nice people end up confusing his wicked plans and this surprises his companions. It becomes frustrating at times but makes the film look fun. This makes the whole comedy appear fun and interesting (The Guardian, 2004).
Study of films is extremely challenging given the two approaches which are used and appear to be similar in a way. It requires one to have a clear understanding of what each of these approaches entail. The rationale behind the study is to get the themes behind the film.
Normally, each film is written in a way that expresses a certain thematic concern. These themes are brought out through the different roles that the characters play in the film. This has been clearly been illustrated above in the discussion where two films have been reviewed.
Nelmes, J. (2003). An introduction to film studies. London: Routledge.
Sikov, E. (2009). Film studies: an introduction. New York: Columbia University Press.
The Guardian. (2004). The Ladykillers. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/international