Friday, July 31, 2009

Essay questions

This post is for those who requested extra questions to practice:

A sustained interpretation of a character/s
1. ‘It is Andy who is the most troubled character in the film, despite his knockabout, blasé streak.’ Discuss.
2. ‘Andy is an irresponsible character who is reluctant to admit to his mistakes.’ Discuss.
3. ‘Andy is unable to deal with sadness in his life, which often makes him bad-tempered in his interactions with others.’ Do you agree?
4. “I met you on Friday, we slept together on Saturday, you took me to meet your mother on Sunday…That’s the tightest little relationship I’ve ever had.” ‘Nick and Meryl do not really know each other by the end of the film.’ Discuss.
5. ‘Meryl and Anna are better at dealing with their problems than Nick and Andy.’ Discuss.
6. “You think everyone’s got an agenda…Sometimes things just happen.” Do any characters have an agenda in Look Both Ways?
7. Does Andy’s concern for “major social injustice[s]” extend to his personal relationships?
8. What effect does his father’s death have on Nick?
9. The stories of all the characters carry equal weight in Look Both Ways.’ Do you agree?
10. ‘The characters such as Julia and the train driver who say the least in the film are the characters who are suffering the most in Look Both Ways.’ Discuss.
11. ‘Meryl’s fears are the paranoid imaginings of a woman who has too much time on her hands.’ Is this how you view Meryl in Look Both Ways?
12. ‘Julia and the train driver only have small speaking parts; however, their roles are crucial to our understanding of the other characters.’ Discuss.

Using a character/s to illustrate a theme/view/value
1. ‘Look Both Ways shows characters in crisis who are dealing with real and imagined fears.’ Discuss.
2. ‘The characters in Look Both Ways are afraid.” Discuss.
3. How do the characters in Look Both Ways cope with death?
4. Nick’s mother says to him: “Your father’s death was not the sum of his life…I couldn't give him my way of coping and you couldn’t give him yours.”
5. How do the characters cope with death in Look Both Ways?
6. ‘Look Both Ways is a film about the challenges that the characters face in their relationships.’ Discuss.
7. ‘All the problems in Nick and Meryl’s relationship are caused by communication problems.’ Discuss.
8. “Christ, you only went for a travel medical,” says Phil. Describe how different characters in Look Both Ways react differently to the presence of death in their lives.
9. “Maybe it was meant to be.” ‘The relationship between Nick and Meryl is guided more by fate than their own choices.’ Do you agree?
10. ‘Julia, the train driver and Anna each experiences a random event that gives greater meaning to their life.’ Discuss.
11. ‘Nick and Meryl come together only out of their fears of loneliness and death.’ Discuss.

Demonstrating an understanding of key themes/ideas/social values
1. Fear and anxiety are endemic in contemporary society and must be controlled and harnessed for a healthy life. Is this a central idea in Look Both Ways?
2. Out of nowhere comes either happiness, despair or somewhere in-between. Is this true of Look Both Ways?
3. Facing up to responsibilities is a fundamental tenet of human experience. Do you agree?
4. ‘Look Both Ways affirms death as a part of life.’ Discuss.
5. ‘Look Both Ways is a film about survival.’ Discuss.
6. Meryl says: “Maybe it was meant to be.” Discuss the film’s message on the role of fate.
7. ‘Look Both Ways challenges the norms of standard male-female relationships.’ Do you agree?
8. ‘Look Both Ways critiques how the media bombards people with messages about death.’ Discuss.
9. ‘Look Both Ways reveals that fear and anxiety are endemic in contemporary society and must be controlled and harnessed for a healthy life.’ Discuss.
10. ‘The film shows that out of nowhere comes either happiness or despair.’ Do you agree?
11. ‘The strength and appeal of Look Both Ways is that it presents a social portrait of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances.’ Discuss.
12. The film demonstrates that facing up to responsibilities is a fundamental tenet of human experience.’ Do you agree?
13. Look Both Ways persuades us that it is when all seems lost and pointless that the most profound life lessons are learned.’ Do you agree?
14. ‘Each person’s death affects all of us in some way.’ Discuss with reference to Look Both Ways.'
15. ‘The film demonstrates that death is a universal human experience.’ Discuss.
16. ‘This text shows that, ultimately, we must all face the consequences of our actions.’ Discuss.
17. 'Look Both Ways shows that a fear of death can prevent people from living fully.’ Discuss.
18. ‘Although speaking the truth can be difficult, the text shows that people should be honest with one another.’ Discuss.
19. ‘Look Both Ways shows that men find it harder to deal with suffering and emotions than women.’ Discuss.

Developing and justifying a detailed interpretation of the text
1. ‘Look Both Ways shows that life is always worth living.’ Discuss.
2. ‘Look Both Ways is an optimistic film.’ Do you agree?
3. “I suppose everyone has to witness something ghastly one day.” ‘Look Both Ways argues that in the end it is impossible to prevent personal suffering.’ Do you agree?
4. The strength and appeal of Look Both Ways is that it presents a social portrait of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. Do you agree with this interpretation of the text?
5. “Contrary to your own belief, you do hold fate in your own hands.” Does Look Both Ways show this to be true?

How the director constructs meaning questions
1. How does the director, Sarah Watt, convey the importance of looking both ways in her film Look Both Ways?
2. ‘The director of Look Both Ways employs silences to convey messages just as much as dialogue.” Discuss.
3. How does the use of visual art forms, such as painting, contribute to the impact of Look Both Ways?
4. ‘In Look Both Ways, features such as silence and noise are used to emphasise how life can change so quickly.’ Discuss.
5. ‘The animation and photomontages mean that we learn about Nick and Meryl more than other characters in the film.’ Discuss.
6. ‘The use of parallel narratives is an effective strategy that complements the story of Meryl and Nick.’ Do you agree?
7. How does Look Both Ways represent the fears and anxieties of its central characters Meryl and Nick?
8. ‘The rain reflects the tears of the characters.’ Do you agree?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Practice SAC

Let's recap the things I want you to remember:
1. It is not a "movie". It is a film , a film narrative, a melodramatic film or suitable equivalent.
2. Write the title as Look Both Ways. Note three capital letters and underline it.
3. Do not write about Meryl's animations as if they are all the same and serve the same purpose. We have decided there are 3 distinct types and that this should be acknowledged: eg. the ones that show fear of unexpected death; the ones which involve water and show fear of loneliness and literally drowning in her own life; and the animations involving the indigenous boys. Not only do you need to be able to refer to specific examples of animation, you need to be able to discuss the context in which they occur.
4. Similarly, I do not want to see the photomontage sequences involving Nick lumped together. Be specific about the content of the example you are using and indicate when it occurred in the film. What was he thinking, feeling, doing at the time? Same with the flashbacks to Jim. Describe the content and what Nick is doing when they occur.
5. Make sure you can use film terminology successfully. You are all referring to animation and photomontage correctly. Make sure you use the term mise en scene correctly. Discuss framing, dialogue, physical expression, silence, lyrics, soundtrack, costuming etc where appropriate.
6. Review the themes/ideas covered in class. Make sure you can write one each of them.
7. Memorise quotes. Some of you have been that focused on getting the film terminology right that who have forgotten to quote. Remember I like the "weave" - short quotes woven into your argument. As part of your study list quotes under headings for each character and theme. If you have a how the director constructs meaning question which quotes are going to be most appropriate.
8. Don't simplify the characters. eg. Meryl is not simply scared of death per se. What is she afraid of? Andy is not simply an angry man. How is his character illuminated by Cathy and Anna? Mise en scene?
9. Make sure you choose the right question for you. Some of you have not fully understood how a thematic essay differs from an essay focusing on a character. If you do not understand the difference do not do it. Choose a type of question that you have done well on in practice.
10. Go in with a clear idea of Watt's overall message. Last year I attended the funeral today of a wonderful man who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and told he had two weeks to live. Instead he had 90 days and the rare opportunity to have input into his funeral service. His message was clear. Life is precious. Live each moment to the full for you never know what is around the corner. Living fully means having the courage to forge deep and meaningful relationships with family, friends and the community and maintain them as your top priority. His wife spoke of how he spent his last 90 days living - not dying. He chose to spend time with people and say the things he needed to say before he died. He was looking both ways and determining the course of his life until the end. I thought of Joan. I will remember him for how he lived - not how he died.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Impact of Media Representations

Newspaper articles are sometimes not completely factual or the facts are twisted to suit the journalists individual point of view as shown in Look Both Ways. Andy writes his article suggesting Rob's accident could of been suicide rather than an accident when everyone else felt it was an accident. Instead of thinking of Rob's loved ones, Andy focused on his own personal life and its accompanying problems.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crashing - Gersey

If I stepped into the light
And left my reflection
Standing in doorways
And not look behind

If I coloured by the signs
In shadows and tones
Kissing in corners
And not look behind

If I slipped into the quiet
A melody strong
Glowing in darkness
And not look behind

If I stepped into the light
And left my reflectionS
tanding in doorways
And not look behind

If I fell between the lines
Distant and drawn
Waiting by streetlights
And not look behind

If I let the moments rise
Discover and fall
Hanging in hallways
And not look behind

I'd go crashing to the end
Crashing to the end
Crashing to the end
Crashing to the end

I'd go crashing to the end
Crashing to the end
Crashing to the end
Crashing to the end
Crashing to the end...

Crashing to the end
Kissing in corners
Crashing to the end

“Look Both ways” unearths intrinsic human vulnerabilities. It follows the life journey of ordinary Australian citizen’s, exposing a multitude of negative and positive human experiences. The first musical interlude, “Crashing- Gersey”, delves into the psychological and social dilemmas of each character. The melancholic yet sympathetic music renders the scene with a relative sensitive and intimate mood. Minimal dialogue and close range shots build on the concept of personal anguish and pain. All the characters are distanced in some way from others, further accentuating the idea of isolation and individual seclusion. The generally explicit voyeuristic nature of this scene, allows the viewer to explore the private lives of the main characters.

Soft music, played in a minor key is used in the opening shots of segment 3: “tragedy, despair, grief and art”, paired with the wide shot of the pigeons flocking collectively together silhouetted against the evening sky. They help to set the scene. The emphasised tonal qualities of the fluttering birds suggest the temporary nature of our society. The splitting of the bird flock as a result of the powerlines and pylon is symbolic in this scene. It serves to illustrate the fractured nature of modern society and the overwhelming events persistent in the contemporary world. It also functions to expose the varying aspects of human life, through the introduction of the main characters.

The first lyrical stanza, “if I stepped into the light” figuratively collocates with the despondent mood being exemplified by Nick. The mise en scene depicts how he is emotionally and physically disorientated by his diagnosis of testicular cancer and is lost for time to grief. There is a palpable sense that his world is tumbling down around him, as he surrounds himself in images of death. His very controlled, restrained and compartmentalised life style is seen in his apartment setting, where he works on the kitchen table in a quite methodical manner. This scene serves to highlight his work obsession.

His loneliness is portrayed through the composition of the scene. Nick sits in front of his “Apple” laptop, forced to “reflect” on his life. The side lighting and contrived computer reflections sculpt Nick’s distressed facial expressions. His flushed red face and anxious physical actions (such as rubbing his face) portray a severe state of fear.

The juxtaposition and magnification of the “test results” further highlights Nick’s predicament. To try and escape his reality, he walks out of shot to the kitchen. The defused camera shot extends the meaning of the lyric “left my reflection”, insinuating that his “reflection” on life is also blurred. As he walks back to his seat he corresponds with the lyric “and not look behind”, pouring his drink and focusing on his computer screen. The focused close up shots of the whisky and emphasised sounds of the ice cubes enhance a feeling of emotional pain.

As Nick scrolls through the images of the train accident there are sounds of the train included outside the frame, creating the illusion of space and setting the context of the images. When clicking through the images of Julia there are “shadows and tones” present in the images as well as his face, emphasising the grave nature of death.

The last shots of Nick are of him researching “testicular cancer” on the internet search engine “Google”. The verse “crashing to the end’ is repeated as the images taken by Nick are closely focused on. Images of crucifixes, gravestones, poverty, bush fires, dead animals, and starving people highlight the intense psychological strain that “cancer” has had on Nick.

The next few shots explore the grief stricken life of Julia. As Nick decides on which photo to email to his editor, Phil, the image of Julia is shown on the screen of his computer. The still image of Julia focuses on her paralysed state of mind, overwhelmed by shock of the accident. Her distressed face and fractured stance is focused on through the framing of the computer screen. She is framed within the photo itself which is within the computer screen, accentuating her distance from the viewer. She is unreachable and trapped in an impenetrable emotional sphere.

The lyric “if I slipped into the quiet” synchronises with the image of Julia and her emotions. The death of Rob has had a debilitating affect on Julia. Her personal heartache and inner turmoil has ultimately “silenced” her. She is left empty and unable to communicate to others. The oblique camera angle further emphasises this notion but also suggests that she is not part of the viewers’ world. Facing her back to the camera in a medium camera shot, she watches a train go past. The lyric “a melody strong” combines with the rattle of the train tracks, reinforcing the cause of the fatal tragedy. The lexical item “strong” links with the forte tonal quality of the rattling train line, adding depth to the scene.

Side lighting sculpts the contours of Julia’s pain inflicted face. She remains in semi-darkness as she stands silently in her unforgiving industrial environment. Rusted objects and train related machinery surround her, furnishing the scene with a sense of devastation and ruin. The glowing light from the windows in the background highlight her dislocation. The warmth of the light is something inaccessible, as she quivers in the darkness.

Julia is “glowing in darkness” both internally and externally. She embodies a mix of uneasy emotions exuding a desperate front. She looks out onto the train tracks desperately seeking some form of rationality to her new world. She is also, “glowing” in her clothes. Her red and pink dress signifies a wounded heart. It is contrasted against the black matted background which symbolises detrimental reality.

Later on in the segment, the image of Julia is displayed on Phil’s computer screen. As the camera focuses on the image of Julia the lyric “discover and fall” is sung over the top. This lyric perfectly describes the image of Julia; “discovering” the accident and then her bag “falling”. It also links to her disconnected state of mind and how she metaphorically “fell” into depression.

Similar to Nick, the train driver is shot with similar camera angles with his back to the camera. The train driver does not “look behind” as he dismally walks from his colleague to his house. Telephoto lens captures the distance between the colleague and the train driver, emphasising how he must cope alone. The preceding exterior shots of the house outside provide for location for interiors inside the house. As he walks through his house, he is framed within a frame in each camera shot. His wife also enters and leaves rooms, which is a form of editing to control space. It makes the characters seem unreachable, as the viewer cannot console the characters. Both husband and wife are trapped in their own internal chaos. He is disconsolate. He sits down in the centre of the couch and starts to watch “A current affair” which broadcasts the Arnow Hill disaster. Throughout the film, when the train driver is in shot, there is either no music, muted sounds or soft music. In this scene only the minor keys of the musical interlude are played to accentuate the silenced train driver. The music softens to allow the news report become the main focal sound. This news further adds stress to his situation. Misery is seen in his weeping eyes as he watches the news. The subdued lighting and sepia colour filters render the scene with a nostalgic mood. This centres on the distraught feelings harboured by the train driver.

The compositional positioning of the main figures within the camera frame serves to create space. The wife positions her back to the camera while the train driver sits on the couch. He is quite small in this shot, adding to the concept of character isolation. The next camera shot, focuses on the wife standing forlornly next to television. Both characters do not communicate or come in close contact with one another. Their distressed body language shows how they are coping alone.

Andy is introduced, sitting in front of his computer in a dully light apartment. His surroundings reflect his inner self. His apartment is a poignant indicator of his inner life: it is disorganized, entirely structured around work and isolated. The pictures of violent car crashes on his walls represent his interest in the theme of death. He is seen as a brusque, antagonised, hate-filled man. He is regretful and angry which prevents him from living in the moment and being open minded to possibilities in life. This is captured in the lyric “ If I stepped into the light”. Andy refuses to metaphorically “step into the light” and assume responsibility for his relationship with Anna and his wife. He is typing the newspaper article about suicide quite frantically showing his passion for the topic. His sweaty, red hands move fast across the keyboard representing the fuelling rage inside him. The side lighting delineates the features of his face, creating shadows around his eyes, making him appear some what malevolent. Similar to the camera shot on Nick, Andy is shot with his back to the camera. This depicts how he is also another reclusive and isolated character. The lyric “and left my reflection” accentuates how he is leaving his “reflection” or impression on the accident in his newspaper article.

Anna is standing in the door way of her apartment when the lyrics “standing in doorways” plays. It is a form or framing. It suggests how she is trapped and troubled by her predicament of whether to abort her pregnancy or not. She sits down on her couch and starts to watch the television. The Arnow Hill accident is heard in the background of the musical interlude. Her apartment is chaotic and has a rather youthful appearance with a skeleton playing a guitar in the background. She is dressed in a red dress symbolising the new life she is carrying and her new outlook on life. Her clothing juxtaposes her to her environment. This is further emphasised with the lyric “between the lines”. Anna is split between her serious life choices and a casual lifestyle. As her house mate enters the shot, she asks Anna, “did you buy the beer”. Anna gives a minimal response, as she is focused on the news and thinking of her own problem. This is paired with the lyric “distant and drawn” showing how as individuals we get on with our lives even when life is hard and tragedy occurs.

The next shot opens with Phil hunched over his computer desk at his work. He is making the final editorial decisions to the newspaper article. The dimmed lighting creates a sombre atmosphere for Phil. He is literally “waiting by streetlights”, as there are beams of street lights through the windows of his work. He is also metaphorically “waiting”, emphasising his chosen isolation. His neglect of his family is seen when he doesn’t answer his phone when it rings. His action of not speaking to his family members is paired with the lyric “if I let the moments rise”. This lyric suggests his obsession with work and mounting distance between himself and his family. The fast food packages in the background reveal his work-acholic nature. He is worn out, over-worked and unhealthy. His face is flushed and red. As he goes to smoke a cigarette, he tosses it on his desk, suggesting how is thinking of Nick’s cancer and how his life can be easily changed too.

Meryl is metaphorically “crashing to the end” in this scene. Meryl paints vigorously as she lets the pent-up tension of her day out through physical movement and artistic creation. It appears she sees the future through pessimistic eyes and that he vents his frustration and anxiety with life through her painting. Meryl’s home environment and clothing further emphasise her individuality. Her studio apartment is a chaotic, projecting her flying by the seat of her pants and of a life without a strong frame of reference, while the nature of her work suggests disorder and turmoil. She is wearing blue green clothing, blending her into her painting. Her movements and painting is emotional, aggressive and angry.

The crescendo music slowly breaks down in the ending shots of this segment, when Nick is looking at images of death. When Nick finally takes an active step in researching his disease on google the lyrics fade and this links to the next scene of the birds aligning on the power line. The settlement of the birds suggests Nick’s epiphany and acceptance of reality.

There is a cross cutting to the next scene of the newspaper production. The emphasis placed on sounds of clanking industrial chains contrasts with the sensitive music notes. It proposes that Julia’s tragic loss is just another story for media production. The internal structure of the factory share similar dimensions of the human psyche and life experience. The diagonal, vertical and horizontal structure of the machinery accentuates this concept. The scene ends with the newspaper with Julia’s image fronting it, being stacked into a pile ready for sale. This scene shows the indifferent representation of the exploitation of real human tragedy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Deluge

The lyrics from the soundtrack are on Daymap. You should be able to add to these notes for "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone".

Consider the three areas we have been concentrating on: how the director constructs meaning; characterisation and themes/ideas/values. Go through your essay questions. When may it be appropriate to refer to this sequence? To quote a song lyric?

Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone – The Arlenes
There was a time I thought I knew (Nick walks sobbing beside tracks)
About life and knew what to do (Meryl cries, thunder - let the cleansing begin!)
And I, in this pain, I know nothing at all
I should have known better you say (Pan of Joan’s photos - life's journey)
I took it all, on my new faith
And now the bad guys and hope (Jasmine’s birthday party)

Lonely won’t leave me alone
I tried, I tried but you won’t let go (Window)
It’s a pain that will never go away (Anna)
Lonely won’t leave me alone (Julia)

Silence (Train driver gives Julia Meryl's card“I’m sorry” “It wasn’t your fault” handshake)

I tried, I tried but you won’t let go (Nick, photomontage – graves, different cultures)
It’s a pain that won’t go away
Lonely won’t leave me alone

There was a time I had pride (Nick walks towards camera, out of shot)
I had friends stood by my side (Andy, car, seatbelt, laughs)
And the smile was all I had to give
Under the spell, under the power
I fell in with the lonely crowd
And so I guess I learnt my lesson well (Meryl, boys’ animation, “It was meant to be.”)
Lonely won’t leave me alone

I tried, I tried but you won’t let go (Meryl laughs. Moves down the street searching for Nick)
It’s a pain that won’t go away
Lonely won’t leave me alone (Jasmine’s birthday party)

Chalking days on the wall (Jasmine’s birthday party)
Seems the night won’t end at all
Call me patiently (Knock at Anna’s door)
Trace your smile on the glass (Window)
Try to make an hour last (Anna at window)
Till I come home again (Andy looks up at her)

Music (Joan watching tv – Arnow Hill – child rescued; children splashing in puddles)

Lonely won’t leave me alone (Nick & Meryl reconcile)
I tried, I tried but you won’t let go
It’s a pain that won’t go away

There was a time I thought I knew (Final photomontage – Nick in hospitalAbout life and what to do receiving treatment while Meryl paints;Meryl & Nick on beach holding glasses;Nick, Andy & Phil together – happy;Meryl- art exhibition; Nick & Andy withbaby (Anna & Andy); Nick planning trip;overseas travel; Nick & Meryl – happy.)

Sound of birds (Indicates characters lives are taking off )

“Never, ever worry” (Credits roll)

Calypso, upbeat, life-affirming

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Minor characters - Phil

You are all writing well about Meryl, Nick & Andy. Don't forget to perfect your writing in response to the minor characters in the film.

Although Phil is one of Sarah Watt's minor characters, the themes surrounding his story are crucial to the film's contention that "life is what you make it". Phil has lost touch with his wife and daughter, engulfed in his work as editor of the "Southern Mail". He can't even rember the date of his daughter's birthday, embarrassingly saying "happy birthday" the morning before. Sarah Watt uses mise en scene to portray Phil as a workaholic. His workspace is cluttered with takeaway food packaging indicating he doesn't have time for meals at home. His life is a mess but Nick's cancer diagnosis leads him to reassess his life. He decides to look in the other direction. He begins by quitting smoking and brings his wife flowers. This metamorphisis puzzles his wife who who asks if he is "having an affair". Computer screens symbolise work in Look Both Ways and Phil ignores his as he prepares for his daughter's party symbolizing that his family is now more important than his work. In the closing sequence it is clear Phil has once again reconnected with his family. Acting alone shows that the gap has been bridged between him and his wife as they look at each other lovingly. His daughter comes and hugs him after receiving a cricket bat as a birthday present. He has made it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happiness and despair

Another thematic essay - this time written by one of our 2007 students.

‘Out of nowhere comes either happiness, despair or somewhere in-between.’Is this true of ‘Look Both Ways’?

Sarah Watt’s ‘Look Both Ways’ can be seen as somewhat of a precautionary tale to modern day Australian society, warning us of the stranglehold fear can have on us and how it can keep us from living life happily. The film includes an ensemble cast of ordinary, everyday Australians who face difficult circumstances. While it sees that these circumstances come out of nowhere, Watt ultimately tries to demonstrate that we make our own happiness, luck and create our own circumstances, showing us that it is free will over fate that determines our lives.

When nothing seems to be going right, this is when people believe that the whole world is against them and there’s nothing they can do about it. Watt clearly demonstrates this in ‘Look Both Ways’ through the character of Andy. He is constantly negative and pessimistic. It is mainly shown through his facial expressions and dialogue that nothing seems to go his way, and he believes everybody is out to get him. ‘Did you do this on purpose?’ Birth is meant to be seen as a wonderful thing, a gift. But Andy thinks differently. When Anna tells him she is pregnant, he straight away thinks of it as a burden, and that she did it purposely to make his life miserable. ‘You think everyone has an agenda……’ ‘What, and they don’t?’ We are clearly shown through the mis-en-scene in Andy’s apartment, with junk everywhere, that his life is a mess and that he couldn’t deal with any more children. Although Andy makes the audience feel that children are a burden, and that they ruin your life, this is not the message Watt is trying to show us. She is trying to tell us that even if we are thrown into a difficult situation, we can either decide to accept it and be happy, or stay cynical and pessimistic. Watt makes it clear that we decide whether we are happy or not; it doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere. This is demonstrated through Andy’s character’s arc, as he goes from a pessimistic, unhappy man to accepting the birth and becoming slightly happier.

Witnessing death is not something we wish to do, but in witnessing it, we do not have to let it take a stranglehold of fear on us. Although ‘Look Both Ways’ is filled with doom and gloom, Watt shows us that we can still be a happy person, even if death is all around us. Through Meryl we can see that fatality and fear have taken her hostage, shown by the constant animations of extraordinary accidents happening to her, when the opposite in fact happens. The animations make it harder for the audience to relate to her as they are unrealistic and Meryl’s fear is not necessary. ‘Maybe it was meant to be.’ A lot of the time, people try to trick themselves into believing that things will happen and so there is nothing they can do about it, and this is shown through Meryl’s constant reassurance that things happen for a reason and that fate will take its course. But Watt shows us that clearly this is not the case. ‘Contrary to your own belief, you do not hold fate in your own hands.’ People do not have to accept that life is horrible and always will be. Watt demonstrates this to the audience through Meryl’s character’s transformation throughout the film, from a fearful insecure person to a more confident, optimistic person. By deciding to stick by Nick, even if he may die, Watt’s message through Meryl is that life is what you make it.

Cancer is something we never want to experience. If it happens, we ask, why? Ultimately, it seems to come out of nowhere. Cancer is not a choice, and some people start to believe that they deserve it. Sarah Watt demonstrates through Nick, who is diagnosed with testicular cancer, that we can stop living and let cancer take its course, or we can face it front on and challenge it through being positive. Cancer takes Nick in a tight stranglehold shown through the montages of all things from his life flashing before his eyes. ‘So, how long have I got?’ When people hear the word ‘cancer’ they straight away assume death. Nick fears it even more because of his father’s death the same way. But Watt clearly shows us that we have a choice; we can let it kill us miserably, or we can come to peace with ourselves and die happily. Watt demonstrates this through Joan, who experiences the horrible demise of her husband yet manages to stay optimistic. ‘It doesn’t matter how you die. It’s about how you live.’ Watt shows us through this positive outlook, and Nick’s gradual acceptance of his cancer, via a montage at the end of the film of him and Meryl tackling it front on. We are left with the understanding that while cancer can seem to come out of nowhere, our happiness does not. We decide that ourselves.

Although at first impressions the film seems like a tale of how horrible life is, Sarah Watt demonstrates by the end of ‘Look Both Ways’ that this is not the case and it is in fact warning us against believing that life is horrible. She shows us that even though certain circumstances and situations can seem to come out of nowhere, this does not mean that our happiness or despair comes out of nowhere. Watt clearly shows us in the film that we hold fate in our own hands and make our own happiness, regardless of the situations we may face.

This essay is not perfect and I expect you to be able to analyse its strengths and weaknesses. It does answer a question I've been asked recently. How can I use the term mise en scence in an essay?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fear of death

“Look Both Ways” shows that a fear of death can prevent people from living fully”. Discuss

Written by last year's star student - she got 49!

“Look Both Ways” is a brutal representation of how the fear of ones mortality and other significant human fears can hamper a meaningful existence. It also demonstrates how once an individual’s predicament is overcome it can inspire a full engagement with life. The omnipresent concept of death is prevalent via the unnatural level of paranoia in individuals, ultimately paralysing but also influencing their perception of life. The fear of death is explored on many levels, through unexpected tragedies and the inevitability of internal suffering, which prevents the full enjoyment of life. However, it is also through the trepidation of personal isolation, assuming responsibility, making correct life choices, accepting reality, the unknown and life itself that spurs individuals to exert control over their circumstances. The film exposes an in-depth reading regarding the pitfalls of life, appealing to worldwide human sentiments and wants, and our doubts and anxieties.

The trepidation of unpredicted fatality reveals human vulnerabilities that impact upon on ones life. Death, a reigned acquaintance with fate, failure and social ineptness accompany Meryl’s spirit. Her fascination with disaster shows her fatalistic nature. Through her subjective response to the world and imagination, it is abundantly clear that death has a crippling affect on her fragile emotional state. Her internal animations delve into the deep reassesses of her psyche, exposing her obsessive preoccupation with death itself. Her visions of unexpected death symbolise a disabling paralysis, which prevents her from living a normal life. Her visions are treated in a self-deprecating manner and there is a mounting sense that what she “sees” cannot hurt her. Her lie is built around an innate awareness of momento-morie -remember you death; remember that you are mortal; be prepared to face your marker; for at any moment death may be visited upon you. Her negative and self-defeating outlook on life is clear in her imaginings of doom and bad fates befalling her, such as drowning in the sea, being eaten by vicious sharks, being crushed by falling trains, gunmen, floors that open up, disabled triplets and AIDS. She is aware of all the worse case scenarios that could result from her actions and as a result lives in her thoughts rather than in the moment. Meryl overcomes her fear of death through her connection with Nick. She tests her fears by allowing her relationship with Nick to grow. She transforms from an introverted reclusive to a self-assured human. Resolving her paranoia of death allows her life to prosper with Nick. The terror of unpredictable bad fates can restrict life. It is only when this fear is defeated can one truly enjoy their life.

The fear of ones own mortality as a result of terminal illness coerces individuals to reassess the importance of their life. Nick saw his cancer diagnosis grave, helplessly asking “what are my chances?”. Since his father was not cured of his cancer, Nick sees his chances of survival as bleak. He is fearful of death and sees everyday occurrences as strange and macabre. He becomes obsessed with his disease and starts to “see death everywhere”; a hearse, butcher shop’s showing pigs heads and a sick boy in a wheel chair. He is verbally paralysed, unable to communicate with his peers, constantly viewing others through a framework of illness, “looking at people and seeing them dying”. This is evident in his envisioning of Andy having a brain aneurysm. The internet animations of cancer cells growing into tumours internalised by Nick show the excessive level of fear that his conscious is enduring. The staccato photomontages of his life journey, carcinogens which may have been ingested, skin cancers and the flashbacks of his father last days, all accentuate Nick’s personal anxieties concerning his illness. His fear of his own mortality thwarts his ability to connect with other human beings and enjoy life. His phobia of death forces him see his life through pessimistic eyes, believing he “cant start anything” with Meryl. It is only when Nick breaks away from his psychological restraints and tells Meryl of his disease that his life becomes more positive. He begins to be aware that death is all around him, that it is part of the human condition and that to preserve and embrace life is the only way. The final photomontage of Nick recovering from cancer depicts his gratification of his new life.

It is only when the disabling apprehension of ones morality is conquered, that one can truly live.
Fear of seclusion like death can be an all-pervading force subsequently hindering yet enriching an individuals life experiences. Both Meryl and Nick are characters who fear being alone. They are scared of pushing the boundaries, and leaving her circle of comfort. Meryl is lonesome and “wishes to be in a relationship”, as she “doesn’t have a partner to share anything with”. Yet her apprehensive temperament prevents her from living life to its fullest and seeking connections with other people. While Nick’s sense of isolation from the world is emphasised in this scene, as he wakes up on “cancer printouts” signifying he must battle his disease alone. He didn’t have any intimate relationships with his peers and so told Phil, his boss initially of his diagnosis. It is Nick and Meryl’s fear of being isolated and shared interest on death that draws the two together. They are drawn together through their cynical beliefs of life. When Meryl is hurt by Nick’s comment about “not being able to have a relationship”, she chastises herself for being too polite and all her fears and loneliness well up. She asks Nick, “what if it is shallow and stupid to be lonely and to want somebody to like you?”. It is at this point they realise the importance of one another. They provide each other with comfort, support, and security and consequently defeat their fear of being alone. Anxieties provoked by the concept of social ineptness can be damaging on an individuals life. Rising above these paranoias enhances ones life.

The undercurrents of individual’s psychological burdens can also prevent a joyous existence. By eliminating the fear of taking control of ones responsibilities can one live fully. Andy is a regretful and bitterly antagonised journalist who’s extremely critical outlook forbids him from living in the moment and being open minded to the array of possibilities in life. His initial inability to take on responsibility of Anna’s pregnancy shows how he is fearful of making the same mistakes like in his last relationship. When Anna tells him that she is pregnant he says provocative statements such as “Did you do this on purpose?”. He is paranoid of accepting his mistakes and changing thus making him “hate his life” and seeking advice from Nick, asking him “if he’d ever got anyone pregnant?”. His newspaper article about “male suicide” serves to depict how he is apprehensive about his life, his family issues and work related problems. His adversarial and selfish nature causes his relationships to be tinged with hostility and to be structured through arguments and acrimony. Andy is seen as acting in bad faith as he is not prepared to assume responsibility for his actions and consequences. His denial may account for his bad moods and belligerence. However, once he puts his problems into perspective to Julia’s bereavement and Nick’s diagnosis, he wants to amend his relationship with Anna and lead a future with her. By acting responsibly, Andy leads a joyous life with his new baby and Anna. Fearing responsibility weakens an individual’s grasp on life. Once this fear is defeated individuals can live fully.

The fear of making incorrect life decisions is a menacing force on an individual’s life, consequently hindering full enjoyment. Also, by overcoming these fears, individuals are encouraged to embrace life. Initially Anna is apprehensive about having a child. She is fearful of whether to keep the baby will be the right choice in the future. In the scene where she tells Andy she is pregnant her body language and speech reflect her indecision as she says “I didn’t want…” then changes to “I don’t want a baby”. In another scene, she puts forth the unusual proposal that Andy “can take it home- you be in charge… you could work from home, you said, you wanted to do that” and that she pay maintenance. She is scared of making the wrong decision. She tells Andy that she did not plan getting pregnant and that “things just happen”. She says to Andy that “not everyone has an agenda”, showing her alternate way of viewing life. She believes that there is not always a logical explanation or reason behind why events occur. Although undecided whether to keep the baby or not, Anna quits smoking. She also starts to watch gospel on the television suggesting she is finally understanding her position in life. However, once Andy wants to be apart of her life and take care of her and the child, both their lives flourish, as seen in the final montage. The internal dread of making incorrect choices in life can ultimately control how one leads their life.

The fear of devastation common in modern society colonises the psyche of most, as a result encumbers their existence. Striking down these fears enlightens the lives of many. The characters, Cathy and Phil also serve the function of building on fear in society, as she is particularly overprotective of her children and he fears the common disease of “cancer” as a result of Andy’s diagnosis. Cathy doubts Andy’s capability with looking after their children, which is shown when she gives a list of instructions to him on Sunday. Cathy is always trying to do more than one thing at a time such as talking to Andy on the phone while cooking and checking her daughters TV viewing. She is very protective of her children, “not allowing them to eat ice cream”. This is seen in the scene where she makes Maddie “put Saddle Club back on” as she did not want her to witness the awful “Arnow Hill train disaster”. Her fear is continuous and doesn’t cease to exist. While Phil’s paranoia of instant change as a result of smoking and losing contact with his family, urges him “to give up smoking” and reorder his priorities in his life. He overcomes this fear by becoming more involved in his family, buying his wife Jasmine “flowers” and his daughter a “cricket bat which she had always wanted”. Universal suffering elicits uneasy feelings amongst many, controlling the way they live their lives.

Internal anxieties can restrict ones ability to accept reality, preventing them from living life to the fullest. It is when this fear is defeated that individuals’ lives improve. Meryl’s philosophy was that there was a primary order in the universe and that there were some rational forces underlying random events. The concept of fate is explored through the character of Meryl who raises the spectre of destiny, through various perplexing statements. When she claims, “Maybe it was meant to be”, she suggests that perhaps the death was not such a negative thing. She strives to find a rational meaning behind the death of Rob and make it seem insignificant, ultimately protecting herself from misery. She is a quite vulnerable character, whose passive attitude towards the world and her own destiny forbids her from exerting any level of control over her circumstances. She tries to shut her self out from all “the shit in the world” and paint a pleasant, livable scenario for herself. It is clear in the statement she says to Linda, “I didn’t actually see him fall” highlights her fear of living and her desire to distance herself from the actuality of the world. She therefore secludes herself from reality, pending her frustration through her paintings. She overcomes this fear by extending her relationship with Nick, and becoming more open to lives possibilities. Fear of reality, pervasively destroys life and can only be mediated through defeating this fear.

The inbuilt terror of the unknown limits a person’s enjoyment of life. It is only when individuals accept the concept of mysterious nature of life that one can truly live. Meryl feared unfamiliar individuals and as a result was restrained in life by a “politeness hostage gene”, living in her reclusive domain. Initially meeting Nick, Meryl anxiously asks “are you following me?”. She was terrified of breaking away from her comfort zones and opening her self up to a world of opportunities. However, built up frustration with not knowing what her life will end up like she tells Nick to “piss off” and personally faces death when she is nearly hit by a car. It is in this moment her personal anxieties which weighed down her life are gone and moves forward with a life with Nick. Like Meryl, Julia and the train driver fear the unknown outcomes of their lives. The uncertain fragility of life prevented both individuals from initially find optimism. The death of Rob silenced them, plaguing their psyche with a despondent outlook on the future. Their fears are portrayed in their strained facial expressions. It is only when their grief has subsided that they emerge from their isolation bubble and re-engage in life. Their reconciliation is a symbol of their positive perception on life and desire to move on. The sheer dread of the unknown hampers ones full life experiences. Once this fear is overcome, life is again livable.

Fear of living a meaningless existence can hinder a person’s life. Conversely, conquering these fears enhances life. Apprehension of living life is linked to the philosophical concept of existentialism which questions the meaning of life and what it truly means to be human. The inbuilt paranoia of living a futile existence stems from the concept that life is only lived once. Since Meryl, Nick and Jim are “not religious” life appears infinitely more precious. Meryl’s discontent with her uneventful life is depicted in the statement “I don’t own a yacht and I’ve never been on a world cruise”. She defeats her fear by making contact with Nick and celebrating her artwork at an art exhibition as seen in the final photomontage. Meanwhile, Nick is scared of living a worthless existence. Since he can easily lose his life due to “testicular cancer”, he fears that life is somewhat meaningless when “everybody can gather-round-and-hug-each-other” and forget the importance of life. It is Joan’s words of wisdom to Nick that serve as the life-affirming crux of the film. She puts forth the argument, that “it doesn’t matter how life ends, it matters how it was”. She confirms the importance of life by highlighting that everyone must confront death, deal with it and try and go on with our “lives without dwelling on it”. Nick then seizes the moment and impulsively seeks to further his relationship with Meryl. The fear of an insignificant existence is further established in the character of Jim, who states “I might be a Buddhist this week”. His search for religious enlightenment shows he fears not only his mortality but the meaning of his life. Jim dies before he truly overcomes his fear. The trepidation of a pointless life negatively renders a person’s life. Overcoming this fear, allows one live fully.

Perpetuating fear restricts individual’s experiences as human beings. The most prominent paranoias is of ones own mortality. Death is an omnipotent force, infiltrating on the human psyche. Unexpected or recognized fatality hinders the ability of individuals to truly live. It overwhelms individual consciousness, attacking their sensibilities. However, it is also through the fear of being alone; acting responsibly, decision making, acknowledging reality, and the mysterious nature of life as whole, that can prevent the full enjoyment of life. These debilitating anxieties corrode human existence. They prevent individuals from furthering their relationships, expressing their understanding on the world and breaking away from their reclusive domains. It is only once these fears have been defeated that one can truly engage in life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Animation & Photomontage

Today you worked on the essay question below:

“The animation and photomontages mean that we learn about Nick and Meryl more than other characters in the film.” Discuss.

This is what one of last year's students wrote for the same question.

“Look Both Ways” exposes subjective life experiences through a range of innovative filmic devices. The film unearths intrinsic human vulnerabilities and delves into the hidden mystiques of the human psyche through the artistic utilisation of cinematography and film techniques. The picturesque animations and photomontages internalised by main protagonists, Nick and Meryl explore their psychological framework, revealing their preoccupation with “death” in an immediate manner. The generally explicit voyeuristic nature of this film, allows the viewer to seek insight into the multitude of negative and positive human experiences. Other film methods employed such as the careful construction of mise en scene, flash backs, dialogue, camera positioning, music and repeated motifs explore the fine details of individual life experiences and human existence as a whole.

The delicately crafted animatronics exhibit the character of Meryl. The lyrical nature of her internal visions reveals her artistic background. The pencil medium fosters a notion of personality and intimacy. Her illustrations delve into the deep recesses of her psyche, exposing her obsessive preoccupation with death itself. She is fatalistic almost nihilistic, imagining disaster at every turn. She is afraid of being alone. She is scared of pushing the boundaries, and leaving her circle of comfort. She harbours unnatural levels of paranoia which are represented in her internal animations. They symbolise a disabling paralysis, colonizing her psyche ultimately preventing her from living a normal life. Perplexed by the meaning of her own life, she visualises herself drowning in mediocrity. Her negative and self-defeating outlook on life is clear in her imaginings of doom and bad fates befalling her, such as drowning in the sea, being eaten by vicious sharks, being crushed by falling trains, gunmen, floors that open up, disabled triplets and AIDS. Meryl’s animations sculpt her self-deprecating and fearful nature.

Internal photomontages convey the complexities of Nick’s psychological interior and life. Nick sees the world through photographs, reflecting his photojournalist occupation. His inability to articulate coherently forces him to conjure his inner emotions in his internal photographs. The news of his cancer impacts dramatically on Nick’s psyche and perception on the world. He begins to see his new situation in a different way and reread his life from the perspective of his illness. The photomontage of Nick’s life which flickers in his subconscious indicates his reflections on mortality. The animation of the cancer cells growing into tumours shows the unhealthy level of fear that Nick’s conscious is enduring. The 30 second flashback showing danger signs and power lines when Nick is recalling his past exposure to carcinogens reveal his trepidation. Photos establish the character of Nick, highlighting his predicament and reclusive temperament.

Physical expression is an element of mise en scene. It conveys a range of human complexities and gives an insight into individual characters’ lives. Julia and the train driver both express themselves through movements and distraught appearances. Julia is the bereaved partner of Rob and acts as a barometer for others who are also coming to terms with their own moral dilemmas. She experiences the seven signs of grief in three days. She goes through shock, numbness, isolation then finally healing. She shows her built up rage as she scrunches up the obituary paper and aggressively pushes past her dog. While the train driver’s body language and sheer strained facial expressions reveal the level of pain and guilt he is enduring. His disapproving glances towards the washing line full of dismal black t-shirts covered in skulls and through his almost aggressive glares show the distance between him and his son. In final scenes, Julia and the train driver’s physical gestures in the rain reflect their true feelings of grief and sorrow. The silence between them and strained facial expressions allow them to connect with each other. It is in this scene that the healing process begins for both characters.Anxious body language exposes the fragilities of individual characters.

Subdued lighting compliments the aspect of despair resonating from certain characters.
Although Nick and Phil are both shot in darkness, Julia is more prominently captured in dimmed lighting. In the first scene, the side lighting and contrived computer reflections sculpt Nick’s distressed facial expressions. While the muted lighting in the scene in Phil’s office creates a sombre atmosphere. He is literally “waiting by streetlights”, as there are beams of street lights through the windows of his work. He is also metaphorically “waiting”, emphasising his chosen isolation. Lighting plays a major role in portraying Julia’s despondent character.
Side lighting sculpts the contours of Julia’s pain inflicted face as she hides in the darkness inside her house. She remains in semi-darkness as she stands silently in her unforgiving industrial environment. In segment two, the glowing light from the windows in the background highlight her dislocation. The warmth of the light is something inaccessible, as she quivers in the darkness. Lighting acts as a foreboding force, metaphorically highlighting personal anguish.

Costuming of characters establishes individual qualities. The most poignant character whose personality is portrayed through clothing is the train driver’s son. In the first scene, dressed in black, assuming the rebellious counter-culture pose of a Goth the son seems to share a problematic relationship with his father. His thick black make-up and dispirited presence show his character as being stereotypically rebellious and dejected from his family and society. His clothing however also exposes his journey to maturity. In segment ten the son reveals his true self, without saying a word, by rather, stripping away his facial mask and costume and entering his father’s space on camera. He changes his Goth-punk clothes for neat casual attire and flattens his spiky hair in an effort to please his father. He evolves as a character, altering his appearance and attitude. Clothing holds a key to individual traits.

The setting in which each character is filmed in, is a crucial element in establishing individual experiences. The environment each character inhabits accentuates the idea of isolation and individual seclusion. There are certain settings which clearly indicate the character personalities. Andy’s apartment is a poignant indicator of his inner life: it is disorganized, entirely structured around work and isolated. The pictures of violent car crashes on his walls represent his interest in the theme of death. The fast food packages in the background of Phil’s setting reveal his work-acholic nature. Nick’s controlled, restrained and compartmentalised life style is seen in his apartment setting, where he works on the kitchen table in a quite methodical manner. Meryl’s studio apartment is a chaotic, projecting her flying by the seat of her pants and of a life without a strong frame of reference, even though the nature of her work involves disorder and turmoil. While, Anna’s apartment is chaotic and has a rather youthful essence with a skeleton playing a guitar in the background. Our surroundings sculpt and reveal our true selves.

Verbal expression reveals character’s thoughts and emotions. The dialogue of particular characters provides an insight into their personal traits and out looks on life. Meryl’s gauche expressions render her as being insecure and often overtly honest. Her description of the accident scene she witnessed reflects her choice of inappropriate language. “It juts kept coming; like a freight train”. While Anna’s false starts and hesitations when she says “I didn’t want…” then changes to “I don’t want a baby”, to Andy, show her indecision. Similarly, Phil rolls out stereotypical platitudes for cancer sufferers when he finds out about Nick’s cancer. He tells Nick, “I mean, I think- apparently- it’s good to stay up, and optimistic” He tries to empathise with Nick but fails. In contrast, the train driver and Julia remain silent throughout the entire film except for when they reconcile. Their silence conveys the idea that perhaps words cannot always express grief properly. The lyric “if I slipped into the quiet” synchronises with the image of Julia and her emotions in segment 2. The death of Rob has had a debilitating affect on Julia. Her personal heartache and inner turmoil has ultimately “silenced” her. She is left empty and unable to communicate to others. Communication has the propensity to uncover human sensibilities and experiences through its inexplicit messages.

Camera positioning intensifies the complexities of the individual characters’ consciousness. All characters are framed within a frame at some point during the film. Meryl is framed within her window frame as she images Nick as a gun man, showing her fearful nature. Likewise, Anna is standing in the door way of her apartment when the lyrics “standing in doorways” plays. It suggests how she is trapped and troubled by her predicament of whether to abort her pregnancy or not. Julia and the train driver are main characters who are framed. In segment 2, Julia is framed within the photo itself which is within the computer screen, accentuating her distance from the viewer. While the train driver is framed within a frame as he walks through his house. They are both unreachable and trapped in an impenetrable emotional sphere. Other camera techniques such as oblique camera angles in segment ten: connectivity, show Annas looking down on Andy, emphasising her maturity and his callous and irresponsible personality. The filming technique of framing helps shape the characters identities.

The filmic device of flashbacks opens a window into the lives of certain characters. It is through Nick’s sub-memories that the true identities of Nick’s parents are revealed. Since most of the flashbacks of Jim were of him near death, they add to Nick’s negative outlook. In one of the recollections, Jim jokingly says to Nick, “I might be Buddhist this week”. Jim tries to hide his true feelings and find comfort in something known, religion. Nick’s father, Jim is portrayed as being determined even when incapable of simple human activities like going to the toilet. He says “I just wanted to go to the toilet” as he sits on the floor. Joan on the other hand is presented as a compassionate yet drained wife, who views her husband’s desire for independence as frustrating stating “why do you have to be so god dam independent?!” These internal memories expose the fragile nature of individual characters.

Musical interludes connecting with repeated motif accentuate universal suffering and human existence. Non-diagetic sounds magnify the importance of each character’s existence in this film. The first musical interlude, “Crashing- Gersey” in the segment 2, delves into the psychological and social dilemmas of each character. The melancholic yet sympathetic music renders the scene with a relative sensitive and intimate mood. Soft music, played in a minor key is used in the opening shots, paired with the wide shot of the pigeons flocking collectively together silhouetted against the evening sky. The emphasised tonal qualities of the fluttering birds suggest the temporary nature of our society. The splitting of the bird flock as a result of the powerlines and pylon is symbolic in this scene. It serves to illustrate the fractured nature of modern society and the overwhelming events persistent in the contemporary world. The last scene, uplifting music plays while the flutter of birds is highlighted, putting forth the idea that each character’s live is better, and metaphorically ‘taking off’.Melodic film methods explore the existence of each character collectively.

A rich sense of human community and spirit is espoused through the technical construction of the film Look Both Ways. It is apparent through the musical and visual nature of the film, that each character is given individual prominence. The significant filmic devices employed set up a glorifying affirmation of human existence centring on the lives of others. The cohesive filmic ties highlight the underlying predicaments of life through the exploration of individual stories.

Approaching the essays

“The animation and photomontages mean that we learn about Nick and Meryl more than other characters in the film”

Do we learn more about Nick & Meryl than the other characters in the film due to the animations and photomontage? Many of you have raised the point that although Nick and Meryl are clearly the main protagonists we learn just as much about Andy. We also see his past, present and future without animation or montage.

Others argued that via silence/physical expression and song lyrics we also know a lot about Julia and the train driver.Others argued that it is not just because of animation and photomontage that we know a lot about Nick & Meryl. For example, the animations may tell us about Meryl's internal fears but we also learn a lot about her via mise en scene (eg. her vigorous painting in her chaotic sea-hued apartment) and dialogue (eg. phone conversation with her sister & all those Meryl classic lines such as "Maybe it was meant to be", "...unprotected sex, skiing...", "politeness hostage gene").

We learn a lot about Nick through his interactions with others (eg. Joan - "we should have helped him more") and his physical expression (eg. when he is examining his chest in the shower). Nick's flashbacks to his dying father also tell us a lot about his state of mind. Watt also establishes the isolation of her characters by crosscutting close-up shots of them.Whatever line of argument you choose to take, remember you must challenge the statement in some way. Also remember what type of question this is. It's a double-banger. It's asking you to show an understanding of both the characters in the film and how the director constructs meaning. Your responses should reflect this.

Sample 1 - Introduction
In Sarah Watt's melodramatic film Look Both Ways the photomontages and animations associated with Nick and Meryl respectively, provide only a small insight into their lives, personalities and state of mind. We do not learn more about them because of animation and montage alone. We know more about them than most characters because of the cumulative effect of these filmic devices accompanying other elements of film such as dialogue, physical expression, mise en scene, flashback sequences and carefully selected camera shots. It can also be argued that we know just as much about Andy without the use of photomontage or animation. Like Meryl and Nick, we also learn about his past, present and future.

Sample 2 - Body paragraph - Andy
Andy is an angry and bitter man, discontent with his personal life and career. There are no visual inserts to help us understand his character. Watt relies on more conventional film techniques. Story elements suggest his cynical personality as he turns Rob's fatal accident into a story on suicide and then believes Phil and Nick are trying to sabotage him by not accepting his "slant". With Andy, dialogue and physical expression are important as they combine together to emphasize the anger he feels in a range of situations. His often asks accusatory questions. He asks Anna, "Did you do this on purpose?" When she tells him he thinks everyone has an agenda he replies, "Don't they?" and when Nick asks him if there is a God he replies, "How can anyone believe in something so bloody ridiculous?" He is frustrated by his job, the lowly Arts Diary, his failed marriage and five cent increases to his morning paper. His physical expression when he pops open the packet of chips and marches aggressively down the street shouting at the church choir to "shut up" characterises the way he feels on a daily basis. It is also through physical expression that we witness change in Andy as he goes to Julia's house and retraces Rob's steps to the scene of the accident. The non-diagenetic background music shows his heightened sense of emotion. He finally realises that things do "just happen". As he stands below Anna's window, looking up in submissive fashion, we realise the change in Andy is going to have positive implications for his future.

Sample 3 - Body paragraph - Meryl
The repetitive use of animation gives us important insight into Meryl's state of mind. Through animation we learn that Meryl fears both dying and living. Animations such as when the train falls off the overpass and crushes her as she walks home from the station and when Rob playing with his dog becomes a threatening attacker and chokes her begin to make it clear that this inner life, based on unfounded fears, is obsessive and detrimental to living life to the full. These animations, centred on unexpected death, are always worse than what she has to face in real life. She appears to be coping well with both her father's death and witnessing Rob's accident. Her animations involving water point to an overall discontent with her life - literally drowning and being eaten alive. The animation of the young indigenous boys who Meryl tells "Maybe it was meant to be" return to mock her at the end of the film after her break-up with Nick and near death experience,"It's meant to be". These animations indicate that Meryl needs to move away from the notion of fate she exhibited earlier and take responsibility for her life. Up until this point she has been paralysed by fear. The final montage suggests that she is over her fear of death, as she is ironically in a relationship with a cancer sufferer, and also her fear of life. The concept of fate has been left behind and she has chosen to embrace life - a relationship, travel and an art exhibition.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


The highs and lows of life are explored in the film of ‘Look Both Ways”. We must open ourselves to this. Life goes on, even after tragedy and disaster strike. The narrative structure of the novel “Look Both ways” illustrates this by showing that at the same time that people’s lives are torn apart by the grief, the world continues to turn. For example, while Julia suffers in her bubble of numbness, Miriam writes a shopping list for her daughter’s party. When grief subsides, characters such Julia are shown to emerge from their bubble and re-engage with life. Yet the lows are not a part of life to be avoided, instead, they go hand in hand with the highs. It is by living both life’s tragedies and joys that we become fully human. As the photomontage at the films end shows, Nick and Meryl will continue to have high and low moments, from Nick having treatment for his Cancer to Meryl exhibiting her art. The film advocates a philosophy of acceptance of life of not being afraid of what it may bring.

Tragedies occur and they have a serious impact on those involved when they do. The film emphasises the fact that even the face of tragedy and the suffering of those involved that life goes on, in all its ordinariness. The man in the park, who jokes to Nick about his argument with Meryl, prevents the two characters from taking themselves too seriously. The film will not allow any one character’s suffering to eclipse that of the others.

The film has many symbols for life, and one of these main symbols for life is water. Water is a powerful life affirming symbol. Anna’s run through the sprinklers leaves her momentarily care free and smiling, her burdens are lifted and her face is alive with the movement. This scene is depicted with a background of children playing. From this point on Anna seems more positive about her future, it is as if she has been washed of her indecision and given the strengths to cope. Also, when Andy’s children are playing at the fountain, the moods of both father and children appear more buoyant, as though the fresh qualities of water have lifted their spirits.

The symbolic use of water is seen again in the last scenes of the film. A welcome summer shower after a scorching weekend brings with it a sense of renewal, hope and strength for most of the characters. Phil and his family enjoy Jas’ birthday party in a new-found atmosphere of harmony, the old tensions and divisions have been washed away. It is in the rain that Andy finally breaks down and cries, faces his demons and becomes ready to accept his new responsibility. Nick and Meryl overcome their respective fears and renew their relationship, as though the cleansing shower has been given them the courage to face whatever lies ahead. The rain thus not only signals a welcome relief from the oppressive weather, but in a symbolic sense represents growth and life, a fresh start and an invigorating, life-giving and affirming force.

by Chris, Rory & Matt

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Over the next week I will begin to publish all of our work on the myriad of themes present in this extraordinary film.

Q1. According to Watt, how are human beings linked together?
According to Watt, human beings are linked together by their experiences and the emotions we each experience. Despite the uniqueness within our individual characters, feelings such as grief, hope and fear are inevitable and impossible to avoid, as is the concept of death. In such times it is part of our human nature to unite and support one another in an effort to overcome such tragedies and move forward with our lives.

Sarah Watt also examines how people’s lives connect through momentary meetings and events that occur unexpectedly, by chance and coincidence. Watt explores the idea that we all share similarities that bring our lives together in some form or another. The parallel stories of the characters in the film reveal that the connection comes from factors including our emotional joy, grief, reflection and isolation. Loss and segregation is presented as a major factor that contributes to the connection between two people - whether it be for healing or support it seems to intertwine the human spirit. Watt portrays that our connections also come from the foundations of love, suffering, and occupation.

Q2. What techniques does Watt use to illustrate the connections between her characters?
Watt connects her characters through the train accident involving the death of Rob. All the characters are going through hard times in their lives and the movie shows the contrast in which the individuals chose to overcome such difficulties. The parallel narratives (such as Julia and Meryl, Nick and the train driver) link the characters together by exploring the similarities between their situations, emotions and ways of coping. The animations and photomontages assist in connecting Meryl and Nick by showing their inner fears through the use of imagery.

The musical interludes continually played throughout the film also acts as a representation for the connection between the individual lives of certain characters in the film. Through this music we are able to identify the connection between the grief felt by both Julia and the Train Driver. As well as the loneliness and helplessness felt by Anna, Andy, Meryl and Nick and the feeling of hope and happiness all the characters experience on conclusion of the film. The use of symbolism similarly illustrates the links many characters share between one another’s lives. For example, the reoccurring images of flowers and graves resemble the connection the majority of the characters have with death and loss.

Q3. Explain how our individual subjective experiences can be put into context by ‘the big picture’.
When referring to the big picture we are discussing life itself, along with human existence. Our individual experiences can be put into context by this big picture because these are the incidents that make up our life experiences and furthermore assist in the formation of our self existence. The small journeys that we take develop values and opinions which are implanted within our society and assist in the way us, as human beings, exist. The idea that life goes on, and the metaphoric symbol of the birds reinforcing this, implies that despite our individual journeys and tragedies that we are forced to deal with, nature around us goes on, and will continue to do so.

The film also explores the impact the individual experience of one person can have in relation to expressing the ‘big picture’ to another. The experience Nick encounters when he is forced to confront the shock and devastation cancer can have on his life not only acts as an eye opener for him individually but also influences the lives of those around him. The abruptness of the disease and the ability it has to end a life so quickly and unexpectedly allows characters including Phil and Andy to recognise that life offers no second chances when faced with death. Nicks experience allows these characters to understand the bigger picture of life and appreciate that there’s more to life than work and stress. Therefore, to fulfill their life aspirations they need to enjoy and embrace what they already have.

by Sam & Hannah