Okay, I missed your second post above looking for/at image structure.
The description of the Winter Light image above seems to be mixing narrative with image structure.
We can’t get separation of the priest from his church…. demarcation Tomas & his profession just from that image, imo.
That image can be read simply by understanding the power dynamic between the objects.
Apollonian imagery tends to abstract the individual from the environment whereas Dionysian imagery merges the individual within the environment.
I gotta go now, but I wonder if that (as a single image) might be read in a Dionysian way.
Maybe that’s the most succinct way of defining Apollonian vs. Dionysian:
Apollonian = Divide, Demarcate, Boundaries
Dionysian = Enclose, Absorb, Engulfment
Perhaps, but I guess, for me, the Dionysian disorients the viewer’s perspective by enclosing or cluttering the space, obscuring the subject in the frame, while the Apollonian clarifies the viewer’s perspective by dividing or demarcating the space, abstracting the subject in the frame.
Another way of approaching it is through a correlation with painting. Apollonian imagery uses geometrical compositions and visual cues (in the stills above, these are mirrors, windows, wall, horizons, looking glass) similar to classical methods in order to focus the viewer’s eye on the subject (think of a Renaissance painting such as Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks and its triangulation used to abstract Mary and her children from the environment in order to display their religious significance, similar to an altarpiece, or a Romantic painting such as Delacroix’s Liberty Leading The People in which the archetypal female figure is shown foregrounded but crucially surrounded by varying ages and classes in order to display the sociopolitical significance of the French revolutionary period.
Parallels in cinema would be the Winter Light image (except it is displaying religion in a negation sense rather than an affirmative sense) and the many battle sequences from Lawrence of Arabia in which the Arab revolution during the Great War is made archetypal.
Dionysian imagery does not contain the same sense of order, of setting the subject apart from its surroundings to define the theme. Dionysian imagery uses intense enclosures and visual disorientation (in the stills above, trees obscure the windswept hair of a face, an eye fills the entire screen, a camera’s position is slanted as the subject drifts away in the corner of the frame.) Expressionism or Surrealism would be closer in spirit to Dionysian imagery. For example, Edvard Munch’s The Scream which starkly depicts a face (in agony, fear?) yet no corresponding cues as to why (similar to Sally’s eye in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or Chagall’s Painter To The Moon where a floating figure is directed towards a place unknown (similar to the son leaving his bedroom in an underwater dreamscape from The Tree of Life.)
Hobo With a Shotgun is Dyonisian? “Satanic Dystopia”
That description of Dionysian screams ‘Bela Tarr’. Or perhaps even more so ‘Vivre sa Vie’.
Though I generally associate Dionysus with hedonism. When people use the word ‘Bacchic’ they’re talking about things related to spirits.
Let’s see what happens when we diagram the image for its structural relationships sans narrative.
First we divide the image into four quadrants. The intersection of the lines is the geometric center. That is the first place we look for the center-of-interest. And alas, there is a large mass at lower center. It is the largest mass in the image. Let’s say it is the center-of-interest.
Next we want to see if it is integrated with the rest of the image. It is: there is a vector coming lower left to which the mass is attached. There is a small orb vertical center above the large mass that is vectoring towards the large mass.
The only other object of note is a vertical cylinder at the back right of the image. It is not vectored to the center-of-interest. This object is estranged from the rest of the image.
(Note that objects are shapes and masses, but not the sun, a woman, a man, a church – those are narrative descriptors.)
Now we can apply the narrative from the film to see if it cohesive with that reading:Bergman divides the space in the frame into a triangle (the winter light shining through the window, Marta (Ingrid Thulin) standing hesitant by the wall, and Pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Bjornstrand) collapsing on the floor. There is a separation of the priest from his church. The viewer is shown this demarcation (already existent between Tomas & Marta, and now existent between Tomas & his profession) through Tomas being placed in the center of what appears to be an empty environment (even though the sun seems to have a divine connotation.) The overall effect on the viewer’s eye is a concentration on this individual ego’s struggle.
And then apply:
Apollonian = Divide, Demarcate, Boundaries
Dionysian = Enclose, Absorb, Engulfment
I think the complete image structure does work within your definitions of Apollonian as it relates to the unintegrated vertical cylinder.
Nonetheless, the center-of-interest seems to comply with Dionysian.
“American humanities scholar Camille Paglia…”
Thats like calling Hitler “A prominent German politician”.
It is a JOKE, fellas!
Whatever became of her? back in ’91 she was as famous as Maddona. Even Chomsky lasted longer in the limelight. And he did not use sex the way she did: Like some guys use a blackjack.
One of the keys to putting the Sight and Sound article in its proper perspective is to recognize that it is no one other than the British critic Mark Cousin who authored it. Cousins is the foremost expert of African cinema in the anglophone world and is one of the very few prominent Western critics to have bothered looking into the vast world of non-Western (and non-Japanese by extension) cinema before coronating themselves as experts on all things cinematic.
As with all lists, there are nits to be picked as to the 50 directors that Cousins lists as his “Wild Bunch” of Dionysian filmmakers. But for the most part, it is a valid list of filmmakers whose works do not conform to the conventions of Western cinema. It is not an accident that Cousins’s list includes a disproportionately higher number of experimental, non-Western, and female filmmakers than most typical lists of influential or important directors.
I appreciate the thread and thank Graveyard Poet for having started it, but I feel that to limit the discussion of the Apollonian vs. Dionysian—a well-known literary concept—to merely “the representation of space in the frame” is to undermine what could be a much more multifaceted and interesting discussion. At the very least, I feel fairly confident that it isn’t what Cousins had in mind when he wrote his piece. The representation of space certainly can and should be discussed, but it seems forced to necessarily limit the discussion to that alone.
The names that stick out from Cousins’s list for me are those of Ritwik Ghatak and Glauber Rocha (who also happen to be two of my favorite filmmakers). And this is because the adjective “Dionysian” would indeed be very fitting for their films, and in particular for their final works, Reason, Debate, and a Story and The Age of the Earth respectively. If we are defining Dionysian in the sense that Nietsche did—as chaos, as something like the id and the unconscious—then both of those films are the very definition of Dionysian cinema in both form and content. They are both works of intensely personal vision, which make no effort to be fully explicable on a rational level. Rocha’s work, in fact, was made in 16 different interchangeable sections, each comprising a reel. And the 16 reels were to be showin in a random order at each screening, according to the whims of the projectionist. Now that is Dionysian as it gets.
^Blue, awesome re: Rocha’s final work as you have described it. I suppose it’s almost impossible to get to see?
@ Odi, it used be on youtube, but it’s been removed. The DVD is available in Brazil.
I agree with what you said there Blue, both in terms of appreciating the thread and in terms of having a hard time getting around some of the limitations in trying to look at the idea in a purely formal way, or, for myself, even as a formal and thematic way without some great difficulties. Filmmakers like Rocha certainly would fit almost any definition of Dionysian one could think of, as he is embracing that kind of role, but there is often more tension between the two ideals than I could personally accept in labeling many directors or films on one side or the other of the divide. I don’t want to take away from Graveyard Poet or the discussion though as it is an interesting one and Graveyard clearly has some worthwhile ideas on it, so I’ll be interested to hear more from anyone who has something to add even if it doesn’t work with my ideas on the subject exactly since I’m clearly not one to be setting the terms of definition here.
Lol — Brazil? Oh well…
Edit: Nevermind, I thought you were talking about A idade da terra.
I would check ebay. That’s where I’ve found a lot of DVDs with only local releases.
This is a topic that yields multiple perspectives (and I did limit the discussion to a very narrow topic.)
My reason for doing so is that I feel cinema is overly burdened by narrative (especially cinema of the past decade—far too didactic) and a discussion of the space within the frame would gift us with a rich variety of imagery.
I’m maybe naively idealistic in wanting the discussion to abide by the definition of cinema Godard coined when saluting Paradjanov: “In the temple of cinema, there are images, light, and reality….”
I suppose I’m subtracting the “reality” from the equation and focusing on images & light.
My mistake is being too dualistic rather than acknowledging the tension between Apollonian/Dionysian.
So I’m more than open to discussing any number of ideas, rather than just the space within the frame, but I would be much more enthusiastic if the discussion is centered upon images.
I’m not sure that is the problem I’m having as much as I get the feeling you are reading the images in ways that do take some of the “reality” into account but remove other aspects, or that is how it feels to me somewhat. I’m not getting a clear idea of how you are reading the difference between the two yet, especially when one takes in light and dark into the picture or some knowledge of the narrative, even if just in terms of how we read the still. I’d be interested in some more examples of what you mean to give me a better understanding of how you see the differences in effect, not just definition.
Maybe take one film of each type, films that show those qualities to an extreme, and really break them down? Right here, right now?
What was wrong with Winter Light?
Apollonian imagery uses geometrical compositions and visual cues (in the stills I posted as Apollonian, these are mirrors, windows, wall, horizons, looking glass) similar to classical methods.
Dionysian imagery does not contain the same sense of order. Dionysian imagery uses intense enclosures and visual disorientation (in the stills I posted as Dionysian, trees obscure the windswept hair of a face, an eye fills the entire screen, a camera’s position is slanted as the subject drifts away in the corner of the frame.)
I know I’m repeating myself, but I wasn’t sure how else to explain the way I’m approaching the dichotomy.
It seems clear to me—I wish I could better articulate my perception of the frame.
Charles Foster Kane is shown as a multiplicity as he walks by the mirror(s) in Xanadu. Even not having seen Citizen Kane, a viewer might posit that Kane has multiple personalities or perhaps feels fragmented by the way the world sees him.
The young boy in the barn gazes out at the horizon where a shadowy figure on a horse walks by. Even not having seen Night of the Hunter, a viewer can sense the distance being portrayed here, and with it, an uneasy separation between the space the boy is inhabiting and the one this stranger inhabits.
The man on the floor appears to be struggling and the woman standing next to the wall appears frozen. The light shining down through the window seems spiritual, even if it is unknown to the viewer that Winter Light is a film explicitly about religion, God, and the dislocation of human communication.
The man lying on the bed in the right of the frame is at first unnoticeable. The empty apartment and the rainy gray light of the two large windows occupies most of the space. Yet this representation in the opening scene of Le Samourai hints that the man is a loner, although this does not show he is an assassin.
The sun rising over the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most Apollonian of all of these: it is an iconic image of cosmic order, whether or not it can be grasped that the monolith is a reference to the dawning of human consciousness, etc.
Antonioni’s painterly composition of Jack Nicholson sitting dejected by a clean white wall once again draws all of our attention to the person in the frame and this ego’s separation from its environment, whether or not we realize that this is an issue of identity and existential alienation.
Irene Jacob’s delicate hand holding the looking glass in The Double Life of Veronique does not show us a complete figure in relation to its cues. Yet it does draw attention to the act of seeing and, in this sense, is still Apollonian as it is dealing with the abstraction of the subject from its environment (and, in its own miniaturized way, is an intimation of the doppelganger narrative of the story.)
Brakhage, leaning low and sideways, as he faces us in Dog Star Man, is slightly different than the individuals in the Apollonian stills. His position in the frame is not geometrically composed and does not feature the same cues as the aforementioned discussed—there is no mirror to show his identity, no other figures by which to judge his actions, and he is moving towards US. We become part of his environment.
The ghost Marichka’s ecstatic face is glimpsed, obscured, through tree limbs in the climax of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Without having seen the film, it would still be impossible to glean from this image that she is an apparition from the afterlife. What is she seeing? What is her state of consciousness? The camera positions us as a bird perched on a nearby limb.
Captain Arseniev & Dersu Uzala are two tiny figures in the midst of a vast Arctic landscape. They are dwarfed by their environment. There is a feeling of the infinite void here similar to Caspar David Friedrich—it’s as if we are with them staring out onto the frozen lake. This still, unlike the two above, could be read as Apollonian—after all, the image is cleaner and it could be inferred that these two are explorers.
Sally’s bloodshot, tearful eye filling the screen (from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is the most Dionysian of all of these stills. Nothing else for the viewer to see except this contorted vision of (fear? pain?) staring directly back at them.
We are in the underwater dreamscape of the child’s bedroom (from The Tree of Life) along with him. We are once again merged with the environment, due to the positioning of the camera (slanted and off-kilter) and the subject (the corner of the frame.)
I’m putting my foot in my mouth—I talked of wanting to break away from the burden of narrative yet even when I briefly glossed each of the stills, I ended up resorting to narrative terminology.